- - Sunday, September 21, 2014


CNN uber-host Wolf Blitzer said a remarkable thing recently. As he motor-mouthed through his usual breathless babble, stomping about the glitzy high-tech studio and gesticulating wildly at the “Multi-Touch Collaboration Wall,” he threw out this little nugget.

“Well, ISIS clearly presents a threat to America, so …”

What a fascinating pronouncement. A terrorist group no one had heard of just a few short months ago — which, to be sure, had committed atrocious beheadings of two Americans but done little more — suddenly poses a clear and present danger to America.

A credible threat? So says a guy named Wolf. But is he just a boy crying wolf? Almost definitely.

There’s no question that the Islamic State — which is neither Islamic nor a state but has multiple acronyms anyway — is dangerous, a brutal cabal of vicious murderers. The latest estimates put their numbers at about 30,000 in Syria and Iraq. According to those in the media who have jumped on the “Islamic State Threatens America” bandwagon, their numbers are growing every day, even every minute.

But can an uncoordinated gang of thugs actually threaten the U.S., 6,000 miles away? And if so, why has President Obama and the entire intelligence community been so slow off the mark?

It’s important to remember where we are in the Obama presidency — and what time of year it is. It’s not coincidental that after six years of failed policies, and with crucial mid-term elections looming, Team Obama sought to create an immigration crisis (oh, those unaccompanied minors streaming across the border!). But that failed, and into the vacuum came the Islamic State.

I’m not big on conspiracy theories, but sometimes, things like this are interesting. After the border crisis fizzled, we suddenly began to hear about the Islamic State (of course, by then, the president had — the story goes — already failed to check their massive power in Iraq). The Islamic State was huge! They trapped people on a mountain! What will they do next?!

Now, all this comes after the president drew a red line on Syria, vowing that he simply would not stand for the use of chemical weapons by Syrian President Bashar Assad. He did, tucking tail and allowing Russia to save the day. Nearly 200,000 people have been killed in the civil war there, and there are some 3 million refugees.

But Syria doesn’t matter, not to Americans, and not to the president (apparently, those Islamic extremists pose no threat to America).

More, having failed on that front, Mr. Obama has been forced into standing his ground on the Islamic State. He just won’t tolerate terrorists beheading Americans. And regardless of what the polls say about Mr. Obama’s ineffectual foreign policy, battling a foreign foe is presidential, giving the commander in chief plenty of powerful photo-ops.

The president has taken advantage of that, with prime-time addresses from the White House and, coming this week, a big speech at the United Nations in New York City. His writers are working overtime trying to wax poetic about struggle and strife. And all of it is covered by a fawning liberal media that twice helped Mr. Obama win.

There’s no question the president is a drag on fellow Democrats this November, but battling an invisible foe half way around the world puts him slightly off limits. Sure, Republicans can bash his policies domestic and foreign, but there’s always a danger to politicians who ignore the “politics stops at the water’s edge” rule (unless the president’s a Republican).

The Islamic State has been blown up into an enormous threat — not just to rogue American journalists who are wandering around Syria and Iraq, but to 315 million Americans. The media, as usual, has been blowing hot air into that balloon: Wolf teased his upcoming stories last week with this: “Plus, the ISIS endgame, new warnings of a doomsday battle and a terrifying scenario. Will ISIS join forces with al Qaeda and other militants to create a monstrous terrorist group?”

With 40-some days to go until Election 2014, America’s journalists are not consumed by the midterms, but instead are hyping a phantom foe in the Persian Gulf. Americans are, not surprisingly, following along, believing the scaremonger reports of impending doom.

But like global warming, Islamic State danger is not settled science. In fact, in the streets of Iraq, some think the CIA created the terrorist group. “The Islamic State is a clear creation of the United States, and the United States is trying to intervene again using the excuse of the Islamic State,” Haidar al-Assadi told a New York Times reporter in Baghdad. (The article was a thinly veiled attempt to declare Iraqis want airstrikes, not American soldiers on the ground.)

Most interesting is the fact that Mr. Obama really has cried wolf on Middle East terrorists before. The Islamic State may be a real threat, but at this point, isn’t it nearly impossible to trust anything this president says?

Joseph Curl covered the White House and politics for a decade for The Washington Times. He can be reached at josephcurl@gmail.com and on Twitter @josephcurl.

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