In black households you know you’re in trouble when the parental figure in the room makes it clear “what they’re NOT ‘bout to do.” It is usually a phrase uttered after frustration, exhaustion or the painful realization that unreasonable expectations are being laid upon said parent.
For example, your father may say, “What I’m NOT ‘bout to do is listen to you kids complain when you don’t pay mortgage.” Or your mother may say, “What I’m NOT ‘bout to do is come to a messy home after a long day at work.”
Obama, playing his best “Dad-in-Chief” in over a year decided to clearly tell America what he’s NOT about to do to fight ISIS. It was encouraging, enlightening and a reinforcement of our American values. Unfortunately he still isn’t very clear on what he’s going to do to fight ISIS and that is cause for concern.
There are a lot of tough facts that President Obama is dealing with that framed his decision to speak from the Oval office about terrorism. The mass shooting in San Bernardino orchestrated by Syed Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik falls right into the horrible nexus of America’s challenging battle against ISIS as well as the long standing fight over gun control.
Also despite our best intentions to root them out, ISIS operates like a cult, and throws up franchises faster than Jimmy Johns. Consequently it’s almost impossible to stop people from joining -- from college kids to visitors from our allies to average Americans who decide to sign a pledge to join ISIS even if they’ve never been to the Middle East.
The situation abroad is just as problematic because the U.S. isn’t winning the war against ISIS or ISIL, we’re mostly just holding on and trying to figure out how to stop a multi-headed hydra. On top of all of these strategic challenges President Obama is also aware that his poll numbers on handling terrorism have cratered, and any move he makes in Congress will face even more resistance than usual because Republicans don’t want him scoring any victories in an election year.
Despite all of this, the president had to say something. One, it’s his job and two, Republicans like Trump, Cruz and Rubio have been popping off at the mouth since the Paris attacks with plans to fight ISIS that don’t make any sense, but feed America’s need to hear a strong voice.
The President’s plans delivered during this speech were fairly mild. The United States will share more information with allies (something we were already doing). Obama said that there will be a revision of the ‘fiance’ visa’ program, which may or may not prevent anyone from sneaking into the country with plans to do us harm.
The president also reaffirmed America and other nation’s commitment to bombing and killing ISIS no matter where they are. All of these plans were nice, but they fell into the limbo space of “stay the course” and “more of the same.”
However the President’s “What I’m NOT ‘bout to do” list was much more specific and compelling. One of the most legitimate criticisms of President Obama in general, and specifically in regards to terrorism is that he appears too calm and cool. His “I got this” attitude doesn’t put people who are being flooded with images of mass shooters with political agendas at ease.
One of the most legitimate criticisms of President Obama in general, and specifically in regards to terrorism is that he appears too calm and cool.
Obama did an excellent job of validating the public’s fears and he finally spent an adequate amount of time pointing out why Americans are afraid and the day to day concerns when it comes to terror.
Then he went into full Dad-in-Chief mode. President Obama made it clear that while he feels American’s pain and fears what he’s NOT about to do is demonize Muslims. What he’s NOT about to do is pass policies that passively or actively discriminate against Muslims. What he’s NOT about to do is let Republicans continue to slam his policies without pointing out Congress’s failure to act on gun controls that even ISIS understands makes American terrorism easier.
And finally, President Obama made it clear he’s NOT about to put boots on the ground in Iraq, or Syria to battle ISIS because that’s exactly what they want for recruitment and it fulfills their prophesy of a final war between the West and Islam.
Did President Obama lay out a clear plan to defeat ISIS and keep us safe? No. Did he condescendingly call on Muslims to root out and decry terrorists? Yes, he did (Striking because the President wouldn’t dare call on White American Christians to root out white Christian domestic terrorists like Dylan Roof or Robert Dear. However at this point there’s only so much you can expect.)
In lieu of a clear plan or cultural nuance at least we now know what Obama won’t do. He won’t sacrifice American values (at least some of them) to fight ISIS, he won’t condone racist rhetoric to assuage fears and he won’t create an American gulag for Muslims just because two nutcases murdered their co-workers.
It’s comforting to know we have a president with that much restraint. Now we’re just waiting to find out what he’s actually going to do. Nothing he said tonight would’ve stopped the San Bernardino shooting, and he offered no plan to stop ISIS from continuing their success in the Middle East. I guess we’ll have to wait for those answers. In the meantime at least we know the Dad-in-Chief cares.