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. Derek

    And if he were to increase security, the Republicans would complain that America is turning into a police state. I'm hardly the Democrats biggest fan, but the Republicans blind opposition to any move Obama makes is getting really tiresome.

    May 26, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  2. pkfops

    Republicans aren't too bright.

    Obama's speech was meant to incite terrorist groups and generate chatter; exposing their locations.

    Once the location is confirmed it goes on a target list.

    SOP

    May 26, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  3. Unreal

    Yeah because the GOP wants this country in a constant state of war, that way their cronies can benefit and fear is about the only platform they have left.

    May 26, 2013 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  4. Grant

    You mean the constructed war on terror?.. the same one that the hijacked gov't wants you to think they can protect you from a fake terror environment so they can control you?.. and by the way CNN, no news on yesterday's WORLDWIDE march's against Monsanto's use of GMO's in our food supply?... not even a small benign article?.. umm, OK, no agenda's there, right?.

    May 26, 2013 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  5. sqeptiq

    @nigel gray: I challenge your honesty.

    Misattributed

    Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.
    Widely attributed to Benjamin Franklin on the internet, sometimes without the second sentence, it is not found in any of his known writings, and the word "lunch" is not known to have appeared anywhere in english literature until the 1820s, decades after his death. The phrasing itself has a very modern tone and the second sentence especially might not even be as old as the internet. Some of these observations are made in response to a query at Google Answers.
    In 1992, Marvin Simkin wrote in Los Angeles Times,
    Democracy is not freedom. Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to eat for lunch. Freedom comes from the recognition of certain rights which may not be taken, not even by a 99% vote.[1]
    A far rarer but somewhat more credible variation also occurs: "Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for dinner." Web searches on these lines uncovers the earliest definite citations for such a statement credit libertarian author James Bovard with a similar one in the Sacramento Bee (1994):
    "Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner."
    This statement also definitely occurs in the "Conclusion" (p. 333) of his book Lost Rights: The Destruction of American Liberty (1994) ISBN 0312123337

    May 26, 2013 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  6. Jack

    No surprise, tell the public what they want to hear. Denial calms the masses and you don't have to do anything about the attacks. It's so easy!

    May 26, 2013 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  7. Scott

    That's right America, live in constant fear. The Boogieman is right there on our doorstep......and only billions of dollars a year in defense and homeland security spending will keep him away.

    May 26, 2013 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  8. Black Dynamite

    The GOP rushes to protect their other benefactor, Military Defense......
    BD

    May 26, 2013 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  9. Marge Arnold

    Oh well, just another thing for them to fear monger about. Have to keep Fox News in business....

    May 26, 2013 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  10. JR

    This affront from S. Carolina is the biggest cancer on earth as is the obstructionist fear mongering war perpetrators called the GOP. Make this party extinct if America has a chance.

    May 26, 2013 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  11. James Cheatham

    Well, considering we're rapidly giving up our freedoms in the name of security, things like right to counsel, due process, freedom of speech and so on, I agree, it's time to step back and reassess the threat. We shouldn't be living in fear and I think this is a good first step. Our enemies have been reminded again what happens when you attack us at home.

    May 26, 2013 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  12. brian

    About time. Constant daily reminders of terror by homeland security has made the terror of 9/11 still on going. We will finally have beaten them when we return to pre 9/11 living.

    May 26, 2013 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  13. Scott

    What I find amusing is that the GOP keeps telling us that they are going to be the ones that balance the budget. But they're not going to cut the military or allow the government to negotiate drug prices under Medicare D. We borrow 40%. The rest of the government is only 14% of spending. I'd love to here how the math on that is going to work.

    May 26, 2013 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  14. jonp

    I think people forget that at this point, the GOP only exists to foil the president.
    If a hurricane were to hit DC and Obama said it was raining, the GOP will tell you that it's sunny outside.

    May 26, 2013 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  15. somebuffguy

    The only reason Republicans find it disturbing for many reasons, is for all the money they have invested in companies that build weapons, tanks, parts for nuclear warheads, etc. Can you imagine if we didn't spend more money on our military than the next 26 nations COMBINED (25 of them our allies)?! Republicans wouldn't know what to do with themselves! They'd be using billions and for what? So we don't go all over the world killing innocent women and children? FORGET about it! Their lives aren't worth even a penny!

