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. Porky Rottenham

    If Obama told Republicans not to, they would all jump off a bridge.

    May 26, 2013 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  2. John The Electrician

    Fear has long been a Republican freind.

    May 26, 2013 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  3. KEN

    Hey are we suppose to see a Muslim under every interstate bridge, under every sewer hole and in every airport. We do not have to go overseas to see the threats to our national security. We can do it from an immigration standard like we should have been doing all along. We know people from certain countries do no understand our freedoms and way of life. We just restrict their operation in this country and expel them from the United States. Sorry Mr Muslim your kind is not wanted in the land of the free and the home of the brave. You want to hid behind your Koran and want to be a Jihad. Hello goodbye. You say Hello and I say Goodbye. Good bye!

    May 26, 2013 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  4. Codestud3

    Obama will declare the war on terror over, so if must be over.

    May 26, 2013 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  5. robertfallin

    Even better would be a "Pre-Gulf War" stance on the Middle East. In fact, a "pre-6 Day War" stance would be even better. There was a time when Eisenhower "sent in the Marines" to stop Israel, Great Britain and France from seizing the Suez Canal and JFK demanded Israel open their nuclear facilities to inspection. Europe, particularly Great Britain, is reaping the costs of taking sides, though not on the scale we did on 911. Instead, the West have become so wedded to the interests of Israel and Saudi Arabia, we are constantly at war and our civilian populations are placed at risk and increasing denied civil liberties in the name of security. Time to stop meddling in the Middle East and oppressing our own people. Our infrastructure is crumbling around us.

    May 26, 2013 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  6. Marie

    CSD...............great post and so very true.

    Monsanto is an excellent example of corps lobbying WA..........Republicans just voted down a chance to label........only label....nothing more...........foods that contained GMOs. Most consumers want a choice but Republicans feel we don't need a choice. It was approved by Republicans so therefor it is ok.

    May 26, 2013 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  7. sallfham

    President Obama has the data and the comprehensive viewpoint from which to assess it.
    Republicans have...a hatred of the president and very fragmented data.
    I'll accept the President's view on this one.

    May 26, 2013 03:05 pm at 3:05 pm |
  8. Zooni

    Every terrorist attack has been thwarted by the public. The only plane brought down on 911 was brought down by the passengers. You have your right to bear arms, it's time to stop relying on the nanny state that is robbing you blind. Terrorism will always be there and it not the reason to lose your democracy. Let the GOP start their own country and the rest of the US can move on to the 21st century. Places like Oklahoma have lost their democracy to a corrupt political party that only serves corporations. Cut them lose and let them have their nanny state.

    May 26, 2013 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  9. Woman In California

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

    Really? Not only are republicans poor actors, but they've turned into a party of little old ladies who fear dying at age 99 instead of 100.

    The truth is, the president has kept us safe, without stirring up fear and without sending a message to our enemies that we're so afraid of being attacked, that we can't enjoy our freedoms. For that, I say job well done.

    May 26, 2013 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  10. Jules

    Maybe he meant the mentality of the Clinton Administration and not the Bush administration.

    May 26, 2013 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  11. Dave

    What's disturbing is how Republicans want the war on terrorism to go on forever.

    May 26, 2013 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  12. LouAZ

    "The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."..... H. L. Mencken

    May 26, 2013 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  13. Michael

    Repubs. ;)

    May 26, 2013 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  14. Andrew

    This is plain garbage. Our intelligence community did know about 9/11. There was tons of raw data that was collected pointing out the attacks and who was involved. Due to the fact that certain agencies were not allowed to communicate with each other(NSA and FBI weren't allowed to by law) so the information wasn't able to passed along since those that could of would of been pursecuted under the law.
    This is one of the few good things the PATRIOT act addressed and fixed. We have a very robust illigence network now designed to pick up terrorist organizations. The problem is small groups or lone wolf terrorists. These people are close to impossible to detect until after the fact or they do something dumb getting themselves caught.

    May 26, 2013 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  15. bellaterra66

    If Pres. Obama's pre-9/11 mentality includes giving us back our privacy, our civil rights, and our freedoms - and if US citizens will no longer be considered the enemy until proven otherwise - I'm all for it.

    May 26, 2013 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  16. notbluenotred

    Graham is such a wind bag......

    May 26, 2013 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  17. Aerin

    Of course the repugs want their traditional military with big payroll, bases in their states and favors to their military contractors.

    May 26, 2013 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  18. Candyapple1

    I am a proud republican.... Eat it, haters!

    May 26, 2013 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  19. Matthew

    Obama is right. The threat is different now. The biggest threat to America is the Obama Administration.

    May 26, 2013 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  20. Mopery

    Did you ever stop to think what would happen if the Russians or Chinese started waging wars on small, technologically eclipsed nations, as the United States has done in Iraq and Afghanistan? Because of Bush's unilateralism, we have set a dangerous precedent for the other (nuclear) powers that be. We now endorse a policy of worldwide assassination at the touch of a button, have we forgotten why World War I started? We now acknowledge the use of torture on prisoners of war, spelling doom for our own soldiers should they be captured. Should Russia and China begin using the exact same tactics as we have been using in this last decade, we would be hypocrites to condemn them for it, and we would be fools to initiate a war with either as it would rapidly escalate to nuclear war and the end of humanity.

    May 26, 2013 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  21. Skorpio

    A small fraction of the money applied to drones should be used to convert Muslims to Christianity or ANY other religion except Islam. This cult is the root of all evil, Islam is the ONLY common link in 98% of all terrorist and violent attacks around the world. A massive conversion of Muslims to Christianity is the most long term viable solution to drastically diminishing global Islamic madness, violence and discrimination.

    May 26, 2013 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  22. Eastern Star

    This is the war that never ends, yes it goes on and on my friend. Some people started fighting it, not knowing what it was, and they'll continue fighting it forever just because... this is the war that never ends, yes it goes on and on my friend...

    May 26, 2013 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  23. vidal808

    Of course the Repubs have to oppose anything the President is suggesting. What else is new? Sour grapes that he was not a "one time" President? It is so tiresome to hear them whine and complain and whine and getting nothing constructive done. I hope they all get the boot in 2014 – folks, get rid of them ones and for all....a bunch of cry babies and do- nutters....

    May 26, 2013 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  24. Don

    Never fear! The Military Industrial Complex will always ensure that we have at least one enemy who poses such a threat that we must continually build/expend/build weapons and ammunition. If not al Queda, Iran or PRNK, it will be aliens.

    May 26, 2013 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  25. Steve

    There was a Republican president named Dwight Eisenhower who warned us about the military industrial complex and what would happen if we let it have it way. Defense spending has more than doubled since 9/11 and we spend more on weapons than the next 13 countries combined. Lindsey and the rest of the GOP are just mouthing what their corporate masters want them to. Endless spending on weapons we no longer need to fight an enemy that is long gone (USSR) and to spread unending fear about scary "others". We need to be vigilant and prepared, but remember who was in charge when the "Osama determined to attack America" memo was issued and remember who it was who actually dealt with him.

    May 26, 2013 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
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