April 30th, 2009
02:30 PM ET
13 years ago

New GOP video hits Obama on terrorism

WASHINGTON (CNN) - House Republican leader John Boehner released a lengthy Web video Thursday suggesting Democrats are not keeping Americans safe - part of what GOP sources tell CNN is a renewed political effort to push a historically winning issue for Republicans: national security.

"We're quite happy to be talking about national security," said a House GOP leadership aide, who requested anonymity to speak freely about internal strategy.

The aide insisted that Republicans have substantive, serious policy differences with President Obama on national security - especially with regard to his approach to dealing with detained terror suspects.

But the GOP aide also conceded Republicans believe those differences have a political upside for them.

"It's an issue that traditionally plays well for us," said the aide.

"From a political perspective, it will be beneficial over the long run."

The campaign-style video, created by a Boehner aide in his Capitol office, begins with the question, "What are Democrats doing to keep America safe?" Then, with ominous music in the background, it splices in sound bites from news reports and Republicans talking about the dangers of President Obama's decision to close Guantanamo Bay, and release Bush-era memos about harsh interrogation techniques.

The video's climax races through images of President Obama hugging the Saudi king, shaking hands with Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and ends with an image of the Pentagon burning on 9/11, followed by a final question: "Do you feel safer?"

Boehner spokeswoman Antonia Ferrier defended using the 9/11 image.

"The events of Sept. 11 happened. Pretending they didn't won't make America any safer. And ignoring the fact that it happened is even worse," said Ferrier.

When asked by CNN why he released what some will view as an alarmist video, Boehner replied that he is trying to "push the administration to - to tell us, what is the overarching strategy to take on the terrorists and defeat them and to help keep America safe?"

CNN is told by a GOP source that the idea for the headline-grabbing video was born out of strategy sessions among Boehner, his staff, and other Republican leaders about the fact that they believe President Obama is increasingly politically vulnerable on the issue of terrorism.

That view is shared by Republicans in the Senate as well.

"This is one of those cases where good policy makes good politics," said a Senate GOP leadership aide, in describing their decision to pound away at President Obama closing Guantanamo Bay prison.

In fact, GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell made a rare appearance at a Senate Appropriations hearing Thursday in order to publicly question Defense Secretary Robert Gates about closing Guantanamo Bay.

McConnell chastised Gates about the fact that President Obama announced his decision to shut the prison before making alternative plans for the prisoners there.

"We haven't been attacked against since 9/11. We like that and we'd like for that record to continue," McConnell told Gates.

President Bush successfully won re-election in 2004 by warning voters that his Democratic opponent, John Kerry, would make them less safe.

In 2008, John McCain also tried labeling Barack Obama as an inexperienced leader whose policies on Iraq and other global hotspots would jeopardize America's security.

But that stopped resonating, as the ailing economy took over as voters' most important priority.

Today, economic troubles loom larger than ever, and a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll earlier this month suggested Americans do not agree with Republicans that President Obama is making them less safe.

When asked whether the president's actions increased chances of a terrorist attack in the U.S., only 26 percent said yes, and 72 percent said no.

Republicans insist national security will return to the forefront if they continue to highlight what they call the dangers and unanswered questions about Obama policies.

UPDATE: Democrats dismissed the video. "Is it any wonder that voters and senators alike are running away in droves from the Republican party?" said Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. "Looks like they have taken a page from the discredited Rove/Bush/Cheney playbook. This ad is nothing more than a pathetic attempt to play up the politics of fear and smear."

Filed under: John Boehner • President Obama
soundoff (186 Responses)
  1. Cleaning up after W

    Yeah, the republicans kept us safe. Unless you count that one incident called 9/11.... Just forget about that one, right?

    April 30, 2009 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  2. Tim

    John Boehner pulls a big one. What a bunch of frickin cry babies!!! How about trying something new, think before you speak and then shut the heck up.

    April 30, 2009 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    I am so happy to hear that frightening Americans is an issue that works well for the GOP. No wonder the source did not want to be named when he is saying that fear is all the GOP has left.

    April 30, 2009 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  4. smoothoperator

    Poor Republicans, they are frozen on the 1950's state of mind......when are they going to wake up and realize that we are in 2009?

    April 30, 2009 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  5. GOP using fear is so cute!

    Awww this is so cute, they can't attack Obama on economic policies so now the shift has moved on to keeping America safe. That is so high school cute.

    Well, we havent had a terrorist attack in 100 days so according to Republican standards, Obama's policies are working.

    But I know what this is reall about, taking the focus off the economy that stopped plummeting before people realize that Obama's policies are working.

    Razzle Dazzle!

    April 30, 2009 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  6. Sammy

    Traditionally the guy is right and national security is a republican issue. The problem is, for the last 8 years their politics usurped everything else about it. It has happened before and it will happen again but they should be careful complaining about Obama's national security policies when their own was pathetic and dangerous.

    April 30, 2009 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  7. Mike in MN

    In last nights press conference Obama said that even if the enhanced interogation methods resulted in getting information, it does not matter because other methods would have gotten the same results.
    So there are some much needed follow up questions.
    Were these other methods available to the CIA and did they have knowledge of them at the time?
    Did the CIA not try these other methods and just went right to the enhanced methods?
    Or did the CIA try the other methods Obama claims would have worked and they in fact failed leading the CIA to use the enhanced methods?
    I think it is important to know the answer to these questions so the American people can decide if Obama is willing to do what it takes to keep us safe.

    April 30, 2009 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  8. Fla.

    After the last eight years, I do NOT trust the GOP with national security. What a mess their administration/neocons made. No credibility.

    Fortunately, President Obama is returning competence back to our security interests.

    April 30, 2009 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  9. anna perez

    Remember the Saturday Night Live sketch, I think a couple of months ago lampooning the Repubs in Congress at a "strategy session" trying to think of something–anything to use against Pres. Obama that would have even a little traction? The comedians finally settled on slamming Obama's daughters. These real life comedians have settled on fear mongering but their "strategy" will be just as ineffective and just as stupid.

    April 30, 2009 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  10. Tom

    9/11 happened on the GOP watch... Republican President and Republican controlled Congress.

    It wasn't "Clinton's Fault", anymore than it will be "Bush's Fault" if, god forbid, the US is attacked again on 9/11/2009.

    Can you imagine Obama being allowed to get away with blaming an attack on the previous president?

    How do we as a country continue to have blinders on that Bush and team failed at their duty to keep us safe?

    He had been in office for 8 months. Just look at all that Obama has accomplished in just over 3 months!

    April 30, 2009 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  11. Len

    I thought the Repulbicans were going to begin a new stratergy to rebuild their party. It sounds the same to me....Govern by FEAR and HATE. This is unpatriotic!!!!

    President Obama and his administration are keeping us safe...

    The Republican party is history!!

    April 30, 2009 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
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