President Obama was interviewed with Ezra Klein and Matt Yglesias of Vox on January 23rd, but was not made public until yesterday. Yglesias asked Obama questions concerning foreign policy such as this one:
Yglesias: Do you think the media sometimes overstates the level of alarm people should have about terrorism and this kind of chaos, as opposed to a longer-term problem of climate change and epidemic disease?
Obama: Absolutely. And I don’t blame the media for that. What’s the famous saying about local newscasts, right? If it bleeds, it leads, right? You show crime stories and you show fires, because that’s what folks watch, and it’s all about ratings. And, you know, the problems of terrorism and dysfunction and chaos, along with plane crashes and a few other things, that’s the equivalent when it comes to covering international affairs. There’s just not going to be a lot of interest in a headline story that we have cut infant mortality by really significant amounts over the last 20 years or that extreme poverty has been slashed or that there’s been enormous progress with a program we set up when I first came into office to help poor farmers increase productivity and yields. It’s not a sexy story. And climate change is one that is happening at such a broad scale and at such a complex system, it’s a hard story for the media to tell on a day-to-day basis.
Look, the point is this: my first job is to protect the American people. It is entirely legitimate for the American people to be deeply concerned when you’ve got a bunch of violent, vicious zealots who behead people or randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris.
To start with, Yglesias’ question is based on a false premise. Terrorism of the Islamic variety is very much a long-term problem. If Yglesias claims it isn’t then why did former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta argue last summer that we “we’re looking at a 30-year war” to defeat ISIS.
But, of course, Obama accepts the premise of Yglesias’ question at face value likening terrorism to crime stories with his flippant “if it bleeds, it leads” comment. This is nonsense on stilts. Let’s be honest here. Had only the Hyper Cacher grocery store been attacked last month and the Charlie Hebdo offices been left alone it would not have received one-hundredth of the attention. It would have received about as much attention as the attacks on the Jewish schoolchildren in Toulouse or at Jewish Museum in Belgium did. Like those attacks, the Hyper Cacher attack was directed against Jews.
Yet Obama has the audacity to claim that the Hyper Cacher attack was “random”. There was nothing random about the attack on Hyper Cacher just as there was nothing random about the attack against Jewish schoolchildren in Toulouse or at Jewish Museum in Brussels or for that matter the attack at Chabad House in Mumbai, India or the shooting at the El Al ticket counter at LAX in July 2002. Amedy Coulibaly’s attack on Hyper Cacher was premeditated as demonstrated by his slickly produced video. If the attacks against Hyper Cacher was so random then why was an Israeli flag burned in front of that store just today? Obama had spoken of the “deplorable anti-Semitism that has resurfaced in certain parts of the world” in the SOTU address. Yet 72 hours later, Obama describes an act of deplorable anti-Semitism as “random”.
Obama pays lip service to anti-Semitism. But his disdain for the State of Israel and his outright hatred of Benjamin Netanyahu renders him unable to acknowledge anti-Semitism when it is staring at him in the face. President Obama is no more prepared to call out specific acts of anti-Semitism than he is to acknowledge the Islamist ideology behind terrorism.