Fox News chief Washington correspondent James Rosen reprised his role as chief State Department interrogator today, asking Jen Psaki to explain or clarify President Obama's three different statements on ISIS, including his characterization that the terrorists overrunning Iraq and Syria are a "manageable problem."
Almost as soon as Obama made his statement in Estonia this morning, the media began to question it. The Weekly Standard wrote a piece titled: "Obama: ISIS a 'Manageable Problem,' If 'International Community' Comes Together," which called attention to the specific ambiguity that Rosen's question sought clarification on.
"In just the one appearance in Estonia, the President iterated three times the mission against ISIS, and in all three iterations, it seemed strikingly different," began Rosen. "At one time, he spoke about wanting to 'destroy and degrade ISIS;' and at another point he spoke about wanting to 'roll them back;' and at still another point he talked about wanting to 'shrink its sphere of influence to the point where it would be a manageable problem.'"
"Am I correct in identifying those three iterations as markedly different from each other?" Rosen asked.
In a smarmy tone that mocked the seriousness of the question, Psaki answered: "Well, I think it's important for everybody, including people at home who watch Fox, to look at the context of the remarks that the President made."
"Certainly our objective here is to degrade and destroy ISIL," Psaki continued. "And I think the President also said that's going to require an ongoing effort."
She went on: "That what we want to see is - uhhh - preventing, uhh, this group from, uhhh, destroying, or uhhh, being an ongoing threat to the region."
Rosen then asked: "But how can reducing something to the point where it is a 'manageable problem,' be consistent with 'destroying' it?"
"Well I'd have to look at the full context, James," Psaki said, trying to switch tacks and blame the press corps and attribute misunderstandings to the "context" of Obama's remarks. "But I think it's understandable that the White House Press Corps, and others who were asking questions, asked in many different ways; and obviously there are many questions to be discussed and answered on this particular issue."
Psaki went on: "I think there's no country that has done more than the United States that has done more to help Iraq build a coalition, to begin to take on the threat there."
"I think the President's actions are the most important factor for people to look at."
"I wasn't asking you about what was escaping the lips of the White House Press Corps in Estonia," said Rosen, clearly frustrated. "I was asking you about the pronouncements of the President of the United States. I think you would agree that it is very important, especially in situations like this, that the President speaks with clarity; so that the American people at home, and people around the world, not least of all the members of ISIS, understand him."
"So when he speaks about making something a 'manageable problem,' but also speaks about 'destroying' something, can you understand why people might be confused about that and regard it as mixed messaging?" asked Rosen.
"Well James, with all due respect, I know there is sometimes a desire to twist words or take things out of context," said Psaki, again redirecting. "I think there should be no question that the President's desire is to degrade and destroy ISIS. He has taken action to do that, I think actions are an important factor - not just a word game of what you think it means. He has been clear he wants to build an international coalition that's not going to be overnight... and I think his actions tell you what you need to know about his commitment to doing this."
In the same press conference, Psaki could not name any countries that were specifically being asked to join the coalition or what any of the countries were being asked to contribute. When asked why the coalition wasn't being formalized, as previous ones in Iraq have been, she refused to give an answer.
Let's take Psaki at her word here - Obama's actions do tell a lot "about his commitment."