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Matt Towery
Matt Towery
4 Sep 2014
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Is Obama Addressing a Crisis or Just a 'Crisil'


As the notorious movement/terrorist group/would-be-nation ISIS moves swiftly on its course of conquest and destruction, the White House has begun referring to this most dangerous of organizations instead as ISIL. While this vicious terrorist group appears to have at least two official names, one of which is ISIL, most news organizations use the term ISIS.

Some observers have noted that the word ISIS may not be getting used now by the White House because it suggests another word; one that is too reminiscent of what the Obama administration has been accused before of exploiting — a "crisis."

All that aside, the president's infamous statement of just weeks ago that the administration had no strategy to deal with ISIS has now been followed up with a more assertive approach to this potentially dire threat to the world.

Obama's efforts have drawn criticism from Sen. John McCain and other officials known for expertise in military and foreign affairs. And so we have to ask: Is the president dealing with an organization whose sophistication matches its depravity — is he dealing with a genuine crisis? Or is the terrorist group just an international irritant to Obama — a "crisil" we'll call it.

Most people would consider the entirety of Syria under the control of the brutal ISIS to be a full-fledged crisis. On the other hand, a mere "crisil'" would likely call only for what Washington is providing now; namely, advisory troops and targeted air strikes only.

And a reaction to a "crisil" in Iraq would be a continuation of the same modest efforts now being put forth by the president. Obama and the Democrats don't want to face again what they have always been most loathe to consider — a return to war in Iraq.

As for a more direct threat to the American homeland, consider the man who quit his job cleaning commercial airplanes at the Minneapolis airport to go overseas and join up with ISIS in its war against America and the West. This suggests both the complexity and the potential for growth of this ISIS cancer.

It has become evident to even those who would pass off terrorism as an ongoing, low-grade "crisil" that ISIS is not your father's al-Qaida.

But here's the political rub for the president: Even his core voting base, which is almost always against anything that hints of American military action, has started to abandon him in public opinion polls. So does he try to win them back with "crisil management" in the Middle East or does he get tougher with our enemies by elevating the whole business to the level of an admitted crisis?

The truth is that a crisil mentality has infected the White House's approach to most of the biggest problems it has faced in recent times, including the Middle East, illegal immigration, Russian aggression — you name it.

The one issue the Obama administration seems to have openly identified as a real crisis was the economic implosion that started in 2007. And arguably, most of the institutional heavy lifting done to fix monetary policy back then was handled by the Fed, and not the president.

The fact is that Obama has dealt tepidly with most of the meaty issues, with the loud exception of race. So much so that even some of the most zealous liberals around, such as filmmaker Michael Moore, now say that history may see Obama's greatest accomplishment as having (admirably) become the first African American elected president. But little else.

To the president's credit, he has finally ramped up the rhetoric on ISIS. But his words and actions still suggest the more muted and ineffectual reaction of someone in crisil mode.

We all know that Richard Nixon ended his presidency in disgrace. But even in his pre-White House days he had already acquired enough experience to write a book called, "Six Crises." Perhaps when Obama leaves office, he will write a book called, "Several Crisils." It should make for some light reading.

Matt Towery is author of the book "Paranoid Nation: The Real Story of the 2008 Fight for the Presidency." He has served as an elected official, has advised major national campaigns and heads a non-partisan polling and media company. He is also publisher of the Washington-based Southern Political Report, the nation's oldest active political newsletter. Follow him on Twitter: @matttowery. To find out more about Matt Towery and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at



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