President Barack Obama was likely trying to offer a picture of "calm" and "measured" leadership when he said his administration didn't have a strategy to battle the Islamic State, Robert Gibbs, former White House press secretary, told MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
During a news conference Thursday, Obama said, "We don’t have a strategy yet" on confronting the Islamic State in Syria. Gibbs said, given the severity of the threat the group poses, it is important for the president to remain steady before his meeting with leaders of other nations at a NATO summit later this week.
"The American people want to see a president, even understanding the limits of American power, providing a picture of calm, steady, measured leadership. The commander in chief role, I think, that's the important thing that the president and the administration have to convey this week," Gibbs said Tuesday.
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Gibbs said the reason Obama held a news conference when he didn't have a strategy to announce could have been due to "the news vacuum is going to be filled with something as you're making plans to do whatever you're going to do in Iraq and Syria." He said it could also have been to give the president time to explain the situation to the American people.
"I think one of the reasons why you see what happened last week is the slowing down of the immediate process, in order to make sure that we understand . . . how this whole operation takes place," he said.
Gibbs explained that he thought "the rhetoric from some members of the administration got way, way down," before Obama was prepared to speak "publicly" about what action the United States would take. For White House staffers, he said Obama's comment made for a "winceable moment," where they were attempting to explain "what somebody meant to say, or what somebody was trying to say."
Nevertheless, Gibbs said Obama could be forced to undertake a "lengthy military mission" to confront the Islamic State threat if there is "unanimity among military and diplomatic advisers."
"This is clearly a president that has been reticent for several years to go into Syria. And, understanding that going in and doing two days worth of bombing runs is not going to solve your problems with ISIS," Gibbs said.
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