May 26th, 2013
11:13 AM ET
2 years 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. Gregory L. Faith

    Everyone will be surprised when that next one happens.

    May 26, 2013 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  2. SciGuy

    The repubs love their wars. On drugs. On terror. They claim they want small govt, but they lie. They must be rejected if we are to recover our liberties. Of course the dems are no better as they love their wars. On drugs. On poverty. Their desire for "social justice" requires big govt and strips the working man of his hard-earned wages. They must likewise be rejected if we are to recover our liberties.

    May 26, 2013 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  3. Dark Drew

    Really? A Bunch of Rich White Men threatened by Change, and this is News? Really?

    May 26, 2013 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  4. NameJim

    I couldn't agree more with the president's remarks. ... this is a"thinking" President. .. so refreshing. Totally bright and totally "21st century.

    May 26, 2013 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  5. brett

    This is what any logical person has been thinking for years. The middle class has essentially disappeared and we still continue to fund the occupation of Middle Eastern countries.

    May 26, 2013 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  6. Gregory L. Faith

    Boston should be a warning flag for all to salute. This is how the next one will go down.....

    May 26, 2013 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  7. Donnie the Lion

    Nothing Barack Obama will ever do will please the GOP, so why even try. His defensive strategy is either too excessive, or too timid, in their opinion. What a joke. Debating the GOP must feel like debating a four year child.

    May 26, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  8. Nagrad

    "Those Who Sacrifice Liberty For Security Deserve Neither." – Benjamin Franklin.

    This quote really drives to the heart of my problem with the "War on Terror." Since 2001, we have seen our civil liberties curtailed and the Government's power increase. Oddly, those who are the most ardent defenders of these policies and who push for more Government power are the same ones who also claim they want smaller Government and less Government interference in their lives. The hypocrisy astounds me.

    May 26, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  9. Patrish

    Republicans love war, plus no matter what Obama says they go the other way. That is the way of the beast!

    May 26, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  10. Doc1

    The Republicans handled post 9/11 so well........Oh, wait a minute, they did nothing but enact destructive policies. I'm sorry, I just don't trust you guys. I really mean that.

    May 26, 2013 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  11. Kerpeden

    O, mister president, you want to take away the freedom to feel threaten from our society, do you? No, we'll never give it up! What other excuse we have to be able to interfere in sovereign counties around the world?

    May 26, 2013 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  12. Carol

    President Obama isn't taking our guard away, the Drones are on duty, and ready to go. Homegrown terrorism and not so homegrown as in Boston, and England should be watched very carefully. The Prime Minister of UK is establishing a task force for "Extremism from all Quarters". This should be established here in America as well. All extremism is circumspect.

    May 26, 2013 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  13. edog355

    \GOP – Blood thirty animals.

    May 26, 2013 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  14. Nemo

    Box cutters brought down the Twin Towers. So really, what has changed?

    May 26, 2013 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  15. Kinoeye

    To Nigel Gray: Your second quote, which you've also attributed to Franklin, is incorrect. Again, here's what Wikipedia has to say: "This is actually from an essay "On Government No. I" that appeared in Franklin's paper, The Pennsylvania Gazette, on 1 April 1736. The author was John Webbe. He wrote about the privileges enjoyed under British rule."

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

    So he wants drones and army to kill innocent people!!!

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

    This is everything you need to know about Benghazi. The murder of our ambassador was blamed upon a youtube video because this president Will Not confront al Qaeda. The way to maintain that position is for him to declare that al Qaeda, Islamic terrorism, is no longer a threat and that their actions of hostility, in fact, do not exist. Mission Accomplished indeed.

    I'm comfortable with a peaceful disposition. I'm nervous about an unrealistic one.

    The best thing to happen here is for the "war on terror" to die in name but not in substance. Send it underground so as not "to offend", but maintain absolute vigilence. The second dimension would be to see Good Islam start to take it's public image much more seriously. "Statements of condemnation" phoned in to world leaders can't compete with a three minute video where an innocent man is butchered and nearly beheaded in broad daylight in a major metropolitan area. The "war About terror" exists between Good Islam and Bad Islam in the domain of public perception. Good Islam is losing.

    May 26, 2013 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  18. Jim

    A typical and expected response from Republicans. No what the president does or says, it will always be wrong.

    May 26, 2013 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  19. zennethx

    II think that our government needs to come to terms with the fact that the populace is tired of being in these wars. We don't want to keep policing other countries problems, and it's time to accept that we can't fix everything. Bring our troops home and work on fixing OUR problems.

    May 26, 2013 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  20. Allison Powers

    Well, this explains a few things. I think Obama has had a pre- 9/11 mentality all along and has trickled it down. Hence, things like the Boston Marathon bombing, the underwear bomber who wasn't called a terrorist and not thoroughly questioned, the Ft. Hood massacre called a workplace violence issue even though he was yelling Allah Akbar...to name a few incidents.

    May 26, 2013 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  21. loverpoint

    @David- You say that having a President with a Muslim sounding name is not healthy for this country. I remember when the said the same thing about John Kennedy for being Catholic. But when the country questioned having a Mormon run for president, the Tea Party said; Don't make this into a religious matter.

    People should not be electing any officials that are closely connected to any religion. They should be voting into office more people that have degrees in Science and Engineering.

    May 26, 2013 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  22. letsmoveon

    I think Obama has it right, I think Obama deserves to be the one to say the War is over, of course we will continue to protect this country as we always have. But Osama is dead, as is most of Al Qaeda, of course we will always be threatened but the war that was sparked by 9/11 was to find Osama and dismantle terrorists associated with him and we have done that. I am betting that the republicans would love nothing more than to get into the Presidency and say they are the ones that called an end to the war. Steal the credit from President Obama, military and intelligence. I am sure we will never let our guard down, but the bulk of this is finally over.

    May 26, 2013 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  23. Biff Omney

    When Patrick Henry wrote "Give me liberty or give me death", he owned over a hundred slaves.

    May 26, 2013 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  24. Dan

    This is just business as usual for the Republican party. This isn't even a news story. It's an affirmation on how broken Washington is right now.

    May 26, 2013 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  25. Tirilei

    And what does this mean:

    "at a time when our homeland is trying to be attacked literally every day,” Graham said on “Fox News Sunday.”

    Trying to be attacked?

    May 26, 2013 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
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