This past week has been one of rising political and military tensions both here and abroad.
- Russia stepped up military action in Syria while the U.S. admitted its failure to train Syrian rebels to halt the spread of the ISIS.
- Billionaire Donald Trump’s continues to dominate the Republican presidential campaign, followed closely by Ben Carson.
- Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s mounting email woes continue and a House panel has been accused of political motives in their investigation of Benghazi.
- There’s utter chaos on Capitol Hill as House Republicans try to find a replacement for the retiring House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio.
While just about everyone has an opinion on these and other crises, President Obama has arguably the most unique perspective as he confronts pressing domestic and global headaches while watching the Republican and Democratic presidential campaigns from the sidelines with fascination and a trace of bemusement.
Obama sat down with Steve Kroft of CBS’s 60 Minutes for a lengthy interview that was aired Sunday evening. Here are eight highlights of what he had to say:
1) On the U.S.’s failure to halt the march of ISIS in Syria and Iraq: “Syria has been a difficult problem for the entire world community, and, obviously, most importantly, for the people of Syria themselves that have been devastated by this civil war, caught between a brutal dictator who drops barrel bombs on his own population . . . and a barbaric, ruthless organization in ISIL. And what we’ve been able to do is to stall ISIL’s momentum to take away some of the key land that they were holding. . . Over time the community of nations will all get rid of them.”
2) On whether Russian President Vladimir Putin is challenging Obama’s leadership: “Well Steve, I’ve got to tell you, if you think that running your economy into the ground and having to send troops in to prop up your only ally is leadership, then we’ve got a different definition of leadership.
3) On whether the world is safer after Obama’s nearly two terms: “America is a safer place. I think that there are places, obviously, like Syria that are not safer than when I came into office. But in terms of us protecting ourselves against terrorism, in terms of us making sure that we are strengthening our alliances, in terms of our reputation around the world, absolutely we’re stronger."
4) Obama’s thoughts on Donald Trump: “Well, I think that he is a great publicity seeker and at a time when the Republican Party hasn’t really figured out what it’s for, as opposed to what it’s against, I think that he is tapped into something that exists in the Republican Party that’s real… He is, you know, the classic reality TV character. I don’t think he’ll end up being president of the United States.”
5) On Hillary Clinton’s email problem: “No, [and] I don’t think it posed a national security problem. I think that it was a mistake that she has acknowledged and – you know, as a general proposition, when we’re in these offices, we have to be more sensitive and stay as far away from the line as possible when it comes to how we handle information, how we handle our own personal data. I do think that the way it’s been ginned up is in part because of – in part—because of politics [as she seeks the Democratic nomination]. And I think she’d be the first to acknowledge that maybe she could have handled the original decision better and the disclosures more quickly.”
6) On Vice President Joe Biden’s possible entry into the Democratic presidential campaign: “You know, I am going to let Joe make that decision. And I mean what I say. I think Joe will go down as one of the finest vice presidents in history, and one of the more consequential.”
7) On retiring House Speaker John Boehner: “John Boehner and I disagreed on just about everything. But the one thing I’ll say about John Boehner is he did care about the institution. He recognized that nobody gets 100 percent in our democracy.”
8) On whether Obama thinks he could win reelection again if he were allowed to run: “Yes, I do.”