WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — President Barack Obama admits he should have considered the backlash he would receive after going golfing during his vacation on Martha’s Vineyard immediately following a speech about the beheading of American journalist James Foley at the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.
Speaking to NBC News’ “Meet the Press,” Obama said he “should have anticipated the optics” at how he would be perceived going golfing after the brutal killing of Foley.
“Part of this job is also the theater of it,” the president told NBC News. “Well, it’s not something that always comes naturally to me. But it matters and I’m mindful of that.”
Obama was roundly criticized for golfing after making the statement following the release of the video showing an ISIS militant beheading the American journalist who was held hostage for nearly two years in Syria.
Obama noted that it’s a challenge being a president on vacation dealing with media following him everywhere.
“It is always a challenge when you’re supposed to be on vacation,” Obama told NBC News. “There’s not doubt that, after having talked to the families, where it was hard for me to hold back tears listening to the pain that they were going through, after the statement that I made, that you know, I should’ve anticipated the optics.”
Obama said he will be making a speech on Wednesday about how the U.S. will combat the terror group that has taken over a swath of territory in Syria and Iraq.
“What I’m going to be asking the American people to understand is, number one, this is a serious threat. Number two, we have the capacity to deal with it.”
The president reiterated he will not put American boots on the ground and that it would be a “profound mistake” to send U.S. troops into Syria to take on ISIS.
“This is not the equivalent of the Iraq war,” Obama explained.
“Over the course of months, we are going to be able to not just blunt the momentum of ISIL. We are going to systematically degrade their capabilities. We’re going to shrink the territory that they control. And that’s how we’re going to defeat them,” Obama said.
Obama said that the U.S. will hunt ISIS terrorists wherever they are.
“The strategy for Iraq and for Syria is that we will hunt down ISIL members and assets wherever they are. I will reserve the right to always protect the American people and go after folks who are trying to hurt us wherever they are,” he told NBC News.
So far, the Islamic State has beheaded two American journalists it held captive for what the militants called payback for more than 120 U.S. airstrikes on its assets in northern Iraq since Aug. 8. Foley and Steven Sotloff were two of what the State Department has described as “a few” Americans still being held hostage by the group. The Islamic State also had threatened to kill a British man it is holding hostage.
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