James Rosen Grills Earnest on Islamic State Strategy

• December 10, 2015 3:42 pm


Fox News' James Rosen questioned White House spokesman Josh Earnest Thursday if President Obama considers himself a wartime president and the United States' strategy on combating the Islamic State.

Earnest told Rosen he would have to ask the president himself if he considered himself a wartime president.

"I think based off, he gave an Oval Office address to the country about the significant military steps that have been taken against a terrorist organization with whom we are at war. I suppose you could apply that label to him with a lot of credibility, but in terms of how he considers himself  and how he would describe his own posture, you would probably have to ask him," Earnest said.

On Wednesday, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter told a congressional committee that the Islamic State is not contained, which contradicts Obama's previous statement that the barbaric terrorist group was contained.

Rosen asked Earnest if Obama had meant that IS was contained in terms of "office space" instead of actual geographic location and reach.

"I think if you go back and look at the transcript, you don't have to discern what the president meant but you can actually see what he said. He did make a specific reference to the fact that the amount of territory that ISIL has been able to take over in Iraq and Syria has been contained. And, in fact, has rolled back because there is about 25 percent of the populated areas that they previously controlled have now been taken or retaken by Iraqi forces and by some opposition fighters inside of Syria," Earnest said.

Rosen continued to question Earnest on the president's use of the word "contained" when just hours later members that associated themselves with the terrorist group carried out an attack in Paris.

Earnest deflected the question, saying that the president called for military action against the terrorist group because the president was concerned about the territory they had taken over inside of Iraq and Syria. Earnest said there was a concern that the group would use the area as a safe haven to carry out more attacks.

"That is why we are engaged in a campaign right now that is making progress to degrade and ultimately degrade ISIL," Earnest said.

Rosen asked Earnest if, in recent history, he could provide examples of when a wartime commander-in-chief had issued a public assessment of enemy strength that was undercut by sworn testimony by a top commander at the Pentagon. Earnest replied that he did not agree with Rosen's assessment and that what Carter had said did not undercut what the president said about containment.