WATCH: 'Legitimate Concern When Zealots Randomly Shoot Folks in a Deli in Paris,' Says Obama

In a wide-ranging interview with Vox, President Obama stirred controversy when he compared combating ISIS and the recent terror attacks in Paris to the 'way a big city mayor has got to cut the crime rate down.'

Bloomberg

Vox Transcript:

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President Obama: Look, the point is this: my first job is to protect the American people. It is entirely legitimate for the American people to be deeply concerned when you've got a bunch of violent, vicious zealots who behead people or randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris. We devote enormous resources to that, and it is right and appropriate for us to be vigilant and aggressive in trying to deal with that — the same way a big city mayor's got to cut the crime rate down if he wants that city to thrive. But we also have to attend to a lot of other issues, and we've got to make sure we're right-sizing our approach so that what we do isn't counterproductive. I would argue that our invasion of Iraq was counterproductive to the goal of keeping our country safe.

And despite the incredible valor of our troops — and I'm in awe of them every single day when I work with them — you know, the strategy that was crafted in Washington didn't always match up with the actual threats that were out there. And we need to make sure that we're doing the right things and doing those well so that we can also deal with future threats like cybersecurity or climate change or different parts of the world where there are huge opportunities, but [that] before I came into office, we had neglected for quite some time, Asia Pacific being a perfect example. Or our own backyard, the Western Hemisphere, where there's been real progress in Latin America and we've got the opportunity to strengthen our relationships. But there are also some big problems like Central America where, with a relatively modest investment, we could really be making a difference and making ourselves safer.

 

Mathew Yglesias: You mentioned the Philippines, and earlier the idea that there are big gains potentially to be made by giving some assistance to Central America. Does it really make sense to have so much of America's foreign aid going to a country like Israel that's quite wealthy when there are other democratic allies in other regions in the world that seem maybe more in need of assistance?

Obama: Well, our relationship with Israel is in many ways unique. It's our strongest ally in the region. Our people-to-people ties are unmatched. And partly because of world history, the vulnerabilities of a Jewish population in the midst of a really hostile neighborhood create a special obligation for us to help them. I think the more interesting question is if you look at our foreign assistance as a tool in our national security portfolio, as opposed to charity, and you combine our defense budget with our diplomatic budget and our foreign assistance budget, then in that mix there's a lot more that we should be doing when it comes to helping Honduras and Guatemala build an effective criminal-justice system, effective police, and economic development that creates jobs.

 

Fox News 'Special Report' panel responds to Vox interview:

Short transcript:

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Charles Krauthammer: Because he believes it and that's what is the scariest of all. If he was just being cynical as a way to dismiss this because of the failure of his own policies, that would be one thing. I think he believes this. At the end of his presidency he is now liberated to actually say what he believes.

We complain he doesn't have a strategy in the war on radical Islam. The reason he doesn't have a strategy is because he thinks there is no need for a strategy because it is random violence. People shoot up delis, people go around in other places and do stuff. They attach an ideology afterwards as a way to make it look legitimate.

He thinks, and he says it openly, this is like the fighting of crime in a city. There is no unifying ideology in the criminals of a city. You go after one after another, you use a drone on one, you arrest another, you shoot a third. But you don't have to have a strategy. You don't have a to understand who they are because one thing after another.

And that has been the reason why Obama has no strategy. He thinks I kill a few people here with a drone. I tamp it down, it will go away. Or people will ignore it, especially if the press would not hype it. This is what is so terrifying about the man who is commander and chief of a country, essentially a civilization, under attack.