- The Washington Times - Monday, December 21, 2015

As he headed to Hawaii for yet another golf outing, President Obama once again dismissed the “perceived” threat ISIS and radical Islam represents as an overblown reaction to relatively minor incidents hyped by Republicans and their cable television allies. The idea that radical Islamist terrorists represent any real threat to the United States is, in Mr. Obama’s eyes, preposterous and any criticism of the way he is handling the terrorist threat that does exist stems either from Republican misrepresentation of his strategy or his failure to counter misinformation by explaining just how well what he is doing is working.

It was just the latest in a series of explanations for his problems with the public. His programs both domestic and foreign are working just fine, if one is to believe Mr. Obama and his minions, but Republicans and cable news somehow continue to convince those who don’t know any better that Obamaworld is not such a great and secure place to live. Oh, he was willing to grant in his pre-vacation interview with NPR that some of those upset with his policies have a legitimate complaint, citing coal miners who are losing their jobs because of his enlightened energy strategy, but for the most part the criticism is just wrong-headed and motivated as always by ideology, cynical political ambition or that old Obama standby racism.

Just a few days before sitting down with NPR, Mr. Obama explained to reporters that he neither understood nor fully grasped the public concern with terrorism in the wake of the San Bernardino attack because he doesn’t spend all or most of his time glued to his television watching cable news. Those cable news types are, of course, the same folks who have undermined public confidence in his health care program and much else.

Interestingly, his latest comments were made at what was supposed to have been an “off the record” session with reporters, but they made it into an early New York Times report on the meeting in which the Times reported that “In his meeting with the columnists, Mr. Obama indicated that he did not see enough cable television to fully appreciate the anxiety after the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino “

The report might not have been noticed, but when the paper’s editors realized what they had allowed to slip into their paper, they quickly deleted the paragraph from their online edition. It was, however, too late. Mr. Obama had once again been caught living in a different reality than everyone else as Americans reacted to his belief that it was the coverage of Paris and San Bernardino rather than what happened in those two cities that troubled him.

At one level Mr. Obama is correct. The chances that any American will right now fall victim to a terrorist assault is statistically insignificant, but that neither explains the anxiety nor says much about the future. The question of whether Islamic radicalism represents an “existential threat” we should worry about may not trouble Mr. Obama. But it does worry Americans who realize that there are people out there who want to destroy our country and would use a weapon of mass destruction to do so if they ever get their hands on one. That realization would be real with or without cable television, Guantanamo or even Donald Trump. It is an existential reality which the president and his allies deny.

Thus, Hillary Clinton, in what passed for a Democratic debate last week, argued that the real problem is not the terrorist, but Donald Trump who she claims is the Islamist recruiting tool that keeps on giving. Were it not for Mr. Trump’s over-the-top rhetoric, perhaps ISIS would simply wither and die. Mrs. Clinton, like the man she hopes to succeed, shares the view that somehow what we are facing in the Middle East and now at home is, well, our fault or at least Donald Trump’s fault. She has, like the president himself, in the recent past argued that there is no religious component to what’s been going on and that there is therefore no need to be concerned about the influx of poorly vetted Muslim refugees into this country or Europe.

That view, interestingly, is disputed by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi who earlier this year traced the roots of modern day terrorism to a radical wing of the religion he practices and called for a “revolution” within Islam to counteract the appeal of groups like al Qaeda and ISIS. Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton must have missed Mr. al Sisi’s remarks because they weren’t watching cable that day.

David A. Keene is Opinion editor at The Washington Times.

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