OTR Interviews

British PM Cameron's stand against Islamic extremists versus 'weak-kneed' Obama's no-strategy: A lesson for the President of the United States?

The statements by British PM David Cameron and Pres. Obama on the threat of ISIS were a contrast in styles and perhaps beliefs in the global war on terror


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," August 29, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

KIMBERLY GUILFOYLE, 'ON THE RECORD' GUEST HOST: The British prime minister's speech today was in stark contrast to President Obama's speech yesterday. David Cameron announcing a clear strategy to combat ISIS. And our next guest says that should be a lesson for President Obama.

Nile Gardiner, with a foreign policy researcher for former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, and he is now director of the Thatcher Center for Freedom. He joins us.

A pleasure to have you on the program.


GUILFOYLE: What a compelling decisive article that you wrote. How do you see this? And what should the United States be doing about it?

GARDINER: Well, I think that David Cameron's press conference today was a real tour de force. He emphasized that the free world is engaged in epic struggle against evil Islamic terrorists who seek our destruction. This is exactly the kind of thing that the U.S. president should be saying. Unfortunately, Barack Obama, at his press conference yesterday at the White House, gave exactly the opposite message. It was confusing, it was muddled, it was hugely embarrassing. And he basically said flat-out that the White House has no strategy whatsoever for combating ISIS. A huge contrast to the self-assured decisive leadership of the British prime minister compared to the U.S. president, supposedly the leader of the free world, who came across as someone who was hugely confused, unconvincing, and extremely weak-kneed.

GUILFOYLE: Why do you think this is? From your vantage point, what does the U.S. hope to accomplish by sending mixed messages? Doesn't sound like anybody is on the same page, from FBI to the Department of Defense to his national security advisors, even to the press secretary. It's really sending the wrong message.

GARDINER: It's a huge problem for the United States because the rest of the world looks to American leadership and there is no real leadership coming from Washington at this time. And I think what you have here in Washington is a divided Obama administration. It doesn't always speak with one voice. You have a president who is really clueless, doesn't know what he is doing a lot of the loft time. And it's very hard to build some sort of international coalition to combat ISIS, to defeat the Islamist threat if you have a president who doesn't even recognize the enemy that we are facing and who can't be bothered to come up with a strategy. He is the Commander-in-Chief. That's his job. And he simply is failing to do that.

GUILFOYLE: Yeah, well, the concern is, from the military and people who have served and people who are on the ground even there, that this is just really sending, you know, the wrong message, that this is actually a severe threat that doesn't seem to be properly heeded by this White House, that, in fact, could cause us long-term problems.

GARDINER: Yes, exactly. The British prime minister made an excellent point today. We are facing today the biggest terrorist threat of our times. This threat has to be defeated at home and abroad. And when you send mixed messages, as President Obama has done, this only emboldens America's enemies. It only encourages them to strike against us. So we need to have the leader of the free world taking a robust stance, committed to fighting terrorism across the world and defeating the enemy. At the moment, we're just seeing, frankly, a weak-kneed policy of appeasement, which isn't going to get the United States or the free world anywhere. We need real decisive leadership and a determination to take on ISIS, to crush it, and emphatically defeat it.

GUILFOYLE: Well, we would like to see that certainly here, Americans at home. And I'm quite certain that as one of our strongest ally, the U.K., would like to feel that they are in a partnership with a leader that is actually is hell bent on the destruction of ISIS and any jihadist terrorist group that bear us ill will here in America or there in the U.K.

GARDINER: Absolutely. I agree. I think that if you have real American leadership, you will find that U.S. allies will come on board and they will stand shoulder to shoulder with the United States. But when you have a U.S. president who doesn't really know what he is doing, it's very hard for American allies to stand with the United States. And so I think we need to have really from the White House a clear sense of direction here and a clear understanding about the nature of the threat that we are facing. As David Cameron said, we are fighting against a poisonous ideology. We are fighting a vicious Islamist extremist terrorists. He they have to be defeated.

GUILFOYLE: No question. Nile, thank you for your insight and joining us tonight.

GARDINER: Thank you very much.