    May 26, 2013 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  16. Pete

    Come on posters the republicans and the MIC are joined at the hip and the MICs lobbyists make sure it stays that way ...MIC,republicans are crying when the eventual draw down in troops starting in 2014 and Boehner will be crying the loudest because midterms will be finishing off his republican buds as well,remember in this instance two wrongs make a hell of a right with republicans and the Afghanistan war both gone after 2014!!

    May 26, 2013 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  17. asm_ith

    Lindsey Graham said “I’ve never been more worried about our national security as I am right now." That means he was less concerned on Sept. 10, 2001. Apparently, living in ignorance about the threats worries him less than the situation we are in now, where we are aware of the threats. In what way does keeping on a constant war footing, intervening in places which create more terrorists, etc. make us more secure? At least today, we are aware of threats, have a focus on intelligence (both inside the country and in other countries), etc. It would be one thing if all he said that he felt it made us less secure than if we didn't change policy. But it is difficult to imagine that the change in policy endangers our national security more than it has ever been.

    May 26, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  18. somebuffguy

    The only reason Republicans find it disturbing for many reasons, is for all the money they have invested in companies that build weapons, tanks, parts for nuclear warheads, etc. Can you imagine if we didn't spend more money on our military than the next 26 nations COMBINED (25 of them our allies)?! Republicans wouldn't know what to do with themselves! They'd be LOSING billions and for what? So we don't go all over the world killing innocent women and children? FORGET about it! Their lives aren't worth even a penny!

    May 26, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  19. Steve

    What a shocker. Repugs want to keep the status quo.

    May 26, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  20. Duh

    So the hypocritical Republicans want "post-9/11 security" with "pre-9/11 freedom" even though the two are give-and-take relationships.

    May 26, 2013 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  21. NameGoose

    President Bush did a great job in keeping our country safe after we were attack on 9-11. And I must add, at least he respected and honor our military the way a Commander and Chief should. This President we have now and his assnine administration is clueless in regards to military issues. Obama and his administration also are nothing but lies, lies and more lies. Obama has to go so we can restore honor and class back to our great country.

    May 26, 2013 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  22. Eric Ekstrom

    The President is Correct: Jihadism is only an extremist factor, and as they are found in local pockets well hidden from only the most bizarre religions, which by the way teach contrary to God's message to our fallen parents Adam n Eve. Oh? What was the 'message'? To redeem the self by admitting your world of hedonist behavior is a barren one. But, back to the Jihadists. The BEST and ONLY way to catch these guys is to wait for those pockets to reveal themselves when they act out with murder and mayhem. Then and ONLY THEN can we put the pieces of the puzzle of how to round up each and every localized network and then go after them, not the itty bitty pockets which would be astronomically costly causing loss of money in which to defend ourselves! Idiots!

    May 26, 2013 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  23. Perplexed

    Here we go again with the do nothing Republican party. Must I remind you that most of those that were eligible to fight in at least 3 wars had every tired excuse not to. They are the biggest loudest hypocrites in America. They were only silent when they received warnings that there would be an attack by airplanes just before 9/11. After that they managed to waste our money, men and women fighting the wrong country and turning countries against us. They have nothing to offer but fear and the media keeps giving them and their low intelligent supporters an audience. Shut up!

    May 26, 2013 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  24. Jos

    I personally feel that it's the wrong time to relax. We're still getting over the Boston bombings, England is mourning the loss of a soldier, and Al Quida has worked hard in both the real world and cyber world to recruit people on our side of the field who are dumb enough to listen. Will there be a time to cool it? Likely, but it's impossible when terrorist activity is common. Party loyalists aside, I feel that both sides could agree that it was just a case of the right message at the wrong time.

    May 26, 2013 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  25. Duh

    So let me get this straight, the Republicans want to increase counter-terrorism intelligence for "security" and decrease counter-terrorism intelligence for "freedom" at the same time. Makes sense.

    May 26, 2013 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
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