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. Michael

    Why does this article say the new / lax terror stance only worries Republicans? Shouldn't it worry anyone who was in the U.S. on 9/11? How soon we forget history...

    May 26, 2013 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  2. Nigel Gray

    "The means of defense against foreign danger historically have become the instruments of tyranny at home."
    James Madison

    May 26, 2013 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  3. R Burns

    “We have to recognize that the scale of this threat closely resembles the types of attacks we faced before 9/11,” sure, and then along came 9/11 – hmmm

    May 26, 2013 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  4. rjrock

    The war on terror was simply a way to keep funneling taxpayer money to big business and keep people from examining policy to closely. Good riddance.

    May 26, 2013 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  5. Steve

    This will not please the war mongers

    May 26, 2013 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  6. Nigel Gray

    "It is the duty of the patriot to protect his country from its government."
    Thomas Paine

    May 26, 2013 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  7. Michael Bertrand

    I am for anything that worries the republican party....it must be the right thing to do!
    The mess they've made of things makes them all just a good barometer for what NOT to do.

    May 26, 2013 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  8. Nigel Gray

    "I used to say that Politics is the second oldest profession [prostitution being the oldest], but I have come to realize that it bears a gross similarity to the first."
    Ronald Reagan

    May 26, 2013 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  9. Brian

    If Obama said America stood for baseball, mom and apple pie these republican hypocrites would criticize, obstruct and play political games instead of helping make this a better country.

    May 26, 2013 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  10. lethalenoki

    Wait wait wait. Are these the same Republicans that cry that the fed is becoming too threatening with the increased use of drones and communications monitoring? Even though, of course, all of these changes in infrastructure are of Bush era design. Regardless, the President is saying he wants to back off from the unnecessary fear, but now the Republicans have a problem with that.

    So which is it? Fear-mongering is bad and gives the fed too much power, or fear-mongering is good because it prevents terror attacks?

    May 26, 2013 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  11. Nigel Gray

    "Hold on, my friends, to the Constitution and to the Republic for which it stands. Miracles do not cluster, and what has happened once in 6000 years, may not happen again. Hold on to the Constitution, for if the American Constitution should fail, there will be anarchy throughout the world."
    Daniel Webster

    May 26, 2013 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  12. Gary

    "McCaul said Sunday the intelligence he’s seen as chairman of the homeland security panel suggests a more serious danger than Obama described."
    More like the lack of intelligence in congress suggest a more serious danger.

    May 26, 2013 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  13. Fred Nesbitt

    End the fear mongering? HEAVEN FORBID!!

    May 26, 2013 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  14. Erik

    FINALLY. This is the first step towards America calming down from its overreaction from 9/11. America had a traumatic experience on that day, but has completely overreacted by starting multiple wars and destroying an entire country that had nothing to do with the attack (Iraq).

    The "war on terror" must end as it is simply America lashing out at our own paranoid fantasies of imaginary boogeymen. Our "post 9/11 mentality" has led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands in Iraq, and changed the face of American liberty to a spectre of Fascism. The "war on terror" is not a war rather a doctrine that has led to the Iraq war, human rights abuses, and the near financial ruin of our country. Let the insanity end.

    May 26, 2013 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  15. john

    As it has evolved, the "war on terror" no longer requires boots on the ground. I think we learned that that was largely a failure anyway. Terror is largely a law enforcement issue, as we have seen in Boston, Times Square and London. I doubt this is lost on president Obama and the republican worries are likely politics, especially those of girly man Graham. No reasonable man would think this government is going to ignore future threats.

    May 26, 2013 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  16. Nigel Gray

    "If a republican government fails to secure public prosperity and happiness, it must be because the citizens neglect the divine commands, and elect bad men to make and administer the laws."
    Noah Webster

    May 26, 2013 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  17. luvUamerica

    Franly, the Republicans have a very poor record in keeping this country safe. They have put us in more harm than safety. I'd rather follow the President who has done his job better. And that is President Obama.

    May 26, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  18. isolate

    The headline-hunting Republicans are so preoccupied with attacking Obama they've completely lost track of their purpose as politicians, which is to serve their country. I agree with Bob Dole's comment on the party: “I think they ought to put a sign on the national committee doors that says ‘Closed for repairs’ until New Year’s Day next year. Spend that time going over ideas and positive agendas.”

    May 26, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  19. yogi

    Republicans are worried. How predictable is that? There is absolutely nothing in their playbook that would support anything the President will do or say.

    And then there is Graham:
    “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.”
    How much more hypocrisy can be shown here? We ar being attacked from within by Fox on a daily basis.

    May 26, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  20. one of the people.

    Grow some balls republican. The war on terror is fake. We must focus on building our own country up and cleaning it of corruption. Abolish lobbying. Abolish political parties.

    May 26, 2013 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  21. cjacja

    Most of what we do is counter productive and expensive. I think it is time is project a better image abroad. The better mage will do more than anything else we can do.

    May 26, 2013 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  22. Boseph Heyden

    "All wars must come to an end."

    Yeah, you know how that happens? One side surrenders or is wiped out. Neither of those is true for the terrorists yet.

    May 26, 2013 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  23. Pander Bear

    Every time Obama says something, the GOP automatically says it's wrong, no matter what it is. The GOP is useless.

    May 26, 2013 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  24. Big Fan

    Typical GOP behidn the times. Bush came in and was fighting Saddam, hence he ignored his CIA memo "Bin Laden determined to strike in US." Now these guys want to focus on bin Laden while current events would indicate the threat is much smaller and internal. I think Napoleon said generals were always fighting the last war, and losing the current one.

    May 26, 2013 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  25. Suur Kurat

    How are the Pentagon generals going to satisfy their bloodlust if Barak Hussein obama curtails the use of drones as a terror weapon?

    May 26, 2013 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
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