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White House: Paris Attacks a Call to 'Redouble Efforts to Fight for Our Values'

(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

White House press secretary Josh Earnest today called the Paris ISIS attacks “a reason to redouble our efforts to fight for our values.”

At the daily briefing, Earnest was asked about whether President Obama should directly address the controversy regarding Donald Trump and his vow to do “things that we never did before” in regards to security and the Muslim community.

“Mr. Trump and other Republicans on the campaign trail have said a number of outrageous things. And to not criticize them directly for doing so is not to condone that kind of rhetoric. Certainly, I don’t,” Earnest said.

“But I think the president spoke quite eloquently about how important it is for this country to — even in the face of this terrible violence that we saw perpetrated on the people of Paris, that even in the face of the shocking images, that our response should not be to walk away from our values,” he continued.

“In fact, it’s a reason to redouble our efforts to fight for our values. And the president is confident that that represents the character of America. And that certainly has been the kind of reaction that we’ve seen from the vast majority of Americans.”

Earnest called it “the kind of reaction that represents the way that millions of Americans who are Muslim live their lives.”

“It certainly is a testament to the values of the American people, including American Muslims,” he said. “And that’s important because, as I mentioned earlier, it undermines the narrative that ISIL is seeking to advance. The fact is that there are millions of Muslims in this country who practice their religion freely.”

“And they raise their kids, they send them to schools, they are able to live the American dream because of the opportunity that they are given in this country. And fighting for their continued ability to do that and to not be discriminated against just because of the way they worship God is consistent with the values of this country and important to our strategy to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.”

Earnest was asked today about criticism of the administration’s ISIS strategy from former Defense secretaries Robert Gates and Leon Panetta, as well as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the top Dem on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

“I think there are two things actually that at least those two individuals are keenly aware of. The first is that both of them are aware of how challenging this particular problem is. When it comes to the situation in Syria, for years, this has been a difficult problem to work through,” he said, adding that both former administration officials are also “keenly aware of the priority that the president has placed on working through this problem in a way that advances our national security interests.”

“…Certainly if they have additional ideas or suggestions, we’re willing to take their call.”

Earnest added later of Gates, who led the Pentagon from 2006 to 2011, “I think Mr. Gates would probably describe himself as a conservative Republican. And I don’t know if he was including the president when he was describing the ‘we,’ the people who underestimated ISIL.”