Earlier this morning, Katie posted several video snippets from President Obama's 60 Minutes interview, which aired last evening. Pressed on the failure of America's Iraq policy, Obama agreed that someone had misjudged the situation on the ground -- someone other than himself, of course:
CBS: How did [ISIS] end up where they are in control of so much territory? Was that a complete surprise to you?
Obama: Well I think, our head of the intelligence community, Jim Clapper, has acknowledged that I think they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria
"They." Classic, dishonest Obama blame-shift. We know that the Obama administration has been specifically warned by US intelligence about the rise of ISIS since at least 2012, with presidential briefings on the matter dating back to last year. Daily Beast national security correspondent Eli Lake asked members of the scapegoated intelligence community about the president's assignment of blame, and they responded with bracing candor:
Reached by The Daily Beast after Obama’s interview aired, one former senior Pentagon official who worked closely on the threat posed by Sunni jihadists in Syria and Iraq was flabbergasted. “Either the president doesn’t read the intelligence he’s getting or he’s bullshitting,” the former official said...senior intelligence officials have been warning about ISIS for months. In prepared testimony before the annual House and Senate intelligence committees’ threat hearings in January and February, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the recently departed director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said the group would likely make a grab for land before the end of the year. ISIS “probably will attempt to take territory in Iraq and Syria to exhibit its strength in 2014.” Of course, the prediction wasn’t exactly hard to make. By then, Flynn noted, ISIS had taken the cities of Ramadi and Fallujah, and the demonstrated an “ability to concurrently maintain multiple safe havens in Syria.”
Flynn's testimony came around the same period when Obama laughed off ISIS as the equivalent of a terrorist "jayvee" squad. As for the unnamed former spy's blunt 'either-or' scenario presented above, I'm not sure it's necessarily a dichotomous proposition. This president has been known to take extremely generous liberties with the truth, and he's been accused of not taking his daily intelligence sessions seriously, having skipped a substantial majority of his in-person briefings during his first term. Team Obama has countered that the president prefers to read his briefings. Perhaps Obama doesn't always read the intelligence he's getting, and is therefore BS-ing today, now that his failures stand exposed. Even the New York Times took note of the Commander-in-Chief's 'the buck stops over there' deflection: "Mr. Obama made no mention of any misjudgment he may have made himself." Who's surprised? He's habitually dodged responsibility for catastrophic foreign policy outcomes in the region, from Syria to Libya to Egypt to Iraq (and coming soon: Afghanistan). On Iraq and ISIS, Obama pretends that he had nothing to do with America's failure to secure a status of forces agreement (SOFA) before abandoning Iraq. That's just not true, as has been detailed in numerous accounts...and was reflected in the president's own publicly-stated attitudes:
The Obama administration indefensibly neglected Iraq, misleading Americans about realities on the ground, in service of a political narrative. The world is grappling with the consequences of that recklessness today. And the perils of a power vaccum in Iraq didn't drop from the sky; they've been advanced for years, including a prescient admonition from President Bush in 2007. I'll leave you with Democrat Joe Sestak's rejection of Obama's new self-serving premise, to the visible surprise of an MSNBC host (via Noah Rothman):