President Obama pushed back against criticism of how he’s handled terrorism during his tenure by arguing “there isn’t a president who’s taken more terrorists off the field than me.”
In an interview aired this morning on Fox, host Chris Wallace asked Obama about a recent interview with The Atlantic in which the writer notes that the president frequently reminds his staff “terrorism takes far fewer lives in America than handguns, car accidents, and falls in bathtubs do.”
“I don’t think we make too big of a deal of the terror threat. My number one job is to protect the American people. My number one priority right now is defeating ISIL. My number one priority throughout my presidency has been going after terrorist networks that would attempt to do harm to Americans inside or outside of America,” Obama responded.
“So what’s you’re point?” Wallace asked.
“My point is that, how we do it is important, that we have to make sure that we abide by our laws. We have to make sure that we abide by our values. And we have to make sure that what we do doesn’t end up being counterproductive,” Obama said, singling out Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) carpet bombing comments and Donald Trump’s Muslim ban.
Wallace noted that “bathtub manufacturers aren’t trying to kill us, and they’re not trying to up the body count — I think it’s fair to say that some of the sharpest criticism of you, from both sides during your presidency, has been the way that you’ve responded — personally, not necessarily in policy — to terror attacks.”
“After James Foley was beheaded, you went out and played golf. After Paris, you said it was a setback,” the Fox News Sunday host said. “After San Bernardino, you talked about gun control. And some people wonder, I think the concern is, do you worry about terrorism and feel the threat of terrorism the way they do?”
Obama noted that he’s “the guy who calls the families, or meets with them, or hugs them, or tries to comfort a mom, or a dad, or a husband, or a kid, after a terrorist attack.”
“So, let’s be very clear about how much I prioritize this. This is my number one job,” he said. “It has been my view consistently that the job of the terrorists, in their minds, is to induce panic, induce fear, get societies to change who they are.”
“And what I’ve tried to communicate is, ‘You can’t change us. You can kill some of us, but we will hunt you down, and we will get you. And in the meantime, just as we did in Boston, after the marathon bombing, we’re going to go to a ballgame. And do all the other things that make our life worthwhile. And you have nothing to offer.’ That’s the message of resilience that we don’t panic, that we don’t fear. We will hunt you down and we will get you.”
Obama was also asked about Hillary Clinton’s email scandal and his assertion last fall that “this is not a situation in which America’s national security was endangered.”
“I’ve got to be careful because, as you know, there have been investigations, there are hearings, Congress is looking at this. And I haven’t been sorting through each and every aspect of this,” he said. “Here’s what I know: Hillary Clinton was an outstanding Secretary of State. She would never intentionally put America in any kind of jeopardy.”
“And what I also know, because I handle a lot of classified information, is that there are — there’s classified, and then there’s classified. There’s stuff that is really top secret top secret, and there’s stuff that is being presented to the president or the secretary of state, that you might not want on the transom, or going out over the wire, but is basically stuff that you could get in open source.”
The president added it’s “important to keep this in perspective.”
“This is somebody who has served her country for four years as secretary of state, and did an outstanding job. And no one has suggested that in some ways, as a consequence of how she’s handled e-mails, that that detracted from her excellent ability to carry out her duties,” Obama said.
He guaranteed Clinton wouldn’t not be protected by the White House in the FBI probe — “not because I give Attorney General Lynch a directive; that is institutionally how we have always operated.”
“I do not talk to the Attorney General about pending investigations. I do not talk to FBI directors about pending investigations. We have a strict line, and always have maintained it… I guarantee it.”
Pressed on whether that guarantee holds if Clinton is the Democratic Party nominee for president, Obama fired back, “How many times do I have to say it, Chris? Guaranteed.”
Obama also reminisced upon his time in office. His greatest achievement? “Saving the economy from a great depression.” His worst mistake? “Probably failing to plan for the day after what I think was the right thing to do in intervening in Libya.”