Only NBC Mentions Criticism of Obama Being 'Too Late' to Combat ISIS Terrorists

Of the three network morning shows on Friday, only NBC's Today made any mention of President Obama being criticized over his slow response to the terrorist group ISIS taking over Iraq. Co-host Savannah Guthrie raised the issue to chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd: "Listen to the President last night, his reluctance to get into Iraq is palpable. But on the other hand, he's facing criticism, I think you're reporting from all quarters, that maybe he waited too long to do anything and now we see ISIS in an even more dangerous position." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

Todd replied: "For months, some could argue for more than a year, there has been pressure on him from the intelligence community, from military commanders, to say, 'You have to do something about ISIS, they're marching'....he's been dragged into this. He doesn't want to do it."

Moments later, Todd continued to highlight the President's inaction:

And this is where the criticism is coming in on the President. Because he could have acted on ISIS over a year and a half ago when the Syrian civil war was popping up. He could have acted on ISIS, oh, say, six months ago when he was first getting pushed to do this and he was reluctant to do it because he didn't trust [Iraqi Prime Minister] Maliki at the time. And now he's finally acting on ISIS, but some people think this is too late.

By contrast, neither ABC's Good Morning America nor CBS This Morning included criticism of Obama in their Iraq coverage.

None of the Friday morning shows, including Today, noted Obama's failure to achieve a status of forces agreement with Iraq in 2011 that would have allowed a contingent of U.S. troops to remain in the country and provide stability.

On Good Morning America, White House correspondent Jon Karl actually parroted administration talking points that the complete U.S. pullout from Iraq was an "accomplishment": "This is a President that is reluctant to use military force anywhere, but especially in Iraq. He sees as one of his top accomplishments as president ending America's involvement in an unpopular war."

After co-host George Stephanopoulos explained that Obama was about to go on vacation, Karl provided more spin: "And of course as the President goes to Martha's Vineyard he is taking several of his top advisers, including his National Security Advisor Susan Rice, and he has all the communications equipment to handle this. No president, as you know, George, truly goes on vacation." Stephanopoulos agreed: "That's for sure."


Here is a full transcript of the August 8 segment on Today:

7:04 AM ET

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Let's turn to Chuck Todd, he's NBC's chief White House correspondent and political director. Chuck, good morning.

CHUCK TODD: Good morning.

GUTHRIE: Listen to the President last night, his reluctance to get into Iraq is palpable.

TODD: It is.

GUTHRIE: But on the other hand, he's facing criticism, I think you're reporting from all quarters, that maybe he waited too long to do anything and now we see ISIS in an even more dangerous position.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: President Authorizes Airstrikes; White House Faces New Crisis Overseas]

TODD: For months, some could argue for more than a year, there has been pressure on him from the intelligence community, from military commanders, to say, "You have to do something about ISIS, they're marching." What finally convinced him to do it was that it's the Kurds that are in trouble. Of all the different ethnic groups in Iraq, the one that's been the most reliable U.S. ally has been the Kurds. So the idea that they could fall, that ISIS could end up taking over northern Iraq, that seemed to be something that was just a step too far for the President.

So he is – but this is – he's been dragged into this. He doesn't want to do it. But I have to tell you, Savannah, I don't know how you stop doing this now that he's authorized to go after ISIS.

GUTHRIE: Yeah, if you're going to go in there and protect the Kurds. You say they're strategically important, they've traditionally been the strongest part of Iraq. By the way, these Kurdish fighters are veteran fighters. The fact that they are on the run and really under the gun there, says a lot.

TODD: It does say a lot. And this, you know, and this is where the criticism is coming in on the President. Because he could have acted on ISIS over a year and a half ago when the Syrian civil war was popping up. He could have acted on ISIS, oh, say, six months ago when he was first getting pushed to do this and he was reluctant to do it because he didn't trust [Iraqi Prime Minister] Maliki at the time. And now he's finally acting on ISIS, but some people think this is too late.

But he had to act, because if the Kurds fall, then there's fear Jordan could fall. You know, ISIS is just sort of marching through the Middle East in a way that is scaring the living daylights out of the American intelligence community.

GUTHRIE: Yeah, and by the way, for good reason. I mean, let's cut to it, the President himself has said this is a group that not only is taking territory in the Middle East but actively training people to launch strikes potentially on U.S. soil.

TODD: That's right. They're aspirational. They don't necessarily have the ability to do this today, but they are concerned. I think ISIS is something that not just this president but the next president is gonna be dealing with.

GUTHRIE: Chuck, always good to have you hear. Thank you so much.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC