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Reacting to Obama’s speech, Rand Paul throws Hannity a curve

REUTERS/Saul Loeb/Pool
President Barack Obama addressing the nation on his plans for military action against the Islamic State on Wednesday night.

President Obama Wednesday night made a very short speech to the nation announcing his strategy to “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS. (Full text here.) I doubt he convinced very many Americans of anything. Judging by his calm, weary, almost diffident tone, it didn’t seem like he aspired to any big act of persuasion.

He had taken enormous grief from the perpetual Obama-bashers for having said that he hadn’t yet developed a strategy for dealing with ISIS (aka ISIL). Now he has. He was merely announcing it. So much for the famed “bully pulpit.”

What’s the strategy? The United States will use its air power to hit ISIS. U.S. ground troops will not play a role. Washington will provide arms to various anti-ISIS elements in Iraq and Syria who will do the front-line fighting. It will provide intelligence. It will build a coalition of partners.

There wasn’t much effort to hype the direct threat that ISIS represents to the United States. In fact, Obama said, “we have not yet detected specific plotting against our homeland.” He didn’t talk about what would happen if the strategy doesn’t work. He asserted that the strategy requires no new specific authorization from Congress, although he would welcome a vote of support.

Sen. Rand Paul
REUTERS/Larry Downing
Sen. Rand Paul stated that the rise of Islamic fundamentalist groups like ISIS was caused by U.S. decisions to overthrow various secular dictators, including Saddam Hussein.

The Fox view

Most of the instant reaction I caught was on Fox, where Obama derangement syndrome was on full display, especially from Sean Hannity and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

On Fox’s Megyn Kelly program, Cruz called Obama’s new policy “fundamentally unserious,” described Obama’s overall policy as “withdrawing from leadership in the world,” and reserved special mockery for Obama’s insistence that further U.S. involvement in Iraq would depend on the creation of a more inclusive government in Iraq, which Cruz considered a ridiculous goal because “the Sunni and Shiites have been engaged in a sectarian civil war since 632 a.d.”

Hannity basically pushed the line that none of this would have happened if Obama had not persisted in withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq.

The Rand Paul view

Appearing on Hannity, Sen. Rand Paul took a much more interesting line (as, in my opinion, he often does). Rather than blaming the U.S. troop withdrawal, he went back a step further, saying that the rise of Islamic fundamentalist groups like ISIS was caused by U.S. decisions to overthrow various secular dictators, including Saddam Hussein. (His full list also included Gaddafi in Libya, Mubarak in Egypt and Assad in Syria — acknowledging that Assad is not yet overthrown. “As bad as Assad is, he is an enemy of ISIS,” Paul said.)

Hannity shared the outrage of various Obama derangement syndrome sufferers that Obama had said last that “ISIL is not ‘Islamic.’  No religion condones the killing of innocents. And the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim.”

Hannity invited Sen. Paul to share his outrage, but Paul threw him a curve, asserting that what ISIS represents is “not a true form of Islam. This is an aberrant form that should not represent most of the civilized Islamic world.”

Obama, Paul said, “was trying to make the case to the Islamic world that this is not a true or accurate depiction of Islam. Because ultimately we do need — and most of the allies that are around and that also are offended by ISIS, are also Muslim nations. And I think they will rise up and ultimately the victory … is going to require allies who are part of the civilized portion of the Islamic world, which is the majority of the Islamic world, but they have to step up.”

The full Hannity-Paul exchange is here.

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Comments (18)

  1. Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 09/11/2014 - 10:52 am.

    Holy Moly

    I agree with Rand Paul completely on this one.

    • Submitted by Luke Ferguson on 09/11/2014 - 02:00 pm.


      I’m actually sitting here with my mouth wide open because I’m so shocked by how reasonable Rand Paul’s comments are.

      • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 09/12/2014 - 03:26 pm.

        The Foxies

        can make anyone sound reasonable by comparison.
        But are we surprised that conservatives like dictators?

      • Submitted by jason myron on 09/12/2014 - 06:43 am.


        has moments of clarity. But like his father, one won’t have to wait long to hear something ridiculous come out of his mouth.

  2. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 09/11/2014 - 12:39 pm.

    American foreign policy is the mother’s milk…

    …of these various terrorist organizations, from Al Qaeda and its offshoots to ISIL. Through the conditions we have created, we have also created these monsters and indirectly sustain them.

    Has our government considered changing our foreign policy ?? It seems to be the last thing either Bush or Obama or their advisors would think of. They believe that manipulating the governments and economies in foreign lands is fundamental to a successful foreign policy, and pretend to take no notice of the downsides and the enemies we create.

    The further unfortunate thing is that failed foreign policies seem to persist beyond reason, as their authors deny failure and cannot admit a mistake.

    • Submitted by chuck holtman on 09/11/2014 - 04:49 pm.

      I agree.

      ISIL/ISIS was set in motion not only by the removal of the dictator but as well by the heedless deconstruction of the entire civil structure of Iraq – in other words, the failure of the Bush administration to understand that a civil society ostensibly to one’s better liking cannot just be thrown up like a barn-raising.

