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. mom

    It is either that Obama really is this incompetent, and this naive, or he is hellishly trying to get our nation to lower its guard because he and our enemies have been cooking something up for some time. American voters, 68 million of you bought this outrageous inexperience coupled with marxist words in 2008. Shame upon those of you who did this to us all. You can call those of us who hate Obama all the foul words you want to. It won't make him any less foolish- or power-mad, whichever it is- or both. He's an incredibly evil lunatic, or just plain outrageously ignorant of the real world. God help us.

    May 26, 2013 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  2. Bob

    As extreme as it might sound, Islam is well on its way to being thrust out of Europe. The momentum and organization is something I have never seen. Europeans are sensible people who had muslim among them for decades. We might want to wake up as well.

    May 26, 2013 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  3. shady

    republicans will object whatever democrats say or do, regardless if it's true or false.

    May 26, 2013 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  4. Bob E

    The best way to protect the interests of the USA is to shut down the overseas bases and fall back to a defensive posture here, in the US... Biggest problem will be the huge amounts of money we will save in shrinking the department of defense back to a sane size...

    May 26, 2013 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  5. Alan Beasley - Legacy of Success

    It scary to watch Obama do what Clinton did in the 90s.

    Wasn't Obama watching?

    Didn't he see that Clinton's approach culminated in 9/11/01 attacks! And then Amerca had to fight a war around the globe (Afghanistan, Somalia, Philippeans, Yemen, and a dozen other places), and it cost the USA $4 trillion to create the Homeland Security Dept, fortify facilities all over the world.

    That's what Clinton's approach did – why repeat in only 20 years later?

    May 26, 2013 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  6. Matt

    "at a time when our homeland is trying to be attacked literally every day"

    Sure, Ms. Graham. Unfortunately, that has nothing to do with al Qaeda and EVERYTHING to do with your base – I'm far less worried about foreign terror than I am about the camps full of RW lunatics playing with assault rifles and praying for the day they get to play their "Turner Diaries" LARP in real-life...

    May 26, 2013 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  7. barbarianofgor

    I think 9/11 was a "False Flag". Like the Clinton years the Republicans are just waiting till Obama restores some prosperity to America, then they by hook or CROOK sneak in then WHOOPS another "Terror Attack!" they use to bleed the country again in phony wars and deficit ruin and more tax breaks and subsidies to millionaire job exporters. One Man's opinion.

    May 26, 2013 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  8. Michael

    Repubs are always concerned about anything that stands in the way of their war mongering. Murder, conquest, and shady deals are where it's at to these disreputable folks.

    May 26, 2013 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  9. really

    As a genuine Conservative (not party line Republican) this is the first thing Obama has said or done that I agree with 100%. It is important enough that I would have voted for him had I known.

    May 26, 2013 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  10. aallen333

    National security requires every step possible be taken to increase the odds that we are right 100% of the time because our enemies only have to be right once. Lowering the threat level naturally sends a message that it is okay to lower our defenses. 911 signaled a new age of warfare where we were caught unprepared with our pants down. It seems we have forgotten hard lessons learned and would rather resort to old ways of thinking that will inevitably lead to the same mistakes that allowed 911. Only this time I fear the consequences will be far more devastating.

    May 26, 2013 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  11. Mel Stricker

    This is another instance of the Republicans having a problem with anything that President Obama says and not havinf anything constructive to say on their side.

    They force budget cuts through sequester and want more budget cuts causing the military to cut back on its capabilities but because President Obama wants to set a reasonable course, they all of a sudden are worried about security. What hypocrites.

    May 26, 2013 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  12. scott

    sure the republicans are mad....now all that money can be used fixing America's crumbling infrastructure or better yet. pay down the debt.....something else they cant figure out...Hillary in 2016....

    May 26, 2013 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  13. JackBriss

    Obama makes no sense, since stopping our preparedness will only allow the terrorist to rebuild and regroup. We already cut major dollars away from our military. What will be next.?

    May 26, 2013 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  14. Pat in IL

    The sound-bite Republicans have a serious intellect problem with reading and listening comprehension. Their stupid rhetoric could be more dangerous tha any terrorist threat, but nobody is listening any more. Sorry guys, we're on to your agenda of hatred, so you have no more effectiveness.

    May 26, 2013 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  15. Halkes

    "I've never been more worried about our national security as I am right now."

    Ummm.... 9/11? You've only been talking about it nonstop for over a decade....

    May 26, 2013 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  16. Jim970

    Interesting. Obama adopts a pre-9/11 mentality in a post-9/11 world. Not sure I can follow the reasoning behind that. Some thoughts come to mind, but I hope we don't have to live through another 9/11 type or size of an attack.

    May 26, 2013 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  17. GOP Stance

    The only stance the GOP would support would be aggressive force (utilizing everyone except their own sons and daughters).

    May 26, 2013 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  18. JackBriss

    This country has changed big time, It is getting scary.

    May 26, 2013 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  19. bankrupt1

    Their job is to get more money out of us. That makes it hard to tell when they are crying wolf.

    May 26, 2013 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  20. David

    Obama does the opposite of what the majority wants. His latest stunt is of no suprise..

    May 26, 2013 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  21. sgurdog

    And for Obama to do this heading into Memorial Day really destroys the GOP who under Bush could use the graves of soldiers to continue unjust wars in the name of patriotism. Politicians who use nationalism to lobby for more wars and the money it takes to fund them are sick...psychopaths to be exact. They're lobbying for war with Iran and have been for a long time. Well, you lost your chance for that when you trotted off our men to die in Iraq for a bs lie. Now we don't believe ANY of you who appear in front of cameras foaming at the mouth with anger. It takes a real man and a patriot to call off the dogs of war. It takes a chicken hawk psychopath to promote a war and send our sons, brothers and fathers off to die.

    May 26, 2013 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  22. BFD

    The GOP's only real reason... they are not in charge! :)

    May 26, 2013 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  23. bankrupt1

    Seems like republicans squandered whatever they had. Lost credibility.

    May 26, 2013 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  24. Lucas

    The comments coming from both the left and right nuts are at the same time hilarious and disturbing.

    Those on the left cry about the Republicans taking away freedoms but can't name a freedom that was taken away; those on the right cry about Democrats destroying morals as if morality has ever been important in the U.S.A..

    News flash to both: your holier than thou attitudes and ridiculous assumptions only succeed in increasing the chasm between the parties. In the end both parties consist of average Americans with families, jobs and usually more bills than they can pay. Same goals and basic desires...only differences are political.

    When Americans grow up and can work together regardless of whether they have an "R" or "D" next to their names this country will become what is was meant to be.

    Until then they'll just be more childish comments posted here I suppose.

    May 26, 2013 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  25. Jeb

    In other news:

    Obama sneezed today and Republicans reacted with immediate and total outrage. Rush Limbough says, "sneezing is for Muslim Socialists!" Faux News says, "sneezing is un-American!" Glenn Beck says, "sneezing proves that Obama wants to eat your children!"

    May 26, 2013 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
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