Major Garrett: Obama ‘Has Long Relied on Speeches and Ignored Short Term Analysis’

‘The president believes that the country could turn on itself and this message of tolerance for Muslim Americans is not just about that’

ROSE: “President Obama said that terror attack in San Bernardino, California, shows terrorism is in a new phase. And in a prime time speech last night, he said America will overcome the threat.”
KING: “The president’s address was his first from the Oval Office in five years. He laid out his plan to defeat ISIS, also known as ISIL. He also urged Americans to remember the country’s values.”
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OBAMA: “We will destroy ISIL and any other organization that tries to harm us. Our success won’t depend on tough talk or abandoning our values, or giving into fear. That’s what groups like ISIL are hoping for...We cannot turn against one another, by letting this fight be defined as a war between America and Islam. That, too, is what groups like ISIL want. ISIL does not speak for Islam, they are thugs and killers, part of a cult of death and they account for a tiny fraction of a more than a billion Muslims around the world, including millions of patriotic Muslim Americans who reject their hateful ideology.”
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KING: “Major Garrett is at the White House and he has new insight on why the president spoke last night. Major, good morning.”
GARRETT: “Good morning. The reviews are in, they lukewarm to be charitable. All the White House was bracing for precisely that. So, why did the president give an Oval Office address that had no news or no new initiatives or ideas or military strategies against ISIS? Well, the genesis of this speech started Saturday here at the White House after the president met with his national security team, it was the consensus that this administration was losing control, losing grip on the entire national conversation about ISIS. And the president needed to get involved in that conversation to try to accomplish three things. First, to convey to the nation that the campaign against ISIS is more muscular and more aggressive. There are more U.S. bombing runs, the British are now bombing in Syria, there are troop commitments from Germany and there is much greater intelligence sharing with the French. The president also wanted to address the gun control argument. Even though the political climate on Capitol Hill was Republicans in control of the House and Senate remains hostile, the president believes the fact pattern in San Bernardino strengthens not weakens his gun control argument and he wanted to make that case. Thirdly and possibly most important when you talk to people here at the White House, the president believes that the country could turn on itself and this message of tolerance for Muslim Americans is not just about that — pure tolerance. But it is a counterterrorism strategy. The president believes it is crucial that this country maintain good solid working relationships with the Muslim community in this country, not just as a matter of tolerance, but as a matter of counterterrorism success, being able to detect, infiltrate and potentially stop terrorist attacks before they start. Now there was a good deal of conversation about whether this president should give this address today or possibly tonight. But the president wanted the largest prime time audience he could find, Sunday was it. He knows the reviews are tepid but this president has long relied on speeches and ignored short-term analysis to play what we always talk about here at the White House, as President Obama’s long game, whether it’s rhetoric or strategy to defeat ISIS. Gayle.”
KING: “All right, Major. Thank you very much.”

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