Obama’s Advice for the Next President: ‘It Is Important Not Just to Shoot But to Aim’

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President Obama spoke with NPR in an interview that was published this morning — focusing mostly on ISIS, unsurprisingly, given the current trends in political discourse. The president acknowledged that he may have made a mistake in not speaking enough about the extremist group recently, which means he might bring it up in the next few months. 

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I think that there is a legitimate criticism of what I’ve been doing and our administration has been doing in the sense that we haven’t, you know, on a regular basis I think described all the work that we’ve been doing for more than a year now to defeat ISIL [another name for ISIS]. And so if people haven’t seen the fact that in fact 9,000 strikes have been carried out against ISIL … then they might feel as if there’s not enough of a response.

He also expressed major frustrations with how those running to replace him discuss ISIS — which he said is “not an organization that can destroy the United States” — and their misgivings about the current White House strategy. 

Well, when you listen to them, though, and you ask, well, what exactly are you talking about? Well, we are going to bomb more. Well, who is it you are going to bomb? Where is it that you are going to bomb? When you talk about something like carpet bombing, what do you mean? … But what I would say to my successor is that it is important not just to shoot but to aim, and it is important in this seat to make sure that you are making your best judgments based on data, intelligence, the information that’s coming from your commanders and folks on the ground, and you’re not being swayed by politics.

He also expressed major frustrations with how those running to replace him discuss ISIS — which he said is “not an organization that can destroy the United States” — and their misgivings about the current White House strategy. 

Well, when you listen to them, though, and you ask, well, what exactly are you talking about? Well, we are going to bomb more. Well, who is it you are going to bomb? Where is it that you are going to bomb? When you talk about something like carpet bombing, what do you mean? … But what I would say to my successor is that it is important not just to shoot but to aim, and it is important in this seat to make sure that you are making your best judgments based on data, intelligence, the information that’s coming from your commanders and folks on the ground, and you’re not being swayed by politics.

Obama added, “Lindsey Graham is one of the few who has been at least honest about suggesting, here is something I would do that the president is not doing. He doesn’t just talk about being louder or sounding tougher in the process.” The South Carolina senator announced on Monday morning that he is dropping out of the presidential race. 

When asked about recent protests on college campuses, Obama first said, “You know, as president of the United States I probably don’t need to wade into every specific controversy” before adding, “I think it’s a healthy thing for young people to be engaged and to question authority and to ask why this instead of that, to ask tough questions about social justice. So I don’t want to discourage kids from doing that … Well, feel free to disagree with somebody, but don’t try to just shut them up.”