Obama's 'no strategy' gaffe may become the 'read my lips' signature of a failed presidency

Let’s cut President Obama some slack. Golf is a challenging game, and he has been focused like a laser (as Bill Clinton used to say) on improving his game on Martha’s Vineyard, and there’s only so much a guy can do. Coming up with a strategy for dealing with guys who are the junior varsity can wait – and after all there are three fundraisers and a wedding beckoning this holiday weekend, so what’s the hurry?

Unfortunately for any residual desire of President Obama’s desire to be seen as a serous leader, the above sarcastic apologia fits his pattern of behavior in office like a proverbial glove.  He has already established himself as a man who dithers when important decisions loom, and his devotion to fun and games and fundraising is far more characteristic in the public eye than any seriousness about the weighty responsibilities of his office. In foreign policy, he has been reactive, with no clear positive goals for the United States. Even Hillary Clinton has gone on the record saying that “Don’t do stupid s*#t” is not an adequate vision.

For those who have not been paying attention to the news: yesterday, speaking without a teleprompter at a pre-Labor Day weekend press conference, committed a classic Washington gaffe, accidentally telling the truth. Responding to a question on whether he would seek Congressional approval for action against ISIS in Syria, he admitted (full transcript here):

But I don't want to put the cart before the horse. We don't have a strategy yet. I think what I've seen in some of the news reports suggests that folks are getting a little further ahead of where we're at than we currently are. And I think that's not just my assessment, but the assessment of our military, as well. We need to make sure that we've got clear plans, that we're developing them. At that point, I will consult with Congress and make sure that their voices are heard.


Coming in the wake of an extended, golf-filled vacation on Martha’s Vineyard, the remark sounds like a 12 year old’s excuse for turning in his homework late. And the assignment was not something that came in last night, after all. Despite Obama’s dismissal of ISIS as the JV, it has been a problem for years. John Hinderaker of Powerline summarizes the history:

ISIL has claimed responsibility for bombing attacks in Iraq going back to 2010. The group has played a major role in the Syrian civil war since April 2013. In early June 2014, ISIL captured Mosul, Fallujah and Tikrit in northern Iraq, and threatened Baghdad. In this campaign, ISIL obtained large quantities of American weaponry and a great deal of money, making it the richest terrorist group in history. It also murdered hundreds of Christians and rendered many more refugees. In late June, ISIL announced the founding of a new caliphate. In July, ISIL carried out a series of mass executions. In early August, ISIL slaughtered large numbers of Yazidis and kidnapped 400 Yazidi women to sell as sex slaves. On August 8, the U.S. government labeled ISIL’s massacre of the Yazidi as genocide. On August 16, ISIL murdered 80 more Yazidis. On August 19, ISIL beheaded American journalist James Foley on video. The following day, President Obama took a brief break from golfing to denounce Foley’s murder. On August 21, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said that ISIL represents an “imminent” threat to American security.

We have the anniversary of 911 coming exactly 2 weeks after Obama’s “no strategy” declaration. Jihadists seem to love marking that date with actions against the United States, as they did two years ago in Benghazi. Now that hundreds, if not thousands, of European and US passport holders have been mobilized to fight for ISIS, it is not unthinkable that America will face a serious terror outbreak on that date. If, God forbid, that happens, “We have no strategy” will become the trademark descriptor of Obama’s presidency.

President Obama has now placed himself in an extraordinarily vulnerable position should ISIS act against the American people with its customary savagery. His arrogant dismissal of it with a sports metaphor, his admission of no strategy, and his track record of dithering and unseriousness combine to make his gaffe into what could become his politcal epitaph.