An openly frustrated President Barack Obama got testy on Monday with reporters at a news conference at the G20 Leader’s Summit in Antalya, Turkey, who kept asking Obama if he had underestimated the power of the Islamic State terrorist group in light of the guerrilla attacks in Paris.
It came to a head after a question by CNN reporter Jim Acosta, who asked, “I guess the question is – if you’ll forgive the language – why can’t we take out these bastards?”
Obama told Acosta he had “just spent the last three questions answering that very question,” and repeated that he’s articulated his administration’s strategy against the terrorist group.” He reminded all watching: There are “enormous sacrifices” in any military actions and “this is not an abstraction.”
And finally with NBC News’ Ron Allen.
Allen asked: “I think a lot of people around the world and in America are concerned because, given the strategy that you are pursuing and it’s been more than a year now, ISIS’ capability seems to be expanding. Were you aware that they had the capability of pulling off the kind of attack that they did in Paris? Are you concerned and do you think they have that same capability to strike in the United States? And do you think that given all you’ve learned about Isis over the past year or so and given all the criticism about your underestimating them, do you think you really understand this enemy well enough to defeat them and to protect the homeland?”
Obama appeared exasperated with the question.
“All right. So this is another variation on the same question,” Obama said. “And I guess — let me try it one last time. We have been fully aware of the potential capabilities of them carrying out a terrorist attack. That’s precisely why we have been mounting a very aggressive strategy to go after them.”
The President dismissed the criticisms that his administration “underestimated” the terrorist group.
“If there was a swift and quick solution to this, I assure you that not just the United States, but France and Turkey and others who have been subject to these terrorist attacks would have implemented those strategies,” he said.
While the U.S. has not experienced a terrorist attack on American soil to the scale of the attacks that closed France’s borders on Friday, Obama said the country has seen the possibility of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, citing the Boston Marathon bombers. The Islamic State is unique in its ability to retain territory, Obama said.
“So again, ISIL has serious capabilities,” Obama said, using the government’s acronym for the terrorist group. “Its capabilities are not unique. They are capabilities that other terrorist organizations that we track and are paying attention to possess as well. We are going after all of them.”
During the news conference, Obama also took shots at Republican presidential candidates Sen. Ted Cruz (TX) and Donald Trump.
“What I’m not interested in doing is posing or pursuing some notion of American leadership or America winning or whatever other slogans they come up with that has no relationship to what is actually going to work to protect the American people and to protect people in the region who are getting killed and to protect our allies in people like France,” Obama said. “I’m too busy for that.”