President Barack Obama on Sunday issued his most passionate denunciation yet of ISIS, vowing to “destroy” the group in a relentless, strong and smart campaign that is consistent with the nation’s values.
But the speech — intended to reassure a nervous nation — didn’t announce an overhaul of a policy that critics have branded insufficient to take on the evolving threat.
Obama, speaking in the symbolic surroundings of the Oval Office, unequivocally told millions of television viewers in prime-time that last week’s mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, was a terrorist attack by a couple who had gone down the “dark path of radicalization” and embraced a “perverted” form of Islam.
“This was an act of terrorism designed to kill innocent people,” Obama said. “Here’s what I want you to know. The threat from terrorism is real, but we will overcome it. We will destroy ISIL and any other organization that tries to harm us.”
The president was clearly conscious of ebbing public support for his response to terrorism — an area of his presidency that was once a political asset. He sought to reassure the nation that the crisis was under control as he spoke, unusually from a podium set up in the Oval Office and not behind his desk, as most previous presidents have done.