Two men with extensive counterterrorism experience lambasted President Obama on Wednesday for not showing leadership following the Islamic State’s deadly terror attacks in Brussels, Belgium, and for lacking the will to defeat the jihadist group.
Former mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani and former CIA and NSA director Gen. Michael Hayden both appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe to discuss Obama’s response to the Brussels terror attacks, which killed at least 31 people and wounded 250 others, and his broader strategy to counter ISIS.
The brutal attacks occurred Tuesday morning while Obama was in Cuba to improve ties with the communist state and its leader, Raul Castro. The president received widespread criticism for electing to attend a baseball game alongside Castro rather than return home to deal with the aftermath of Brussels.
Obama only dedicated 51 seconds to addressing the terrorist attacks in his formal remarks Tuesday to an audience in Cuba.
"What difference would it have made yesterday had [Obama] not gone to that ball game?" columnist Mike Barnicle asked Giuliani.
"It would have made people feel that he is the leader, that he is in charge," Giuliani said in response. "Here’s what I would have done: Immediately left, gotten the national security staff together, and I’d say, ‘When I wake up tomorrow morning, I want a complete plan on how we destroy ISIS. No BS."
"You don’t think he has that?" Barnicle asked.
"Ha!" Giuliani laughed. "If he does, it’s failing. You better get a new one."
Giuliani referenced the frequency with which ISIS has successfully carried out terror attacks around the world, most notably in Paris on Nov. 13, to show that the president’s policy is not effective.
The jihadist group, which is based in Iraq and Syria, also inspired the massacre in San Bernardino late last year and a series of attacks throughout the world from the Middle East and the West to places as far away as Indonesia.
Barnicle pointed out that the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition has conducted over 20,000 sorties over Iraq and Syria, to which Giuliani said, "Well, maybe they‘re not working. Maybe the strategy isn’t working. If he can’t figure out that a strategy isn’t working, we need somebody else to do that job."
Hayden echoed Giuliani’s point, saying that "our current is plan is under-resourced and over-regulated. Too many restrictions, not enough resources."
The retired general explained that 20,000 sorties averages out to about 20 strikes a day.
"That is not a relentless campaign," Hayden said.
He then referenced Obama’s decision to attend the baseball game in Cuba rather than address the terror attack, and he described it as intentional policy.
"I actually believe that in his heart of hearts, the president’s policy is that is not that big a deal," Hayden said. "There are other things that are more important [to Obama], and that was what he was messaging."
Morning Joe host Joe Scarborough added that Obama "has been underestimating ISIS reach from the very beginning in calling them the JV team, and then saying that they were a JV team that had on a Kobe Bryant Jersey but they were still a JV team, and then the [day] before the Paris attacks saying that they were pretty much finished."
"It does seem to be a calculated approach by this White House to say ISIS is ‘much ado about nothing at the end of the day,’" Scarborough concluded.
"In the long run, it’s an approach by this White House to say that Islamic extremist terrorism really is not at war against us, when in fact, the prime minister of France was quite clear that they are at war against France, Europe, and the rest of the world," Giuliani added. "So [Obama] acts like this is another criminal act in New York yesterday."
This dichotomy was similar to the aftermath of the Paris attacks, which killed 130 people, when French President Francois Hollande described the event as "an act of war," and President Obama described it as "a setback" in the anti-ISIS effort.
"Obviously [the president] has the wrong plan, and he’s got to change it," Giuliani said. "And you don’t change it communicating from a communist country. And you don’t send a picture of yourself laughing while people have just been blown up at a level that … is the equivalent of September 11th to one of our allies.
"Imagine if there was a picture of the president of France laughing during September 11th? How would we feel about that?" Giuliani asked.