"They're not coming here to chop our heads off," the president promised.
Now a terrorist pledging allegiance to the Islamic State has murdered 49 Americans in Orlando. What inspired him? CNN reports that "analysis of Mateen's electronic devices showed searches for jihadist propaganda, including ... ISIS beheading videos."
Obama dismissed Omar Mateen as a "homegrown" terrorist who had announced his allegiance to the Islamic State "at the last minute" and declared that "there is no evidence so far that he was in fact directed by ISIL." That distinction (if it turns out to be true) is irrelevant. Last month, the Islamic State commander responsible for external attack plotting, Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, gave a speech calling on supporters to carry out killings in the United States during the holy month of Ramadan. "The smallest action you do in the heart of their land is dearer to us than the largest action by us, and more effective and more damaging to them," he said.
Mateen answered al-Adnani's call, Orlando is awash in blood, and the Islamic State claimed credit for the attack and declared Mateen "one of the soldiers of the caliphate."
He was an Islamic State terrorist. This was an Islamic State attack. And Obama's stubborn refusal to see this is part of a larger pattern of downplaying or dismissing terrorist dangers.
According to the Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg, who spent hours interviewing Obama about his foreign policy doctrine, the president "has never believed that terrorism poses a threat to America commensurate with the fear it generates" and "frequently reminds his staff that terrorism takes far fewer lives in America than handguns, car accidents, and falls in bathtubs do."
That's right, our commander in chief sees the mass shooting of 49 people in Orlando as akin to a slip in the tub.
In his 2016 State of the Union address, Obama blithely dismissed the Islamic State as "fighters on the back of pickup trucks" who he said, in typical strawman fashion, "do not threaten our national existence." In a 2015 BBC interview, he said, "If you look at the number of Americans killed since 9/11 by terrorism, it's less than 100." In other words, no big deal.
After his anti-Islamic State strategy came under withering criticism following the Brussels terror attacks in March, Obama said "my top priority is to defeat ISIL." But he has admitted elsewhere that is untrue. Obama has openly declared that climate change is a much higher priority for him than terrorism because "ISIS is not an existential threat to the United States. Climate change is a potential existential threat to the entire world if we don't do something about it." Indeed, Goldberg writes, Obama "gets frustrated that terrorism keeps swamping his larger agenda" and "his advisers are fighting a constant rearguard action to keep Obama from placing terrorism in what he considers its 'proper' perspective, out of concern that he will seem insensitive to the fears of the American people."
The "proper" perspective. No wonder the president keeps getting the terrorist threat wrong. No wonder, just before the Islamic State took over large swaths of Iraq, Obama said stopping them was not "something that we have to wade into" because they did not pose "a direct threat to us." No wonder, the day before the Islamic State carried out its massacre Paris, Obama boasted "we have contained them." No wonder, the day before the San Bernardino, Calif., massacre, Obama assured[cnn.com] Americans they were safe from a Paris-style attack, declaring "The American people should feel confident that, you know, we are going to be able to defend ourselves and make sure that, you know, we have a good holiday and go about our lives."
Well, 49 Americans in Orlando were busy going about their lives when an Islamic State terrorist murdered them in cold blood. As my American Enterprise Institute colleague Danielle Pletka points out, "contrary to the favored trope -- we win by living our lives -- the short answer is that we're not winning."
The truth is that for Obama, winning the battle against terrorism is not really his "top priority" but a distraction from his top priorities. He did not come to office to be a war president. He came to office to end George W. Bush's wars, and "turn the page on more than a decade in which so much of our foreign policy was focused on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq."
But, as we just saw in Orlando, the page has refused to turn. The tide of war is not receding, as Obama promised. The wave of terror is growing stronger and is now reaching our shores. And to the commander in chief, that's no more worrisome than a car accident.
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