      I have read credible reports (though not in the establishment media) that a significant part of the materiel, expertise and leadership of ISIL/ISIS is provided by the former Baathists who were summarily ejected from the Iraqi governing structure and civil service by Paul Bremer’s decree.

  3. Submitted by Bruce Johnson on 09/11/2014 - 02:43 pm.

    On MPR this morning Rep. Kline also ripped the “ISIL is not Islamic” statement from Obama’s speech. This is a pretty basic concept to master but it seems to be a condition of employment for Republicans to pretend otherwise.

  4. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 09/11/2014 - 03:33 pm.

    I’d like…

    …Eric to interview my Congressional Representative, Mr. Ellison, about this and related topics. He is, after all, Muslim, has a significant Muslim constituency in Minneapolis, and would presumably have some political background from time spent in Washington and the House, as well as some theological background. What does Ellison think of Paul’s statement? Or Cruz’s? Or does he have his own view that doesn’t neatly fit in with that of any of the usual suspects.

    One of the things that disturbs me about Islam’s lunatic fringe is that the public in this country doesn’t generally hear anything from more moderate Muslims, either here or abroad, condemning activities like random bombings of civilians or individual murders that are often committed – genuinely or not – in the name of Islam. Does the more civilized segment of Islam have nothing to say about these things, or is it that what they have to say isn’t being reported?

    When Paul says the majority of the Muslim world “…has to step up,” he’s getting at what I’m talking about. In general, I’m inclined toward Rachel and Luke on this, but I’d like specifics from our own Muslim Congressman about how this resonates with him.

  5. Submitted by Tom Anderson on 09/11/2014 - 09:08 pm.

    Thanks for the honesty

    “Judging by his calm, weary, almost diffident tone, it didn’t seem like he aspired to any big act of persuasion.”

    Pretty much covers it I guess.

    • Submitted by jason myron on 09/12/2014 - 01:56 pm.

      As opposed to what?

      If he were Bush, he would have immediately bombed Malaysia. Get over it, Tom…the Middle East has been a caldron of violence for centuries. I’m sick of our people going over there to die in the dust for nothing except serving as a recruiting tool for more terrorists. Obama’s demeanor fits the description of every thinking American that doesn’t view patriotism like a sporting event. Most people that cheer for perpetual war have no more skin in the game than a magnetic ribbon on the bumper of their car.

      • Submitted by Tom Anderson on 09/12/2014 - 11:02 pm.


        I guess.

        I agree to a point with Rand Paul Libertarian types as you appear to be that we should mind our own business and stay out of other world conflicts. Perhaps you can convince our President and our Senators to stop these continuing war efforts.

        “Every thinking American” doesn’t leave much wiggle room but I’m sure you have the cites to prove how popular the President’s foreign policy is amongst that (apparently) small group of people.

        • Submitted by jason myron on 09/15/2014 - 01:57 pm.

          Ahh yes…”leadership”

          the latest meme from the GOP. Nothing but a vague, almost meaningless term coming from the likes of a party that have absolutely no answers of their own. Your definition of leadership exacerbated this entire situation in the first place.

  6. Submitted by david hanners on 09/12/2014 - 03:14 am.

    Scads of “more moderate” Muslims have condemned IS, and they’ve been doing so for some time. The terrorist thugs of IS have been happily killing Muslims for some time without the West getting too excited. Just because the news sources you rely on haven’t published or broadcast these condemnations or haven’t given them prominent display doesn’t mean they didn’t happen. And once these groups have gone on record condemning IS, I’m not sure they are required to repeat the condemnation every hour on the hour just to make sure Ray Schoch in Minnesota doesn’t miss it.

    • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 09/15/2014 - 09:57 am.


      If scads of “more moderate” Muslims have condemned IS, then who’s at fault for their voices not being heard? Is it the media for making a far bigger deal of IS (which is pretty primitive) than it deserves (primitive–but so was al Qaeda at one point), or is it the people who are listening for their voices for being deaf, or is it the more moderate Muslims for not being loud enough? Probably a combination of things, with the first of these being the most blame worthy. I’m sure I’m not the only one that’s thoroughly disgusted with the “media” for being fear mongers and hype pushers. Yes, Minnpost also disappoints (and sometimes disgusts) me with the inability to investigate more than politic-deep.

  7. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/12/2014 - 10:39 am.

    Kind of sad actually

    A guy meets minimum requirements for common sense and knowledgeability, disagrees with a partisan hack, and people are impressed.

    This is what we’ve come to? What? This makes him a presidential contender?

    • Submitted by Raj Maddali on 09/12/2014 - 03:16 pm.

      Compared To

      As compared to whom ? Al Franken ? Could u tell me what is Franken’s Middle East policy. Oh wait i can read it on the AIPAC web site.

    • Submitted by Rachel Kahler on 09/15/2014 - 09:52 am.

      Who says?

      Who says that a single lucid moment makes Rand a presidential contender? This single thought won’t make most progressives willing to vote for him (some, sure), and is likely to anger many conservatives. So, no, he’s likely not a serious presidential contender.

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