In what has proven to be one of the more ill-fated remarks of his presidency, President Obama referred to al-Qaeda linked groups in Iraq and Syria as “a jayvee team” during a January 2014 interview with The New Yorker. The White House is now in damage control mode, attempting to explain away the analogy. But the Washington Post is not letting them off the hook so easily.
On August 25, NBC News’ Peter Alexander asked White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest if the President “underestimate[d] ISIS when he referred to them… as a JV squad and [made] a reference to National Basketball Association basketball teams like the Lakers.” Earnest offered a longwinded explanation that ultimately amounted to: Obama “was not singling out” ISIS when he made the jayvee comment.
EARNEST: I thought somebody might ask this question today so I wanted to pull the transcript of the interview because it’s important to understand the context in which this was delivered. So let me just read the full quote and then we can talk about it:
I think there is a distinction between the capacity and reach of a bin Laden and a network that is actively planning major terrorist plots against the homeland versus jihadists who are engaged in various local power struggles and disputes, often sectarian.
So the president was not singling out ISIL, he was talking about the very different threat that is posed by a range of extremists around the globe. Many of them do not have designs on attacking the West or attacking the United States, and that is what puts them in stark contrast to the goals and capability of the previously existing al Qaeda core network that was let by Osama bin Laden.
The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler awarded that response “four Pinocchio’s” – a distinction that is reserved for the most egregious lies.
“[I]n quoting from the transcript, Earnest provided a selective reading of the discussion. In particular, he failed to provide the context in which Obama made his remarks—the takeover of Fallujah by ISIS,” Kessler writes. “That’s fairly misleading. The interviewer was certainly asking about ISIS when Obama answered with his ‘JV’ remarks.”
On radio this morning, Glenn offered his own take on Earnest’s spin and called any attempt to explain way the President’s words “outrageous.”
“This is so outrageous,” Glenn said. “What [Earnest is] saying is the context here is that [ISIS is] not the same as those who would target us here in the homeland. First of all, that’s not true… They said it over and over.”
As Glenn spoke to Congresswoman Michele Bachmann about on Wednesday, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi – the man named caliph of the new Islamic State – threatened the U.S. when he was released from captivity in 2009. He reportedly told guards, “I’ll see you guys in New York.”
“They also have far more money,” Pat said of ISIS. “And far more access to resources than al-Qaeda had.”
“I’m curious, as a long-term threat, which one is a bigger deal,” Glenn concluded. “A a bunch of people in caves and in hiding like al-Qaeda, or someone who controls an entire economy that has access to unlimited funds… They’re in the middle of taking over countries right now.”
Front page image courtesy of the AP