May 26th, 2013
11:13 AM ET
11 months ago

New terror stance worries Republicans

(CNN) – The new era in America's war on terror - described by President Barack Obama in a major address Thursday - worries some Republicans, who say the phase-down could leave the country vulnerable to still-persistent threats from abroad.

In his remarks, Obama insisted the fight against terrorists must shift to reflect current threat levels, which he described as having evolved since the attacks of September 11, 2001. The global "war on terror," launched in the aftermath of those attacks, must end, "like all wars," the president maintained.

"I think this is the most significant foreign policy address ever given by this president," said Rep. Michael McCaul, the Republican chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. "At the same time I found many parts to it disturbing for many reasons."

Chief among his concerns was Obama's call for a return to what McCaul described as a "pre-9/11 mentality," a mindset the Republican argued could lead to a dangerous level of unpreparedness as threats emerge from sources other than al Qaeda.

"I couldn't disagree with him more on that," McCaul said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union."

In his remarks Thursday, Obama described al Qaeda as "on the path to defeat" in its longstanding bases of Afghanistan and Pakistan, but warned the terror group's affiliates in other countries still posed lethal threats to Americans.

But those groups, Obama said, are "less capable" than the larger al Qaeda, and are focused more on operating in the countries where they're based, rather than planning an attack on the American homeland.

Attacks on America are still being planned, the president warned, and "our nation is still threatened by terrorists." Yet the current threat has vastly changed in the decade-plus since the war on terror began, he said.

"We have to recognize that the scale of this threat closely resembles the types of attacks we faced before 9/11," the president said.

McCaul said Sunday the intelligence he's seen as chairman of the homeland security panel suggests a more serious danger than Obama described.

"I think the rhetoric sort of defies the reality in terms of the threat level that we've all been briefed on," he said. "I mean, the narrative is sort of that, you know, al Qaeda is on the run, they're defeated, let's claim victory, war's over. And then let's go back to a pre-9/11 mentality."

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, argued a scaled-down war footing could send the wrong message to potential enemies.

"What do you think the Iranians are thinking? At the end of the day, this is the most tone-deaf president I ever could imagine, making such a speech at a time when our homeland is trying to be attacked literally every day," Graham said on "Fox News Sunday."

"I've never been more worried about our national security as I am right now. This speech did not help," Graham added.

"I see a big difference between the president saying a war is at an end and whether or not you've won the war," Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Oklahoma, added on CBS "Face the Nation." "We can claim it's at an end but this war is going to continue and we have tremendous threats throughout that are building, not declining, building."

In his address Thursday, Obama noted the difficulty in balancing Americans' freedoms during wartime, a task Sen. Dick Durbin argued Sunday would be made easier as the country's terror stance shifts.

"You find in a warlike atmosphere that you end up compromising some basic values and basic freedoms and liberties," Durbin, D-Illinois, said on "Fox News Sunday" in his defense of Obama's speech. "That's what the president reminded us. I'm not going to take lightly the terrorism threat against the United States. But if we're constantly thinking of this in the context of war, we stand a very real risk of doing things which compromise our values and freedoms."

Another Obama ally, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-New York, said on CBS the shift away from war that Obama advocated Thursday was a suitable reflection of how threats have changed in the past decade.

"I think the president did a very, very smart pivot realizing we're not going to let up on terrorists but at the same time we're going meet the changes in the world,” he said.


Filed under: Mike McCaul • Terrorism
soundoff (488 Responses)
  1. grrace

    With so many bribed Republican terrorists in Congress, bribed to attack America and the American people, Al Queda is the least of our problems. What Republicans and their Corporate bosses are telling Al Queda and affiliates is "don't worry, WE got this."

    May 26, 2013 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  2. MaryM

    Thank you President Obama for reminding Americans that we Do NOT have to be at war all the time.

    May 26, 2013 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  3. Marie MD

    Send Ms lindsey to fight the war to see how she feels about scaling down wars. Make sure she wears her pink tu tu,
    Right I am more worried about the terrorists in congress than the al Qaida!

    May 26, 2013 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  4. dave

    3 plane attacks on the US were cowardly acts of terror that justified a military response.

    Thousands of drone strikes around the world were brave acts of a legal war that do not justify a military response.

    Ad long as we believe both statements are true we are lost.

    May 26, 2013 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  5. 4 trillion

    LIndsay....If you were so concerned about our national security why didn't you participate in the active military during your "age of obligation"/Vietnam rather than bailing out to be a lawyer for the national guard............At least you fit in perfectly with all of the other "chicken hawks" in your party. Of course with the single exception, John McCain....

