At the Democratic Convention last month, Vice President Joseph Biden said “Donald Trump, with all his rhetoric, would literally make us less safe.” Unfortunately, it is President Barack Obama’s rhetoric and his administration’s ineptitude that has made America less safe.
Two and a half years ago, President Obama famously referred to the Islamic State (ISIS) as “a jayvee team” putting on Al Qaeda’s uniform that wouldn’t, therefore, make them as good as Al Qaeda. -- Read the full quote to see just how disconnected President Obama really was from reality.
Keep in mind, Al Qaeda only had been able to execute or inspire roughly three successful attacks in Europe and America since the July of 2005 Tube bombing in London, England. President Obama’s failure to accurately gauge the brewing threat ISIS posed would have consequences across the West.
Just four months after his remarks, a terrorist affiliated with ISIS killed four people in Brussels, Belgium.
Eleven months later, an ISIS-inspired terrorist rammed his car into people in Nantes, France — eerily foreshadowing the Nice, France, attack on July 14, 2016.
One year after President Obama’s statement, ISIS adherents attacked stores in Paris, France, and in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Nine months later, an ISIS cell killed over 100 people in Ankara, Turkey, and then pulled off the second attack in Paris in November 2015.
Weeks later, an ISIS-inspired couple attacked co-workers in San Bernardino, California, followed by two attacks in Turkey in January and March 2016. Later in March, elements of the Paris cell executed an attack in Brussels at the airport and a metro station.
Less than three months later, another ISIS-inspired terrorist massacred scores of Americans in Orlando, Florida. Just two weeks after Orlando, a small group launched an attack at the airport in Istanbul.
A couple weeks later, the July 14 Nice truck-as-weapon attack left more dead.
Ignoring the famous adage about what to do when you find yourself in a hole (hint: stop digging), President Obama has magnified how inept he is at understanding the threat from ISIS and how Americans view that threat.
He refutes Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s characterization of America’s security noting that Trump’s view "doesn't really jibe with the experience of most people.”
He is, of course, correct that “most people” haven’t directly experienced murderous violence. “Most people” though have watched the horrific videos on social media of the attacks, read about them, and talked with others about them. People are rightly worried about their safety.
After all, in addition to the terrorist attacks noted above, five police officers were gunned down on July 7 in Dallas, Texas, by a black nationalist. Two more police officers were killed by another black nationalist on July 17 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Later in the month, gang violence led to an attack on teenagers at a club in Fort Myers, Florida.
The number of Americans murdered over the last year and a half, as Trump highlighted in his RNC acceptance speech, has jumped substantially.
In Europe, news of terrorist attacks is becoming a steady drumbeat, with four attacks in six days. Just recently, ISIS terrorists murdered an elderly Catholic priest near Normandy.
While the ISIS connection to some of the European attacks remains tenuous or unknown, in all cases the attacks were carried out by people with immigrant backgrounds.
Not to let the ugly reality of the last year-and-a-half get in the way, President Obama appears to have decided after the Republican National Convention to double-down on his criticism of Trump by claiming that Trump was helping ISIS.
Specifically, President Obama opined that "I think the kinds of rhetoric that we've heard too often, from Mr. Trump and others, is ultimately helping do ISIL's work.” Given the list of attacks above, ISIS doesn’t need Trump’s help, as President Obama’s utter failure to confront radical Islamic terrorism has allowed successful attack after successful attack to occur in Europe and America that is all the advertising ISIS needs to attract adherents and carry on its war. As they say, nothing breeds success like success.
We are at war. President Obama’s denial of that reality only makes us less safe here and abroad.
When President George W. Bush left office in January 2009, he could rightfully take comfort in the fact that America had not been successfully attacked since the September 11, 2001, attack.
It is mildly ironic that the man who spent more time as an armchair quarterback criticizing how President Bush fought the war on terror will leave office in six months with America less safe than at any time since September 11, 2001.
President Obama can try to blame Trump, but the buck stops with the occupant of the Oval Office, not with someone trying to take his place.
Matt A. Mayer is a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. From 2004-06 he served in senior positions at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.