May 26th, 2013
11:13 AM ET
10 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.

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"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. Frank

    Hard to respond to most of these posts. I guess that I'll just have to say again, strictly an observation, that those who can't intelligently defend their argument usually turn to insults. People will stand on their side and throw stones at anyone with a different opinion (racist, Henny Penny, etc, etc.) For this reason, I feel that the comment made by elliott carlin is probably fact, "We're doomed".

    May 27, 2013 07:29 am at 7:29 am |
  2. ronvan

    DISGUSTING, INSULTING & WORTHLESS= Republicans! I am so fed up with the repuks "WAR" on the president! For them the POTUS is the anti-christ! THEIR personal beleifs, trump OUR needs on a daily basis! Now, we can scream all we want BUT, if we re-elect these same war mongering, do nothing politicians, then it is OUR FAULT!!

    May 27, 2013 07:41 am at 7:41 am |
  3. getreal

    Obama's real agenda is to weaken the US......and then allow his Muslim brothers to attack.

    May 27, 2013 07:59 am at 7:59 am |
  4. J Smith

    Both sides are correct. The war has to be brought to an end but we cannot return to a pre 9/11 mentality.

    May 27, 2013 08:29 am at 8:29 am |
  5. penguin

    Terrorism isn't something to be ignored, but the number of US citizens killed by religious terror groups pale in contrast to the number killed by auto accident,or pollution, or accidental gun deaths. While we shouldn't ignore terrorist threats, much of the money spent on "the war on terror" would be better spent elsewhere

    May 27, 2013 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  6. askdavey

    GOP..........THE SKY IS FALLING..................maybe this quote will ring a bell !!!

    May 27, 2013 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  7. Jeb

    The party of NO says what?

    That's right, they just say NO.

    That's really all they have to offer.

    May 27, 2013 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  8. kat

    The republican's mentality worries me!

    May 27, 2013 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  9. On Streetwise

    Paranoid... Simple and clear. Like our Rep. Michele "Orwellian" Bachmenn and her Glenn Beck style half cocked conspires. The GOP/Tea have no new ideas, just spin, lie, hate, fear and smear and now they look to Rand Paul. Be afraid people... be very, very afraid indeed.

    May 27, 2013 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  10. Slim

    @kat Which republican?

    May 27, 2013 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  11. Paladin Knight

    GOP is more worried about the government contracts their campaign contributors and relatives will be losing as the "War On Terror" ends more than anything.

    May 27, 2013 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  12. M.A.P.

    Every time someone labells the President a socialist or communist they lose their argument with that word. The POTUS is definately NOT a communist or a socialist and has really done something the republicans will never understand – he went to the CENTER. A lot of the left wing fringe of the Dems aren't happy with Obama, but he doesn't pander to them at every corner. Funny how the Republicans feel like their ownly hope is to rally the uneduvcated and lazy bigots into a hate filled anti US but "patriotic" mob. Republicans keep failing and it will only get worse for them until they are a fringe party with less and less influence.

    May 27, 2013 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  13. Steve

    We've lived in a state of perpetual fear for too long. We've sacrificed too much and let a 1950s-style paranoia seep back into our national dialogue.

    It's funny... Republicans warn us about big, intrusive government, but it's fine with them when it's in the name of counterterrorism and takes away any American freedom except the Second Amendment.

    May 27, 2013 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
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