    May 26, 2013 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  6. rs

    But wait! The GOP is against drones, against Gitmo, don't believe getting Osama bin Laden is a big deal (or that it was Bush's efforts that did that).

    Once again, the GOP wants it both ways- be utterly and staunchly against terrorism, yet attack the President for using contemporary weapons and Bush-era prisons to protect us.

    May 26, 2013 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  7. Larry L

    The Republican hawks need to step up and say something specific. If we plan to continue a war beyond 11 years we need fewer cheerleaders and more players. Since only about 1% of Americans can now call themselves veterans, the burden of the war is placed on a very few shoulders. We've exhausted that population. Republicans need to declare their support for activating the Selective Service System – the military draft. This time let's have no exemptions for gender, college or marital status. If we plan to maintain a perpetual state of war everybody should have a dog in the fight. Let's empty those prep-schools and private colleges and give those parents a chance to see some body bags.

    May 26, 2013 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  8. Rick McDaniel

    As well it should.

    Sticking your head in the sand, and declaring we are no longer at war, is going to laughable when the next attack comes......and we all KNOW it is coming.

    May 26, 2013 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  9. don in albuquerque

    You bet the GOTP is worried, and they should be. This could be the beginning of end of their search for the never ending war. That would mean a slow down in the amount of dollar bills that magically line their wallets, from the war industry. That is all it all amounts too, folks. You can talk about defending our way of life, freedom, and mom and apple pie all you want---but it still comes down too money. Who has it, who wants it, and who it is more important too then human life. The GOTP (and alot of Dems) are more then happy to sell out their country and humanity for the long green. Have a happy Memorial Day.

    May 26, 2013 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  10. Feed Your Head

    Republican war mentality.
    We should pull ALL the troops home.
    Defend North America, close our borders.
    Stay out of other countries affairs.

    Republicans want you to be scared,
    so the war machine rolls on.

    May 26, 2013 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  11. Pete

    Remember the republicans and the MIC partners in crime and if Pres.Obama is diplomatic,focused about peace it kills their chances of making their bucks on wars!!Republicans have been advocating for wars much more so than democrates in decades past and if a scaled down Afghanistan makes republicans sweat because their donor monies from the MIC lobbyists is gettting smaller than be it!!Remember Iraq and those no bid contracts of Cheneys Halliburton because they've made enough money on our military soldiers backs in wars with lies and its the time to cut loose,come home and give peace a chance for once,even at the expense of the warmongering republicans!!

    May 26, 2013 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  12. Beam me up Scotty

    The sequester does more harm to security than a speech.

    May 26, 2013 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  13. Beam me up Scotty

    To advocate perpetual war is insane.

    May 26, 2013 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  14. jonnyg

    Obama is working on his legacy, does't care if his policies are good for the country

    May 26, 2013 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  15. george t hibs

    How interesting this president would make such remarks on the "threat" level right on the heals of an Islamic extremist attack at the Boston Marathon. Our citizens were killed and maimed on our own soil, does this indicate a diminished threat level?I find this particularly disturbing. Shame on our president for such a disturbing message.

    May 26, 2013 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  16. us_1776

    Seriously, Republicans.

    You all need therapy.

    Your insane paranoia is what has led to so many problems in this country.

    .

    May 26, 2013 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  17. anon_engineer

    Probably not a good time to ASSUME anything by backing off terrorist pursuit and stamping out pockets of muslim extremists. The President ASSUMED too much too soon in Libya and several diplomats are dead because it. Boston and London should be sign enough that the job is not finished. I know the president would love to wave the victory flag on terror as in other areas, but there are no numbers to fudge here (like unemployment).

    May 26, 2013 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  18. jb1963

    Just war mongering by the right wing terrorist. Remember the right loves babies. They need them to die in their wars.

    May 26, 2013 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  19. Tenie

    Dial down protection on many levels, take away our ability to protect ourselves, sounds like treason.

    May 26, 2013 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  20. Anonymous

    Let's keep those war drums beating and the military industrial complex profitable – two unpaid wars is what the deficit is all about.

    May 26, 2013 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  21. gun lover

    I hate these puppets

    May 26, 2013 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  22. Baramos

    And as we all know, nothing this president had done in the past four years has upset Republicans, so you know this is a real cause for alarm.

    May 26, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  23. semper fi

    our President is the enemy of the state.

    May 26, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  24. Anonymous

    This will hurt the musket ball producers.

    The republican party of late feeds off of fear. If you can't drive fear into the populous how will you get them to accept your deficit spending. Of course there is always the Chaney tack of just convincing them deficits don;t matter.

    May 26, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  25. Nigel Gray

    "They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security."
    Benjamin Franklin

    May 26, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
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