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. NameFrank Deery

    Well. Boston could well be a harbinger of things to come in Obama 2! Cannot recall any marathon bombed under Bush/Cheney-or attacks on our Free Press! And the press then hated Bush. Now, the Frankenstein they helped create, is election-fear free and showing his true side. I mean, Holder investigating Holder! Absurd- but you buy it!
    For now

    Once Pelley, Sawyer, or Williams or Blitzer get targeted, And they will, Republican warnings will resonate! 2014 elections will
    be A GOP purge!

    May 26, 2013 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  2. ketsui7

    Seriously we want to be at war forever? republicans are such warmongerers. We are a free nation lets stop this constant fighting. We defeated our foes in many big areas, now we just need to keep survelliance and send in drones to do our dirty work when necessary. Anything else is just republicans patting their rich military contractors on the back with OUR TAX money. how about senator graham you fund some of these billion dollar projects out of your own pocket, we really dont need a full scale military force at constant ready when our threats have been torn apart

    May 26, 2013 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  3. Name fannie

    I agree the war on terror is over,and we lost.

    May 26, 2013 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  4. Ed

    Does this mean they are going to stop making me take my shoes off at the airport? Can we please stop the politically correct security "theater act" at the airports and concentrate on real risks?

    May 26, 2013 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  5. bill.x

    Republicans are still stuck in the past, kill first and ask what was it later. They prefer a perpetual state of war because they live in a constant state of fear created by the vast military complex that feeds such fears and supplies weapons to attack it. They even fear peace, because you can't kill with it. Republicanism is a spiritual malady afflicting modern Americans stuck in the past.

    May 26, 2013 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  6. budshot

    Of course it worries Republicans – fear is their bread and butter.

    We WOULD have been prepared for 9/11 if Bush and his inept administration had actually LISTENED to the warnings the Clinton team gave them as they transitioned in and out. It was hubris on the part of the Bush Administration that is mostly responsible for that attack. Obama, once again, is doing the right, smart and safest thing.

    May 26, 2013 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  7. bam

    the gop is a lost cause... the idiocy spills over unconstrained

    May 26, 2013 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  8. bdby

    Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom America must pay to keep our folks safe both at home and abroad. Evidently Obama does not have a clue and doesn’t “get it”.

    May 26, 2013 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  9. jnpa

    I think the republicans are causing more damage to the U.S. with their negative anti-Obama comments on everything he says especially in the area of national security. I am sure these terrorists are looking at America as weak with a group of "leaders" who not come together on anything let alone how to deal with our security and these terrorists. This is pitiful!

    May 26, 2013 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  10. Jim

    The pre-9/11 mentality is what is what brought 9/11 on us and the era that followed. The events of the last 6 weeks indicate we still do not have it under control. Let's not let history repeat itself. We owe it to ourselves and especially the victims.

    May 26, 2013 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  11. Greg Faith

    The people who are hell bent on killing Americans will not be going away any time soon and everyone needs to keep thinking that we can NEVER let our guard down. Not for a millisecond. Once they see a weakness, they will do what ever they can to kill.

    The Department of Homeland Security has its work cut out for it.

    May 26, 2013 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  12. budshot

    Of COURSE it worries Republicans – fear is their bread and butter.

    9/11 wouldn't have happened if Bush and his administration would have actually listened to the outgoing Clinton administration regarding threats. Hubris on the part of Bush and his advisors is responsible for that attack.

    Once again, Obama is doing the safe, smart and right thing.

    May 26, 2013 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  13. censored

    The people ,after all ,did not elect Joe Smith. They were undoubtedly looking for what they got.

    May 26, 2013 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  14. one of the people.

    Abolish political parties they create all this false tension. Abolish lobbying. Take freedom back.

    May 26, 2013 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  15. MaryM

    Yep, Its sounds like the GOPTP are afriad they cant spew their fear and send our men and women off to die in a foreign country anymore.
    Poor, Poor GOP warmongers

    May 26, 2013 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  16. T

    ..................COME ON gop.............we DONT WANT ENDLESS WARS....................it IS that simple............

    May 26, 2013 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  17. The Lost Surveyor

    Conservatives these days simply do not know how to behave if they don't have some sort of an end of the world crisis or someone or something with which they can generate fear amongst their constituents. The sky is ALWAYS falling with these folks in some way or another. They never manage to do ANYTHING actually constructive anymore. Then they have the audacity to wonder aloud why no one listens to, or takes them seriously. They have done this to themselves and now are of little more use than as a generator of comedic fodder.

    May 26, 2013 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  18. solowd

    Republicans will start a war in a heartbeat, but ending a war disturbs them greatly.

    May 26, 2013 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  19. gary

    GOP is wrong. They are war mongers. We need peace, not war.

    May 26, 2013 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  20. jnpa

    @NameTodd A – You said Barry the Muslim, showing his true colors again, read his autobiography weirdo libtards, he says he stands with the Muslims in the final war, libtard America is a danger to the world –
    -----------------------------------------------------
    Actually, he did not say that. The actual quote from the book is from page 261 and is as follows: "Of course, not all my conversations in immigrant communities follow this easy pattern. In the wake of 9/11, my meetings with Arab and Pakistani Americans, for example, have a more urgent quality, for the stories of detentions and FBI questioning and hard stares from neighbors have shaken their sense of security and belonging. They have been reminded that the history of immigration in this country has a dark underbelly; they need specific reassurances that their citizenship really means something, that America has learned the right lessons from the Japanese internments during World War II, and that I will stand with them should the political winds shift in an ugly direction."

    Read the last sentence in the context of the paragraph. He is just saying that he will be with the people who have come to this country, at a crucial time when they need support. Please stop spewing lies!

    May 26, 2013 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  21. Rosa, b'ham al

    Everything worries Republicans so what is new?

    May 26, 2013 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  22. johnston Babcock

    The issue of balancing freedoms and fighting terror will always be at odds. When the government restricts our freedoms, then the terrorists win. If the government is not vigilant at the least, then the terrorists sneak in and try to do something. It's almost a "damned if you do and damned if you don't" situation. I do think that once we are out of Afghanistan and Iraq, there will be less justification for acts of terror on our soil. But then, what do I know?

    May 26, 2013 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  23. Stop Believing the GOP Lies!

    They GOP is so completely investing in war machines, war mongering, war profiteering, and a mindset that our country is somehow in charge of invading and occupying any country they feel needs "democracy" - it's no wonder they're going to cling to the teat that feeds their grotesque wealth. President Obama is correct - the "war on terror" has to change to keep up with the new mindset of those who want to harm us (small, or lone, groups of Islamist extremists who are incapable of rational thought) No boots on the ground any more! No more Abrams tanks being built despite the Pentagon saying for the past 10 yrs that WE DON'T WANT ANY/WE DON'T NEED ANY that are built and parked in the desert NEVER TO BE USED!!!! The GOP are really the party of WAR - and they need to go!!

    May 26, 2013 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  24. NameSnapshot

    OH poor repubs. They are worried!
    Why are they not worried about the economy ... And jobs.
    We don't care what the Rs are worried about at all
    Their spin cycle has just about run out!

    May 26, 2013 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  25. timvervba

    At least Mr. McCaul is finally confirming that the Bush Administration's "pre-9/11 mentality" was deficient.

    May 26, 2013 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
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