Obama spoke at the APEC CEO summit in Manila, Philippines late Tuesday night Eastern Time, mid-morning local time, and during a joint press conference with President Benigno Aquino III of the Philippines, talked about toughness during his remarks on the threat from ISIS.
As you have probably guessed, that tough talk was not for terrorists, but instead for the only force in the world for whom Obama has any passionate anger: Republicans. He was discussing the current debate in the United States over whether to admit tens of thousands of refugees from Syria and the Middle East, which necessarily includes questions about the security of the nation and the threat from ISIS, when he finally put some anger in his voice:
When candidates say we wouldn't admit 3 year old orphans, that's political posturing. I cannot think of a more potent recruitment tool for ISIL than some of the rhetoric that's been coming out of here during the course of this debate. ISIL seeks to exploit the idea that there's war between Islam and the West, and when you start seeing individuals in position of responsibility suggesting Christians are more worthy of protection than Muslims in a war-torn land, that feeds the ISIL narrative. It’s counter-productive. And it needs to stop.
And I would add, by the way, these are the same folks oftentimes who suggested that they’re so tough that just talking to Putin or staring down ISIL or using some additional rhetoric somehow's going to solve the problems out there, but apparently they're scared of widows and orphans coming into the United States of America as part of our tradition of compassion. First they were worried about the press being too tough on them in the debates, now they're worried about 3-year old orphans. That doesn’t sound very tough to me.
He also said that the campaigns have played on "fear" to "score political points," something he called "irresponsible" and that "needs to stop."
The President went on to say how proud he was that after the Boston bombing, people carried on with their lives, went to ball games, and sang the national anthem:
That’s how you defeat ISIL, not by trying to divide the country.
Not by dividing the country, he said of the ISIL-assisting, not tough Republicans nefariously exploiting America's fears, as he lovingly and unitingly described them for togetherness.
Obama talked tough tonight, or at least talked about the concept of being tough. But not with terrorists or ISIS. Just yesterday President Obama mocked the idea of bellicose speech when it comes to those bad guys. No, only one set of bad guys elicits strong emotions from Obama: his critics. And among them, most especially Republican ones. Because the only real enemy he's aware of are enemies of his precious legacy.
*This post has been updated to include video and a more accurate transcript.