National Security

O’Malley Says ‘Who The Hell Knows’ When Asked if Obama Has Dismissed American Fears About Terrorism

Presidential candidate Martin O'Malley (D., Md.) became agitated at questions Friday about President Obama's criticized leadership since the Paris terrorist attacks, at one point exclaiming "Who the hell knows?" whether Obama had dismissed American fears about Islamic State.

Obama has been sharply scrutinized for doubling down on his limited engagement strategy against Islamic State and appearing impatient at repeated questions from reporters Monday about the battle against IS. He only appeared to become passionate when he attacked Republicans for their opposition to letting in Syrian refugees.

On MSNBC's Morning Joe, columnist Ron Fournier asked O'Malley if he would have taken a different approach than Obama to shaping public opinion. O'Malley remarked that the crisis was still "relatively new" before pivoting to attacking Donald Trump.

"I have found that in times of crisis it's very important for leaders to remind us of the principles that we share as a people, the values we have as a people," O'Malley said. "When you hear people like Donald Trump talking about wanting to do ID cards based on religion, what the hell is that? I mean, how is that at all American?"

"But President Obama, him coming so hard after Republicans. Was that the right way to lead from overseas?" Fournier asked.

"Look, I think you have to push back," O'Malley said. "In times of phobia, when people are trying to fan the fears and play the politics of fear, I think the president does have to push back, yes, and I'd push back as well."

Fournier was undeterred, however, asking whether Obama had done a good job of acknowledging American fears about terrorism with what many characterized as a petulant press conference.

"Look, I–oh, who the hell knows?" O'Malley said. "I'll let you guys judge that. I can tell you that President Obama's leadership is far preferable to that rushed and rather cowardly vote that they had in the House yesterday. Look, we are a nation who has always had the compassion to alleviate humanitarian suffering, and the second we take down the Statue of Liberty and replace it with barbed wire fences is the second we lose our country."

Host Joe Scarborough pointed out again that O'Malley had failed to answer the question. O'Malley went on to say he would have laid out the extensive process refugees have to undergo to get into the United States.

Full transcript:

RON FOURNIER: Optics and tone is obviously a part of leadership. Flipping the coin a little bit on Mark's question, how would you have shaped public opinion, led the country differently, than President Obama has these last three or four days?

MARTIN O'MALLEY: This crisis is still relatively new in terms of the uptick in the Paris attacks, but I have found that in times of crisis it's very important for leaders to remind us of the principles that we share as a people, the values we have as a people. When you hear people like Donald Trump talking about wanting to do ID cards based on religion, what the hell is that? I mean, how is that at all American?

FOURNIER: But President Obama, him coming so hard after Republicans. Was that the right way to lead from overseas?

O'MALLEY: Look, I think you have to push back. In times of phobia, when people are trying to fan the fears and play the politics of fear, I think the president does have to push back, yes, and I'd push back as well.

FOURNIER: Did he do a good job, though, of accepting people's fears and acknowledging their fears, or did he just dismiss their fears and move on?

O'MALLEY: Look, I–oh, who the hell knows? I'll let you guys judge that. I can tell you that President Obama's leadership is far preferable to that rushed and rather cowardly vote that they had in the House yesterday. Look, we are a nation who has always had the compassion to alleviate humanitarian suffering, and the second we take down the Statue of Liberty and replace it with barbed wire fences is the second we lose our country.

JOE SCARBOROUGH: Martin O'Malley, Governor, with all due respect, that's not the question that's being asked. We're curious to see what type of leader you would be in this type of crisis.