On CNN's State of the Union, Jake Tapper opened his interview with Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting, by asking about the possibility of continued terrorist attacks in Europe. Fair enough, and Rhodes answered like anyone who understands the multifaceted and complex nature of the investigation would answer, deferring to the French experts at this point. Then Tapper obviously let the GOP's ISIS talking points determine the questions he will ask Rhodes from this point forward.
Tapper admitted that President Obama recently said, even in the wake of the downed Russian airliner in Egypt and the attacks in Beirut, that ISIS is contained in the Iraq-Syria region. Tapper finds it appalling that the president would say that even after terrorist episodes outside the region had occurred.
TAPPER: If this is what ISIS looks like contained, I shudder to think what ISIS looks like un-contained.
RHODES: Well again Jake, as you noted, it's a very specific point the president was making that we had seen, over a year ago, ISIL on the march in both Iraq and Syria taking more and more territory. What we've been able to do is stop that advance and reclaim territory, going on the offense with our partners on the ground most recently, taking the strategic town of Sinjar which cuts off the supply line between Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq. So we've made advances that are very important because that shrinks the space where ISIL can operate and shrinks their safe haven. But, we see this as a group with global ambitions and we have to be one step ahead of ISIL every time that we can,that's why, for instance, we took a strike at ISIL's leader in Libya because we see them trying to get a foothold there as well.
TAPPER: One step ahead? We don't seem to be one step ahead of any terrorist group these days. David Axelrod, former senior adviser for President Obama saying that "obviously the emergence of ISIS was not what was anticipated and it is going to be an issue in this election. I think people are concerned that not only has the president underestimated ISIS in the past, calling them a JV team, but will continue to underestimate them... This is the worst atrocity in France since Hitler.
In vain, Rhodes tried to explain that the president has acknowledged that there will be setbacks, tragic setbacks. Because Ben can see that the questions are coming from the GOP playbook today, he tries to educate Tapper on the purpose of the talks in Turkey, designed to come up with a coalition solution to this ISIS problem, which is the world's problem now, and the U.S. would be unwise to shoulder the whole burden alone. Rhodes explains that we are speaking with our coalition partners to find the best solution to improve intelligence and develop an effective strategy. In other words, we aren't just going to blindly bomb these people without an effective plan that involves the international community. That didn't work out so well in 2003 Iraq, but Tapper's amnesia is clearly evident today.
Tapper reminds Rhodes that one of the attackers claims to have smuggled himself in with the refugees, so that means, no more refugees, and problem solved, right? He essentially assumes that if our country allows Syrian refugees in, we will surely face the same fate as Europe. Jake's incredulous and condescending tone when he insinuated that the U.S. can't possibly vet these people well enough was clearly confrontational, bordering on rude. Ben Rhodes explained how inhumane it would be to shut out innocent women, children and families escaping the atrocities of war, and how much more thorough our process is than Europe's for screening these refugees. Tapper doesn't acknowledge his response and moves on.
If Hollande invokes Article 5 of the NATO Treaty upon ISIS, Rhodes explains that we stand ready to support France in their decision.
RHODES: 'We already have close military coordination in Iraq and Syria but we're prepared to ramp that up...'
TAPPER: Why are you ready to ramp it up now? Why haven't you already ramped it up?
Rhodes explains that in the past year, we've greatly increased the number of airstrikes against ISIL. What we are talking about now is getting the coalition of support to coordinate all the elements, intelligence and the like, to help defeat these monsters. We need to modify how we go about intensifying our efforts. This baffles Tapper, because it seems he thinks that the only way to appear to be acting effectively against ISIS is to just bomb them into the Stone Age. Tapper appears to think much like the rest of the GOP he seems to be representing in this interview.