May 26th, 2013
11:13 AM ET
8 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. Maddog2020

    I say let Obama have his way for the next 3 years. When something happens it will all be on him.

    May 26, 2013 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
  2. Warren Peace

    Never fear! The Military Industrial Complex will always ensure that we have at least one enemy who poses such a threat that we must continually build/expend/build weapons and ammunition. If not al Queda, Iran or PRNK, it will be aliens.

    May 26, 2013 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  3. Maddog2020

    Reply to Hoffman. A major terror attack did happen. Ever hear of Boston bombing?

    May 26, 2013 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  4. Peter

    So far on these posting boards, I have learned that:

    1) Obama is a Muslim.

    2) Obama is un-American because he was not born in the USA

    3) ALL Muslims are terrorists.

    4) ALL Muslims, whether they are US citizens or not, second or third generation or not, should be stripped of their citizenship and deported. This should be done, as the poster said, "to protect the freedoms that we have in this country".

    May 26, 2013 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  5. sigturner

    Never mind a "returning to pre-9/11" mentality, whatever that means. We need to adopt some very basic ant-terrorism strategies, such as barring the immigration of families who hail from terrorist hotbeds such as Chechnya. This way, we won't have to worry about their kids embracing the ant-American terrorist mentality of their native homeland when they grow up, and setting off IEDs at public events in their adopted homeland.

    May 26, 2013 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  6. donna

    History has determined that these "terrorists" aren't acting blindly, but for reasons to do with American interference in their politics. Going back to a pre-9/11 mentality only makes sense.

    Republicans are warmongers who want nothing better than an excuse to monitor the affairs of private citizens.

    May 26, 2013 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  7. Al

    Having a muslim raised and muslim named president is not healthy for this country.

    Yes, some Americans are really this uneducated.

    May 26, 2013 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  8. Thinkergal

    I totally disagree with Graham and the other Repubs. They would like to keep the American people subjugated to their agenda with a continuum of irrational fear.

    May 26, 2013 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  9. Ron

    Bill Clinton set us up for 9-11 ! Now Barrack wants to set us up for 9-11 part two !!!!!!!!!!!!!!1111111

    May 26, 2013 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  10. TLORop

    The GOP is purposely misinterpreting Obama. Obama Never said we should return to the pre 9/11 stance. He said we need to evolve as the terrorists have evolved their tactics.

    May 26, 2013 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  11. Ted Ward

    So does this mean a normalization of the war on terror, it's now just going to be standard operating procedure and we are not going to call it a war anymore, or are we just going to go whistling through the graveyard, drop our guard, and pretend everything is fine when it isn't?

    May 26, 2013 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  12. martiniano

    Why are they worried? Because weapon sales will drop if we stop killing people! That means the Big Murder firms like Lockheed, Northrop and GE are going to be upset and when Big Murder is upset so are their puppets in DC.

    May 26, 2013 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  13. Unknownian

    "The chairman of the House homeland security panel says Obama's call for a "pre-9/11 mentality" could leave the U.S. unprepared".
    Yeah, and eliminate the chairman's job.

    May 26, 2013 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  14. GK

    Lacking any sort of actual positive plans on any issue, the Republicans seem to be looking to the past for their talking points:

    "The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is TELL THEM THEY ARE BEING ATTACKED, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger."

    Herman Goering0 at the Nuremberg Trials.

    May 26, 2013 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  15. DougOz

    I'd like to think no one is secretly wishing for a major terror attack. But if one does happen there will be plenty of congressmen chirping for a new aircraft carrier to combat it.

    May 26, 2013 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  16. P Lopez

    Are talking the pre-9/11 Bush terror policies or thepre-9/11 Clinton policies? Clinton was trying to kill bin Laden, then Bush disassembled the task force on terrorism Clinton had created. Then 9/11 happened.

    May 26, 2013 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  17. 1985

    The Republican mentality reminds me of Orwells 1984, especially the quote " For as long as Winston can recall, Oceania has been in a constant state of war – with whom it was at war is of neither importance nor consequence". Nothing but a bunch of fearmongers who do not want to adjust to a changing world.

    May 26, 2013 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  18. steve

    Republicans want you to stay scared sheeple.

    May 26, 2013 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  19. True American

    We need to follow the trail of all funding by Republican big wigs as they can potentially fund the terrorists to attack us so they can prove their point for next election.

    May 26, 2013 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  20. DigDug2k

    I expected as much. Make your calendars for one month from now when the GOP will start complaining that we shouldn't be using drones again.

    He threw them a bone this week. "Pass some laws that restrict presidential power, and I'll happily sign them." With this congress in place, it will never happen. Heck, Obama could say "Pass a law that makes it illegal for muslims to be present and I'll sign it and retire", and they still wouldn't because they can't bring themselves to agree with him on anything.

    May 26, 2013 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  21. Chuck

    The Republicans would have found something to kvetch about Obama's speech, no matter what he said.

    Let's not forget that, "pre-9/11," the then-president ignored or dismissed many signs and warnings from various areas of his administration that could have led to the prevention of what happened that day. So dialing back to pre-9/11 levels, especially with the structural changes and improvements made to the various law enforcement and intelligence agencies since then, shouldn't leave us vulnerable to imminent annihilation if signs are warnings are properly heeded.

    May 26, 2013 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  22. Jeffrey W Smith

    homeand secrity spending reached $69 billion

    May 26, 2013 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  23. mb2010a

    The Republicans don't like what the President said in a speech...horrors. I'm shocked...shocked I tell you. Same old nonsense from the same old Republicans. He's right and they're wrong...get over it.

    May 26, 2013 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  24. Independent for sure

    Obama is horrible..... You guys act like he is 'anti-war' while he is blindly droning families like we are playing a video game....

    May 26, 2013 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  25. Grinning Libber

    The regressive neocons must feed the war machine with money and gun fodder. DRAFT THE RICH!

    May 26, 2013 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
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