George Stephanopoulos had a sit down Sunday with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough and asked just one question on President Obama’s decision to snub Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he visits Congress in March — though he took time to cover the NFL deflated- football “story.”
Throughout the interview, McDonough bobbed and weaved, dodging questions and repeating what were clearing White House talking points.
The host of ABC News’ “This Week” opened on Yemen, quoting the Washington Post report that said “several senior administration officials saying [operations in Yemen] — they have been suspended, we’ve lost intelligence and one said the chaos has aided al Qaeda, ‘There’s no question in our mind that al Qaeda has gotten a breather.’ “
McDonough said: “Well, you heard the president say this morning in his press conference that, in fact, al Qaeda, you know, hides in dark corners and tries to make sure that they’re operating in places where they’re not going to be pursued.
“That means that, that, in fact, al Qaeda, you know, hides in dark corners and tries to make sure that they’re operating in places where they’re not going to be pursued.”
McDonough also said the United States was on “the forward lean. George. We’re also on the forward mean to make sure that if we see something that is presenting a threat to us, we will not be afraid to act. In fact, you’ve seen this president do that time and again.
Stephanopoulos asked about the Japanese hostage — and the American one, about which little has been written — currently held by Islamic terrorists.
“As it relates to our hostages, we are obviously continuing to work those matters very, very aggressively. We are sparing no expense and sparing no effort, both in trying to make sure that we know where they are and make sure that we’re prepared to do anything we must to try to get them home.”
Then the host got around to Netanyahu, not that Sen. Bob Menendez, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, says the more he hear from the administration, “the more it sounds like talking points that come straight out of Tehran.”
McDonough said: “Frankly, over the course of the last six years, we’ve united the international community, isolated Iran, dramatically reduced their oil production and their revenue generated from oil while, over the course of this last year, with the temporary deal that we have in place, we’ve capped their illicit nuclear program, frozen it and pulled it back — pushed it back in very important ways. …
We’ve asked Congress for — for forbearance, for some time to allow us to run these negotiations so that it is we who are, united with our allies, maintaining Iran isolated, rather than going with some kind of premature action up there on the Hill that would risk really splintering the international community, making it we, not the Iranians, who are isolated.
That’s exactly what we’re going to do and we’ll obviously talk to Senator Menendez and others along the way, as we have from day one this matter.
The rest of the interview went like this, according to an ABC transcript:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, I’ve got to ask you about the Super Bowl. We’re going to show a picture of you playing strong safety at St. John’s…
MCDONOUGH: Oh, good lord.
STEPHANOPOULOS: — right there.
STEPHANOPOULOS: A little blast from the past.
MCDONOUGH: Is it black and white?
STEPHANOPOULOS: It is black and white. You look pretty fierce right there.
But, you know, the president, when the Ray Rice stuff came out, the president said he was shocked by what he saw.
What’s his take on this whole Deflate Gate?
MCDONOUGH: You know, I haven’t talked to him about this, as he’s been traveling the last couple of days. And I think our view, and surely my view, is I’ve got a lot of, you know, balls in the air at the moment, you know, George. So I’m going to make sure that I’m focused on those.
I’ll let everybody else, you know, try to figure out how much air goes into this particular scandal.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Dennis McDonough, thanks very much for your time this morning.
MCDONOUGH: Thanks, George.