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The White House Press Secretary Isn’t Telling the Truth. And I Can Prove It.

One of the notable things about the Obama administration isn’t simply that its key figures often make misleading claims, but that they do so in ways that can be so easily disproven.

The latest effort is in the White House’s attempt to have us believe that the president, in his now infamous “jayvee” analogy, didn’t have ISIS in mind. Here’s an exchange between NBC’s Peter Alexander and White House press secretary Josh Earnest that took place on Monday:

PETER ALEXANDER, NBC: Did the president underestimate ISIS when he referred to them in an interview only a couple months ago as a JV squad and making a reference to National Basketball Association basketball teams like the Lakers?

JOSH EARNEST, WHITE HOUSE: Well, I thought somebody might ask this question today so I wanted to pull the transcript of the interview because it’s important to understand the context in which this was delivered. So let me just read the full quote and then we can talk about it just a little bit. The president said quote:

I think there is a distinction between the capacity and reach of a bin Laden and a network that is actively planning major terrorist plots against the homeland versus jihadists who are engaged in various local power struggles and disputes, often sectarian.

So the president was not singling out ISIL [aka ISIS], he was talking about the very different threat that is posed by a range of extremists around the globe. Many of them do not have designs on attacking the West or attacking the United States, and that is what puts them in stark contrast to the goals and capability of the previously existing al Qaeda core network that was let by Osama bin Laden.

That claim–“the president was not singling out ISIL”–is simply not true. And it’s demonstrably untrue. To prove this assertion, it’s helpful to cite the relevant portion of the January 27, 2014 story by David Remnick in the New Yorker:

At the core of Obama’s thinking is that American military involvement cannot be the primary instrument to achieve the new equilibrium that the region so desperately needs. And yet thoughts of a pacific equilibrium are far from anyone’s mind in the real, existing Middle East. In the 2012 campaign, Obama spoke not only of killing Osama bin Laden; he also said that Al Qaeda had been “decimated.” I [Remnick] pointed out that the flag of Al Qaeda is now flying in Falluja, in Iraq, and among various rebel factions in Syria; Al Qaeda has asserted a presence in parts of Africa, too.

“The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant,” Obama said, resorting to an uncharacteristically flip analogy. “I think there is a distinction between the capacity and reach of a bin Laden and a network that is actively planning major terrorist plots against the homeland versus jihadists who are engaged in various local power struggles and disputes, often sectarian.

“Let’s just keep in mind, Falluja is a profoundly conservative Sunni city in a country that, independent of anything we do, is deeply divided along sectarian lines. And how we think about terrorism has to be defined and specific enough that it doesn’t lead us to think that any horrible actions that take place around the world that are motivated in part by an extremist Islamic ideology are a direct threat to us or something that we have to wade into.” [emphasis added]

So we’ve established beyond any doubt that the president’s answer, which Josh Earnest quoted, is in response to David Remnick’s comment about the al-Qaeda flag flying in Falluja. And whose al-Qaeda flag in particular happened to be flying over Falluja at the time of the interview? For that answer, let’s go to a January 3, 2014 story in the New York Times, which begins this way:

Black-clad Sunni militants of Al Qaeda destroyed the Falluja Police Headquarters and mayor’s office, planted their flag atop other government buildings and decreed the western Iraqi city to be their new independent state on Friday in an escalating threat to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, whose forces were struggling to retake control late into the night. The advances by the militants — members of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS — came after days of fighting in Falluja, Ramadi and other areas of Anbar Province. [emphasis added]

What we’ve shown, then, is that several weeks before the New Yorker story was published, the al-Qaeda flag flying over Falluja belonged to ISIS/ISIL. The president knew it. There is therefore only one possible interpretation: the president had ISIS/ISIL in mind when he made his “jayvee” reference. And there’s only one possible conclusion about what Mr. Earnest said: It’s false. He’s distorting the truth in order to exonerate his boss, the president, from having made a statement that was deeply and dangerously misinformed.

The White House press corps should vigorously pursue this matter with the White House press secretary; and he in turn should admit what he said was false. If Mr. Earnest doesn’t do so in light of this evidence, then his claim will move from the category of being false to being a lie. That would trouble me; and I would think it would trouble them.



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5 Responses to “The White House Press Secretary Isn’t Telling the Truth. And I Can Prove It.”

  1. KENT LYON says:

    Come on, Mr. Wehner,
    Obama and his press secretaries have been doing this exact same thing since Obama came to office. It has worked marvelously for him since his ascendency. That’s why Obama speaks in quasi generalities–to allow him, or his minions, to claim that he did not say what he clearly said, as they have done in this case. And America applauds the deceit. Americans root for their President to derisively, mendaciously, verbally out-maneuver his (malign) interlocutors. They still get giddy when they see this verbal jiu jitsu executed on critics. They wallow in the superior mental gymnastics of the Great Obama.
    Give us a break. Americans are callow, ignorant, and easily duped. And love to stay that way. The Obama lies have to be sufficiently obvious, and American just sufficiently aware, that ordinary Americans can revel in the fact that he is sticking it in their face with bald-faced mendacity, and not miss the fact that the point of the Obama administration is to give a double obscene gesture to America. Now the commentariat has yet to come to grips with that objective of the Obama administration, as Mr. Wehner’s post reflects the presumption that the Administration has some valid intention other than just offending their sensibilities. It doesn’t. The comment on Foley followed by golf is the exact equivilent of giving the middle finger to America. Mr. Wehner should note that Mr. Foley was possibly killed, not just because he was an American, but also because he was a devout Catholic. Possibly, that is also the reason Obama declined to give the go-ahead for his rescue. Hence, it is possible that Obama’s actions of making a statement and then going golfing was a double middle finger to the whole of Western Civilization.

    • SANDRA SHREVE says:

      Excellent post, Kent! Correct on every point. But here’s the real tragedy: we could – maybe – survive Obama, but I doubt this once-great country will ever be the same with an electorate who voted for him twice and would do so a third time.

  2. CHERYL WALKER says:

    The White House press corps will NOT pursue this, nor will Mr. Earnest admit to any falsehoods or outright lies, however contorted. The press corps is, and has always been, in the tank for the President. The matter will simply drop, as it always has, and always will. Conscience is not the corps strong suit. And outright lying is basic to the White House and its staff.

  3. JOHN BEATTY says:

    He’s a political flack.

    He lies.

    This is given. This is as unremarkable as sunrise. We are wasting resources on this…why?

  4. ALLAN GRANT says:

    Quote: “The White House press corps should vigorously pursue this matter with the White House press secretary;…”

    Hahahahaha! Oh, that’s rich, Pete. Thanks. I needed a good laugh today.




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