The evolution of President Obama's tone on ISIS

Reaction from the 'Special Report' All-Star panel


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," November 24, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I don't think they're gaining strength. What is true is that from the start, our goal has been first to contain, and we have contained them. They have not gained ground in Iraq and in Syria.

They are a bunch of killers with good social media.

This barbaric terrorist group, ISIL or Daesh, and its murderous ideology poses serious threats to all of us. It cannot be tolerated. It must be destroyed. And we must do it together.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: A little evolution of President Obama on ISIS over recent weeks. Today he met with French President Francois Hollande, talked about the fight against ISIS, and also the interesting coalition that is forming or that the French want to form, with Russia. But that was all complex today as Turkey shot down a Russian war plane for crossing into its airspace.

Let's bring in our panel, Kirsten Powers, USA Today columnist, A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of The Hill, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Charles, what do you think -- how do you think the Turkish shoot-down has affected this, if it has?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I think it will make Hollande, president of the France, less enthusiastic for having Russia join the coalition. The reason he's here, he's trying to persuade the United States to allow Russia into the so-called 65-member coalition that Obama has supposedly put together. The reason why we are correctly refusing that and I give Obama credit for this, is that Putin has no interest in a war with ISIS. His only interest is a war against the opposition to defend Assad. So this I think sort of highlights that.

The Turks are the most opposed to Assad of anybody on the ground.
And it wasn't only that the Russian airplane went into Turkish airspace.
It's that the bombing run was against Turkomen, who a minority in Syria, ethnically Turkish, that the Turks have always felt they have to defend.
And whether or not it was in Turkish airspace or not matters not. They were attacking these Turkomen opposition leaders. Turkey defended them I think as a signal to the Russians that we are not going to allow you to do that. I think that's a result of this, harder for Russia to become our allies.

BAIER: Pentagon officials said that the plane was warned 10 times before it made it to the border, and it crossed into Turkish air space for just 30 seconds before being shot down. Take a listen to the president on the Russia-Turkey relationship today.


OBAMA: Turkey, like every country, has a right to defend its territory and its airspace. I do think that this points to a ongoing problem with the Russian operations, in the sense that they are operating very close to a Turkish border and they are going after moderate opposition.


BAIER: As Charles just said. A.B.?

A.B. STODDARD, THE HILL: Right. Well, I think it, the tone and the way that Obama described this indicates that they kind of knew this was coming. I mean, there's been a lot of warning. And the Turkish government made it clear to the Russian government, as Charles says, that those rebel fighters, the Turkomens were going to be defended, and they would not remain "indifferent" to any harm done to them. So the 30 seconds in the air space almost doesn't matter.

In the past year and a half, two years, the Russians have made incursions into other air space, the Baltic states and elsewhere, very aggressive. So they've been warned about this. This is not a surprise.
The problem, though, is it makes Hollande's plan that much more complicated and almost laughable, because, at this point, how do you stop Putin from retaliating or playing a new game and at the same time convince him to abandon Assad, join forces to make a concerted attempt to force a political transition in Syria, when he's just said in the last 36 hours no country can tell Syrians who should run their government. And so it's a nice idea.
It would be great. But it's not workable.

BAIER: Kirsten, I heard a few Democrats today say this was a bit of a mulligan for the president after the first time he reacted to the Paris attacks in Turkey in that the tone and tenor of this was what he should have done the first time.

KIRSTEN POWERS, USA TODAY: Right. Well, yes, his tone is definitely evolving. I would say it's still probably not quite where it needs to be. He keeps having this little gaffes. Today it was referring to the climate change conference, saying that this is going to show the terrorists. And I understand what he was saying. I think what he was suggesting is we're not going to stop living our lives. But at the same time if you look at Hillary Clinton's tone I think it was even a little bit stronger and more probably in sync with the average American people, that he still has not also really indicated he wants to change course. So even if he changes his tone, he seems really set on the fact that he's going to continue sort of doing what he's doing instead of adjusting to the new situation.

BAIER: The climate change thing, he said he wanted to stand up and it would send a message to ISIS, the climate change summit in Paris next week.
But as you look at the latest Fox News poll, climate change is kind of down on the list there. And there you see it, three percent down from five percent. Terrorism obviously taking the biggest jump, Charles, in the wake of all that's happened.

KRAUTHAMMER: I think what Obama was saying is that if we don't destroy our economies in order to save the ocean from rising an inch or two
100 years from now, the terrorists have won. So I think, you know, that's what Obama believes.

I thought it was actually one other sort of, it wasn't a slip. It was actually said intentionally when he said, we can't let the terrorists direct our lives. He said go out to ball games and shopping. Remember how Bush was mocked endlessly by people because after 9/11 he said I want you to go out shopping. And that was supposed to be an example of how unserious he was about what was going on around him.

BAIER: We will follow it.

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