May 26th, 2013
11:13 AM ET
1 year 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. Hoffman

    What would the GOP do instead? re-invade Iraq and stay in Afghanistan forever?. What is their policy idea any way?

    May 26, 2013 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  2. Jim g

    Lets see, during who's administration did the worst terrorist attack occur. By golly it was a Republican, and these guy's think they know how to do it. They were all involved the last time. Why not serve your country and not your PAC and their millions and work as Americans. These guys are getting very disgusting to many.

    May 26, 2013 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  3. dudley

    To his credit, and I rarely give him credit, this is precisely what should be done; a pre-9/11 stance. We have been ready to pounce for over ten years and it is time to pull back and let others carry a larger portion of the load. I wonder if he also means that Uncle Sam will also pull back in spying on US citizens and repeal the parts of the patriot Act that usurp the privacy and liberty of loyal US citizens? It is time to stop eye-balling the entire US population and help the FBI concentrate only on those who pose a real threat – and they've been doing a pretty good job.

    May 26, 2013 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  4. Tony in STL

    The existing republican stance should worry America! They're nothing but a cancer to the growth of a stable and civilized nation. Their tea-side followers always shout, rarely know actual facts, except what they're told (Limbaugh, Palin, etc., ...and generally seem to be void of any rational 2-sided discussion. I stopped engaging with them a long time ago! There is no reason to. They signed petitions to secede, therefore they should have no Constitutional rights to anything. I say pack em' up and ship em' out ... before they end up hurting someone. These new republicans are terrorists in my book. They SHOULD be scared! How anti-patriotic to attack your own President and country during war-time, and to the extremes that have been taken. Wars that were started under republican watch? I think the media needs to stop letting lunatic thought dictate the conversation. The country is seeing right through it. God Bless my Country and our President!

    May 26, 2013 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  5. Yomi Olalere

    As a response to the user name "David," If at this time you still believe Obama is a Muslim, you are either uninformed or intentionally allowing your stangnated and destructive emotion to override your sense of truth, fact and honesty. If I must sing the chorus to your eardrum again " Obama is not a Muslim." Even though there is nothing wrong being a Muslim, many people have mischaracterised Muslims as terrorists, criminals or simply bad people. This is very cruel at his worst; and inaccurate at its best. Muslims are peace loving and peace makers. They are lovers of life, decent, educated, family-oriented and entrepreneurial. Whenever you see an individual who perpetrates evil or carried out inhumane acts as we have seen recently in the United Kingdom, France, Nigeria and Boston, you must know that these folks are just fooling the world claiming their retaliation, revenge or some act of Allah, and hiding under the skirt of religion affiliation to perpetrate their heineous acts, these are not features of Islam. Quran does not preach evil or war on your neighbors. It is an abberation to the sanctity of Islam for anyone to pretend as a Muslim while perpetrating evil. In the same vein, when you see a priest defiling a child, or a father engaging in sexual immoralities with a young boy or a Pastor building mansion on the back of his followers, you must remember that these are not principles of Christianity but satanic influence through the hands of the "trusted." I hope you will agree with me that if you search through Quran and Bible, there are numerous similarities and shared principles of "love your neighbour as you love yourself." "Do unto others same way you would want to be treated." Less anyone deceive you, individuals who go outside of these golden principles to declare war on their fellows are Terrorists and War criminals and they should be treated as one. Their religion is Terrorism and not Islam or Christianity. I hope that is cleared enough! Now about Obama's speech, there is something fundamentally going on in the world that soem Americans have failed to realize. Declaring war on people as a means of safeguarding your territories is not the best strategy. It makes you hated and resented by other people in the World. Yes, there is global threat that must be dealt with in a shared approach. Far too long, US has shouldered the global war on terrorism and this is causing the free country billions of tax payers' money and the strategy is not fundamentally solving the problem of the world. Applying War-like strategy to solve less threatening challenges would only weaken your nation and creates enemies against the United States. While the defence of any country must be strenghtened and continually be in a prepared mode, WAR should be considered as the last resort.

    Paraphrasing a quote from a wise man from Bangladesh, "society is what it is today because of the policy that we as a people pursue and environment that we create."

    Lets make this world a better place and let us create a generation of friends by stopping decades of war.

    May 26, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  6. Hoffman

    The GOP needs the soviet union to come back.

    May 26, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  7. Rick

    Just conveniently ignore the fact the Bush was using drone strikes too during his presidency.

    May 26, 2013 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  8. The Cappy

    You know, if a Republican had ever said this, the resulting press hysteria would have been truly epic. But a Democratic president says it, and all the press does is wait for Republicans to complain so that they could make it a partisan issue. Why isn't the press pointing out the idiocy of this stance? CNN? Come on guys. Step up to the plate and do your jobs.

