The White House is bristling at the suggestion that President Obama is becoming more warlike and, therefore, more like his predecessor, George W. Bush.
At the White House press briefing on Friday, reporters asked presidential spokesman Josh Earnest for his reaction to the cover photo of the Economist magazine, which depicts Mr. Obama in the flight suit worn by Mr. Bush during the Iraq war in 2003, with the new caption “Mission Relaunched.”
It’s a reference to Mr. Obama renewing the war against Islamic State terrorists in Iraq and Syria. But Mr. Earnest called “unfair” the suggestion that the president is suddenly becoming tougher on terrorism.
“I do think that a careful scrutiny of the president’s record indicates that he is somebody who has been very strong about the need to act decisively to counter threats from extremist groups emanating from anywhere in the world,” Mr. Earnest said.
He reminded reporters that in 2007, Mr. Obama “signaled his willingness to go into Pakistan … to get Osama bin Laden if he thought he could do it.”
“The president followed through on that promise to go after Osama bin Laden where necessary [in 2011],” Mr. Earnest said.
The spokesman also said Mr. Obama has ordered counter-terrorism missions “around the globe” to kill terrorists belonging to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and the al-Shabab network in Somalia.
“The president, since he first arrived on the national stage, has demonstrated not just an openness to, but a commitment to, acting decisively and forcefully to protect American interests all around the world,” he said.
From the beginning of his presidency, however, Mr. Obama has sought to emphasize diplomacy rather than military might, drawing a distinction with Mr. Bush’s policies. The Economist said Mr. Obama was “right” to order the action in Iraq and Syria but should have acted sooner.
Mr. Earnest said the president takes military action “where necessary.”
“He’s willing to act unilaterally and forcefully to protect the American people,” he said.