President Barack Obama was flayed by “60 Minutes” correspondent Steve Kroft over his policy in Syria.
One the most contentious moments of the interview came when Kroft said Russian President Vladimir Putin was challenging US leadership.
Obama’s reaction was stunning. He scowled and said, “In what way?”
Kroft rattled off the ways Putin was challenging Obama: He has moved Russian forces into Syria, and Russia is conducting military operations in the Middle East for the first time since World War II. Putin is bombing the rebels the US supports in Syria.
Obama’s response, beyond the scowl, was strange. The first thing he said was, “My definition of leadership would be leading on climate change.” He pivoted to mention other instances of international leadership, but a lot of people were murmuring about the fact that he led with climate change.
Here’s the full exchange:
So that’s leading, Steve? Let me ask you this question. When I came into office, Ukraine was governed by a corrupt ruler who was a stooge of Mr. Putin. Syria was Russia’s only ally in the region. And today, rather than being able to count on their support and maintain the base they had in Syria, which they’ve had for a long time, Mr. Putin now is devoting his own troops, his own military, just to barely hold together by a thread his sole ally. And in Ukraine–
Steve Kroft: He’s challenging your leadership, Mr. President. He’s challenging your leadership–
President Barack Obama: Well Steve, I got to tell you, if you think that running your economy into the ground and having to send troops in in order to prop up your only ally is leadership, then we’ve got a different definition of leadership. My definition of leadership would be leading on climate change, an international accord that potentially we’ll get in Paris. My definition of leadership is mobilizing the entire world community to make sure that Iran doesn’t get a nuclear weapon. And with respect to the Middle East, we’ve got a 60-country coalition that isn’t suddenly lining up around Russia’s strategy. To the contrary, they are arguing that, in fact, that strategy will not work.
You can watch the Putin back-and-forth here: