With its attacks on cities like Paris and its threats against New York City, ISIS aims to terrorize the American people, and in turn their leaders, into engaging in a clash of civilizations. On Monday, Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough argued that President Obama has not done enough to help terrorists achieve that goal.
At the top of his MSNBC show today, a fuming Scarborough played clips from the president’s Sunday speech in Kuala Lumpur that aimed to temper worldwide panic over an increasingly apparent ISIS threat.
“The most powerful tool we have to fight ISIL is to say that we’re not afraid, to not elevate it, to not somehow buy into their fantasy that they are doing something important,” Obama told reporters at the news conference. He criticized the media for deeming the Paris plot’s leader a “mastermind” and minimized the terrorist group by calling them nothing more than “a bunch of killers, with good social media.”
This apparently set off Scarborough.
“It’s staggering, I don't know where to begin,” the MSNBC host began his rant. “There's not an intel agency on the planet that doesn't fear—I will use the word fear—ISIS.” Referencing recent intelligence reports that show ISIS is pursuing chemical weapons, the host asked, without a hint of irony, “How much does that sound like 2002 and the leadup to the Iraq War?”
If he were advising the president, Scarbrough said he would tell him, “We’re sorry, they aren’t on the J.V. team, you stand alone. You’re scaring the hell out of the American people, Mr. President. Stop pretending.”
Citing a new Washington Post/ABC News poll showing that a large majority of Americans believe a terror attack on U.S. soil is imminent, Scarborough said Obama is “disconnected” from a voting public genuinely scared for its own safety. In the MSNBC talker's view, Obama is “scaring the hell out of” them by downplaying the threat. Others would argue the president has tried to contain that same fear by refusing to use the deliberately hyperbolic rhetoric seen from Republican presidential candidates over the past week.
While Scarborough did not receive much pushback from co-host Mika Brzezinski—his most frequent critic—a bit of the counterpoint was presented by NBC News reporter Chris Jansing, who chimed in live from Paris. She noted that from the White House’s perspective, the rush to overreact is being “ginned up by the media,” that the threat is being “overstated” and that “we’re sort of playing into the fear Americans already have.”
“That's one of the most stunning things he said in a week of stunning, tone deaf statements from a president who is on another planet when it comes to this war on terror,” Scarborough said of Obama’s attempt to “blame” the media. While he admitted that Republicans have been saying some “really stupid things” in the aftermath of Paris, he argued that the president is even more “radically out of touch” with the American people.
“Somebody has to get in front of President Obama that he’ll listen to and say, ‘You are dangerously out of touch with where intel experts are, police officers are, and 81 percent of the American people are,’” the host concluded.
Throughout the segment, frequent Morning Joe guest and Daily Beast contributor Mike Barnicle repeatedly suggested that this past week was the moment that Americans transitioned from “anxiety” over terrorism back into “fear.”
Despite Obama’s best efforts to keep his administration’s response to ISIS in the realm of rationality, media figures like Joe Scarborough are doing whatever they can to help “scare the hell” out of Americans.