David Plouffe Defends Obama Golfing

On the “This Week” roundtable, the former White House senior adviser defends President Obama over criticism of his vacation.
7:14 | 08/24/14

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Transcript for David Plouffe Defends Obama Golfing
There were tough words from the bush administration today in response to Iraq's latest moves. Mr. Bush was trying to enjoy his Maine vacation as best he could under difficult circumstances. President Clinton and his family head off to Martha's vineyard today. Mr. Clinton leaving behind independent counsel Kenneth Starr and his grand jury. I call on the nations to do everything they can to stop the terrorist killers. Thank you. Now watch this drive. Let's go to Martha's vineyard where the president is on vacation with his family. Some republicans are criticizing the president for hitting the links while our military is striking these targets in Iraq. It happens every August. Let's get into it with "The roundtable." Bill kristol, editor of "The weekly standard." Donna Edwards from Maryland. David Plouffe, and Peggy Noonan from "The Wall Street journal." I want to show the headlines. The president taking heat. Including, bill kristol, "The weekly standard" calls this appalling. The only timeless value the president seems willing to stand for is golf. I think we call the policies appalling. If he were pursuing good policies, left 10,000 troops in Iraq, bombing the heck out of Isis, I would say, go ahead, play golf, Mr. President. The problem is his policy, not his vacation. No one begrudges the president a vacation. But it was the juxtaposition of that statement about James Foley with a round of golf an hour later. A mistake, right? I don't think so. It was a powerful statement. You showed clips before we joined you. This is a political tradition. When Peggy's boss went to California, deep criticism. Both president bushes went away, president Clinton. So when you're the president of the United States, you're never really on vacation. You're on 24/7, as you know. I think the whole discussion of optics fascinates Washington. But really doesn't fascinate the American people. They're interested in what he had to say that day. And what we're going to do so curb the threat. I think what your old boss is doing here is very dangerous for him in an optics way. It has to do with making real, making into a metaphor something that people already think. There's already a sense out there from democrats and republicans that the president seems a little bit disengaged from the process. And a little detached from what's going on. For him repeatedly to be -- to be showing for many months now that vacation and golf and all of these things are so terribly important to him, underscores the original charge of a certain detachment and disengagement. Nobody begrudges a president going away. But people are impressed when a David Cameron, during a crisis like this moment with Isis, comes back from his first day of vacation to do his job. And they're impressed when the French, I think, foreign minister says to Mr. Obama, sometimes you have to stop having fun. You have to be doing the job. And congressman Edwards, the president is coming back to Washington tonight. We heard from chairman Mccaul. He says that congress should be coming up with a new authorization once the president's war power authority runs out. There will be resistance inside the democratic ranks of the house. But we need to have a debate I think that's really important. I don't think the president can continue beyond the war powers authorization without an authorization from congress, if that is what congress chooses to do. So I'm looking forward to the debate. I have to tell you, this silliness around the president golfing is ridiculous. This president has taken 200 fewer days of vacation than president bush. You know, the American people know that the president is president 24/7. On the bigger questions, bill kristol, it struck me how quickly this is all moved. From Isis being a minor threat, the president talking about it several months ago as the junior varsity to now imminent threat by chuck Hagel. I guess I wonder, is there a danger of overreacting? I wish there were. I think the fundamental danger remains underreaction. Back in January, they said, we have defeated core Al Qaeda. As they like to say. It's just the JV now. Our ambassador to Iraq, Robert Beecroft was telling Martha Raddatz, we have a huge problem. There's a group, Isis, that has taken over fallujah and ramadi. And has ambitions to go north. Someone asked if ambassador, I believer in prooifrt, what is the white house doing about this. He kind of shrugged. I would like a little overreaction by the president. He's coming back from his vacation, he should go to congress right away. Meanwhile, he's acting under the war powers act. He shouldn't wait. He shouldn't wait. There's a huge amount of damage to be down tomorrow if the president orders it. Given the president's rhetoric on Thursday, a cancer on the world, there has to be a dramatic escalation as well to match that rhetoric. It was interesting the past week, the comments of chuck Hagel. Not a burly, pro-war figure. Someone who has been skeptical in the past saying, this is the biggest and worst thing we have seen in a long time. The comments of general Dempsey saying, essentially the same thing. Something big and bad is happening here. It's part of the reason the president was so criticized for not saying what, in fact, I think Hagel and Dempsey said. Do you know what I mean? They were making presidential-type statements. I think the question here is really the -- in part the reluctance, because there's not been the political movement that we need to have happen in Iraq to consolidate the Iraqi factions. Because otherwise, all the bombing in the world, then, doesn't stop Isis from continuing to grow and to fester, given the political situation in Iraq. And I think that's what the president is trying to balance. All the bombing in the world -- I think even his keepest critics would support the notion, whether trying to go after the biggest tlets, this president and administration have been very, very aggressive. Obviously, there were strong statements this week about what may be to come. I think there is a conventional wisdom in Washington to every problem. Let's use the military first and ask other questions later. It's a real problem. When this president took office there were 180,000 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. We're going to be down under 10,000 once we draw down in afghanist Afghanistan. We have seen what happens when you use the military first and don't have a strategy afterwards. The president is the president for almost six years. You can talk about the hard questions and the debate. All the military power in the world would degrade Isis an awful lot. We can worry about the Iraqi government. We can worry about what is happening elsewhere. If we bomb Isis, command and control, training camps in Iraq and Syria, we can do a lot of damage. The reality is, the political situation that's been created that allows Isis to fester in Iraq was created by an administration, the bush administration, that didn't ask the hard questions and tell the truth when we got in in the

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