August 29, 2014

White House spokesman Josh Earnest got a good whack in at Bloody Bill Kristol during this Friday's press briefing in response to some of Ed Henry's badgering about why President Obama hasn't already ordered bombings in Syria to deal with the militant group ISIS.

Obama Doesn't Think Bill Kristol's Bomb-First Idea Is 'Smart':

The White House whacked Bill Kristol — not by name — on Friday for calling on the U.S. to bomb the Islamic militant group ISIL in Syria whether or not it's part of a larger strategy.

Spokesman Josh Earnest invoked the conservative pundit's idea, unprompted, and said President Barack Obama doesn't believe it's "smart."

"The Pentagon is still developing military options for the president, for the commander in chief, to use against ISIL in Syria. There are some who probably would make the case that it is okay to not have a formulated comprehensive strategy, but just as one pundit I know recently suggested that we could just go drop some bombs and see what happens. That is not what the president believes is a smart approach," Earnest told reporters. "The president believes it is important for us to pursue a comprehensive strategy where military action is one component of that strategy."

Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard, said earlier this week: "You know, why don't we just [bomb]? We know where ISIS is. What's the harm of bombing them at least for a few weeks and seeing what happens?"

Here's the full transcript of the exchange above via CNN:

QUESTION: OK, on the substance of his comments yesterday, so you today and the president yesterday are trying to make this broader argument that it was sort of the media, pundits and others who sort of suggested we were inching closer to airstrikes against Syria.

And I wonder if the president himself didn't help set that expectation on August 20th when he commented on James Foley's beheading and said, quote, "This shocks the conscience of the entire world but when people harm Americans anywhere, we do what's necessary to see that justice is done and we act," he said, "we act against ISIS standing alongside others."

Was that just an empty threat?

EARNEST: No, Ed. As we've discussed the president ordered military action in Iraq in pursuit of...

QUESTION: But we'd already been doing that before that statement, before the beheading. (inaudible) already acting military in Iraq.


QUESTION: We have to go into Syria if we're really going to take ISIS out.

So my question is, is there a way to get justice, as he told the American people and the world he was going to do, without military action in Syria?

EARNEST: Ed, the president will get justice. The president promised that he will do that...

QUESTION: How do you get -- is there a way to get justice without military action, I'm trying to get at? Is it working with partners...

EARNEST: Ed, we just talked about the fact that the president has already ordered military action in Syria...


EARNEST: ... carried out...

QUESTION: Not in Syria...

EARNEST: In Syria.


EARNEST: The president has ordered military action in Iraq to go after ISIL elements that are threatening Americans and we've talked about how substantial and important those military actions have been in support of protecting American citizens in Iraq.

So the president is not shying away at all. He's already demonstrated that he's not going to shy away at all from using all of the elements of American power, whether it's military might or diplomatic influence, to represent American interest and to protect the lives of Americans in that region of the world.

QUESTION: Two other quick ones to get beyond the language of what he said, what -- what he meant.

Simple question: Why does he not have a strategy yet?

EARNEST: Because the Pentagon is still developing military options for the president, for the commander in chief to use against ISIL in Syria.

There are some who probably would make the case that it's OK to not have a formulated, comprehensive strategy but just as one pundit I know recently suggested, that we could just go drop some bombs and see what happens. That is not what the president believes is a smart approach.

The president believes it's important for us to pursue a comprehensive strategy where military action is one component of that strategy.

QUESTION: How does the Pentagon still not a strategy?

You're saying the Pentagon -- it's the Pentagon's issue? They haven't put this strategy together yet?

Is the commander in chief not saying, "I want this plan on my desk tomorrow"?

EARNEST: What the president is saying is that he wants -- he's going to deliberate about which components of our strategy can best be employed to protect the national security interests of the United States of America.

He wants the Pentagon to be deliberate as they develop the kinds of options that may or may not be available to him and the president will consider them and he will act in a timely fashion as he assesses the best interest of the United States of America.

QUESTION: In terms of a timely fashion -- last one -- August 2013, a year ago this month, the president had a news conference here and John Karl of ABC asked a question about whether the president still believes Al Qaida has been decimated. And the president said, "core Al Qaida," as he said many times, "has been decimated, but we're seeing these other groups metastasizing into regional groups that can still be dangerous." And the president went on to say -- he didn't name ISIS, but groups like ISIS, and he said, quote, "so that requires us then to make sure that we have a strategy that is strengthening those partners so that they've got their own capacity to deal with what are potentially manageable, regional threats."

August 2013, he's talking about how we need to be putting together a strategy. One year later, how can he not have that strategy?

EARNEST: Ed, as we've talked about quite a bit, the president has been very explicit about what the comprehensive strategy is. That comprehensive strategy...

QUESTION: I understand that, but he said "I don't have that strategy," specifically for Syria.

EARNEST: But Ed, what I'm trying to -- if you'll let me answer the question here, the point of that statement, and this is a -- this is a sentiment, a strategy that the president has reiterated on a number of occasions. He reiterated this at West Point when he spoke there on May 28th of this year. He says, "I believe that we must shift our counter-terrorism strategy, drawing on the success and shortcomings of our experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, to more effectively partner with countries where terrorist networks seek a foothold."

He reiterated that strategy when he spoke to the nation over in the State Dining Room earlier this month, where he talked about how the core component of our strategy needs to be building up regional partners so the United States isn't responsible for, in this situation, providing security for the people of Iraq. We need to build up our partners and make sure that we have a cooperative government so that the Iraqi people can provide for their own security.

That is the way that we will find an enduring way to deal with the threat that's posed by ISIL. If we rely only on America's military might, there's no question that because of the bravery and skill of our American servicemen and women, that they can have a substantial impact on the battlefield: that they could, as the president said yesterday, rout ISIL on the battlefield. There's no question about that.

But if we want to make sure that ISIL doesn't come back, we need to make sure that we have effective partners who can provide for the security of their country and prevent ISIL from making a return. Now, there's a role for the United States to play, both diplomatically and even militarily to support those efforts, but we're not going to be able to solve this problem for them, and I recognize that some of the president's critics don't agree.

Some of the president's critics believe that the United States should act militarily, that we can go out and solve this problem for them. But that's going to require a substantial commitment of American military forces, an occupation of another country, and that's just not a strategy that the president believes succeeds.

It certainly didn't succeed in Iraq last time around. And the president doesn't believe that it's a recipe for success this time either.

OK. Kristen?


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