White House reeling after John Kerry's 'unbelievably small' comment on Syria

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There’s two words that were likely not in the trove of buzz phrases the White House wanted trotted out in advance of President Obama’s Tuesday night address: “unbelievably small.”

The words, uttered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, were going viral online, trending worldwide on Twitter and otherwise repeatedly thrown in the face of White House officials speaking on Syria on Monday.

“What we have to do is make clear to people that we’re not talking about war. we’re not going to war. We will not have people at risk in that way,” Kerry said. “That is exactly what we’re talking about doing – unbelievably small, limited kind of effort.”

U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz) slammed Kerry’s use of the phrase on Twitter saying it was “unbelievably unhelpful.”

During a briefing today, the Washington press corps pressed White House spokesman Jay Carney on Kerry’s remarks.

Carney said they weren’t meant to minimize the efforts but to put them in perspective with other military engagements — like Afghanistan and Iraq.

“This is something quite different,” Carney said. “It would involve no boots on the ground, no Americans serving in Syria.

Today, National Security Adviser Susan Rice delivered a similar message.

“This would not be the United States launching another war. As the president has said repeatedly, this would not be Iraq or Afghanistan,” Rice said. “There would be no American boots on the ground, period.”

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