    May 26, 2013 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  9. Dan

    "Obama says Al Qaeda is 'on the path to defeat,'

    There's the problem right there.

    Al Qaeda is only one islamic organization. Most of the terrorism committed in the world is committed by muslim individuals and islamic groups OTHER than al qaeda.

    Al Qaeda isn't the problem – ISLAM is the problem.

    May 26, 2013 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  10. Drew

    Well these are republicans who openly disagree with the president be side of who he is, if bush was president now and he cut down on troops and started using drones he would a smart guy but the racist republicans , and where are they from ? South Carolina and Oklahoma this article was hilarious

    May 26, 2013 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  11. mindstorms

    The GOP disagreeing with President Obama really isn't news worthy. If they agreed then that would be news worthy.

    May 26, 2013 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  12. Sane Person

    Anything "new" or change or non-biblical scares republicans.

    May 26, 2013 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  13. Larfing all the Way

    You know, repeating lies over and over again doesn't make them truths, they make you a liar, and it's amazing how many liars there are with only 40 posts. You want to know what's REALLY wrong with this country? Look at all the bald faced, unabashed liars and the lies they still believe.

    May 26, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  14. Dan

    THe GOP is worried that we may not have enough war to fund Halliburton, the arms industry and the oil companies.... all of whom line the GOP member's pockets.

    May 26, 2013 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  15. g

    republicans want there never ending wars for dollars,not flag or country dollars haliburton 39 billion and counting dollars

    May 26, 2013 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  16. Thinks2010

    The GOP are a bunch of political Henny Pennys. They are always running around crying the sky is falling. Fortunately, most of the country is on to their idiocy. They need to settle down and work with the other parties to solve the real problems this country faces rather than constantly inventing ones and creating tempests in a teapot in an effort to make their opponents look bad. They are only making themselves look like self-serving deluded do-nothing fools.

    May 26, 2013 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  17. AlbaMN

    I am getting quite tired of the Republicans being against ANYTHING that the President says.

    May 26, 2013 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  18. Howard

    Republicans are good for only two things ... telling you what to be afraid of ... and who to blame for your lot in life.
    (with apologies to President Andrew Shepard)

    May 26, 2013 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  19. Adam

    Lindsey Graham and some of the others are part of the "Military Industrial Complex" that want status quo for the wars... in some form or the other. Every day killing of US and allied troops in Afghanistan is trump change for them. Does it matter to idiots like Lindsey if it is a senseless war... or to unstable minded John McCain who wanted to "bomb Iran".
    These leaders should be put away in a mental asylum and their social security privileges suspended for destabilizing the country with their war mongering.

    May 26, 2013 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  20. elliott carlin

    It would be wonderful if we could close down our overseas operations....and defend our borders. No new laws, just enforce what laws we have on the books.

    Unfortunately, no one in Washington will even remotely get serious about things until it is proven our next attack came from some terrorist who traipsed through our southern border with a nuclear warhead.

    Then again, we have to rely on a press to ferret out the truth.

    We're doomed.

    May 26, 2013 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  21. Tony Antin

    We can no more simply declare that we have won the war against terrorism than we can claim that we, or any other nation has won the war against crime, drugs prostitution or any other rotten activity of human beings. In re terrorism, not unless we could say, with any degree of certainty, there are no more twisted minds out there eager to "get revenge." And I'm afraid we must accept proactive work by government for any degree of safety. I simply cannot understand how receiving American citizenship makes a terrorist immune to drones or any other form of elimination.

    May 26, 2013 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  22. Mr. MoneyBags

    As the Republicans like to say, where is the money going to come from?

    May 26, 2013 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  23. John

    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," [Lindsey] Graham said on "Fox News Sunday."

    I did not know we were trying to be attacked. Is that some Freudian slip?

    May 26, 2013 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  24. Data Driven

    "It's all 9/11. 9/11 FOREVER" - a conservative

    And Dan, what are you proposing? That we kill 1 billion Muslims? Outlaw the religion?

    My gripe with the President's speech is that it doesn't go far enough in relinquishing the 9/11 mindset that has driven us mad: Imperial military adventures in Afghanistan and other garden spots; TSA feeling us up in airports; an unConstitutional "Patriot Act" law ... But even so, Obama is on the right track.

    May 26, 2013 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  25. Hammy

    It's deeper than just this one subject. Most republicans get worried when the sun goes down in the evening. They just can not figure out where it goes, or if it'll return.

    May 26, 2013 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
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