By Justin Sink - 08/29/14 11:05 AM EDT
White House press secretary Josh Earnest spent a second consecutive day working to mop up the fallout from President Obama's remark Thursday that "we don't have a strategy yet" to counter Islamist militants operating in Syria.
"We wanted to make sure that people understood is what the president was trying to communicate," Earnest said of his full-court press during a spot on "The Daily Rundown."
Earnest's unusual availability was a tacit admission of how potentially damaging the president's comment was.
While Obama's comment was intended to signal that he was still waiting on specific military plans for possible airstrikes in Syria, the remark handed Republicans — who for weeks have been complaining that the president had not provided a strategy to combat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terror group — a tailor-made sound bite.
Again on Friday, Earnest insisted that the president's comment was being misinterpreted.
"What he was trying to communicate is we're still waiting on some military plans as it relates to what military options are available to the president for hitting [ISIS] in Syria," Earnest said. "But the president has laid out a comprehensive plan for dealing with [ISIS] in Iraq."
Speaking to Bloomberg, Earnest noted Obama "was asked a specific question about whether or not there is a specific military plan for hitting [ISIS] in Syria."
"What the president said is that the Pentagon and the Defense Department have been hard at work in terms of putting together some military options for the president," he continued. "So that's the strategy that the president is still waiting to receive from the Pentagon."
On "Morning Joe," Earnest said he appreciated "the opportunity to come on your show and explain" the president's comment, before offering a similar explanation.
Still, it's not clear if Earnest's explanations will diffuse the controversy over the president's remarks, with Republican lawmakers lining up to criticize them.
"He did say we don't have a strategy, but he followed that up by saying the strategy is to nip it in the bud. Well, unfortunately, it's not in a bud, it's full-blossom," Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) said Thursday night on Fox News. "And do you know who made that line famous? Barney Fife. We have Barney Fife running our foreign policy now!"
Gohmert went on to suggest that the president's comments could embolden ISIS terrorists.
"This is a full-fledged army right now. So they're watching. And they see President Obama say, I'm not sure what we're doing," the Texas lawmaker said.