One Big Takeaway From Obama's End Of Year Presser

by Chris Tognotti

On Friday afternoon, President Obama delivered his final address from the White House for 2015, before he and lawmakers will depart Washington, D.C. for the winter holiday. And while his remarks were wide-ranging, perhaps the most important points from Obama's end-of-year address were his comments on terrorism and national defense, because it's clear these issues are still driving the national political conversation.

It's an undeniable reality of politics, as depressing as it sometimes is — when issues of terrorism or extremist violence rise to the forefront, plenty of people who're looking for votes are willing to go to some pretty dark places. Whether it's increasingly stigmatizating Syrian refugees, or talk of banning Muslims from traveling into the U.S. (a notorious Donald Trump position that his GOP rivals still haven't condemned to the fullest extent), the fact that the United States is locked in a highly visible struggle with ISIS heading into an election year could have enormous political consequences.

All things considered, it makes perfect sense that Obama would want to highlight such issues in his final address of the year, and obviously, he wanted to project his administration and strong and staunch — he said that the United States would "squeeze [ISIS]'s heart." It wasn't the first time he's said this, also using that turn of phrase in a press conference at the Pentagon last week, as CBS News detailed.

We're gonna defeat ISIS. And wer'e gonna do so by systematically squeezing them, cutting off their supply lines, cutting off their financing, taking out their leadership, taking out their forces, taking out their infrastructure. We;re gonna do so in partnership with forces on the ground that sometimes are spotty, sometimes need capacity-building, need our assistance, need our training, but we're seeing, steadily progress in these areas.
And so, they're gonna be on the run. Now, they are going to continue to be dangerous. Let me just be very clear, because whenever I say that we have made progress in squeezing the territory that they control, or made real inroads against them, what people will say is, well, if something happens around the world, then obviously that must not be true. But in any battle, in any fight, even as you make progress, there's still dangers involved.

Amid the expected talk of destroying and defeating ISIS, however — President Obama refers to the group as ISIL rather than ISIS, which stands for Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant — he made one notable claim about the nature of American exceptionalism, one that's not very in vogue in some conservative circles right now: some problems can't be bombed out of.

And even further, he once again made the case for closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, which he's wanted, tried, and failed to close throughout his nearly seven years in office. Specifically, according to NBC News, he cited it as "one of the key magnets for jihadi recruitment" around the world.