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. tyler

    It wasn't the pre- 911 terror policy that brought 9/11. It was the inept republican Bush leadership that brought 9/11. They knew that Bin Laden wanted to attack the WTC. It was handed to them on a silver platter by the CIA. They ignored it. Lesson: Don't hire republicans for executive roles!

    May 26, 2013 06:27 pm at 6:27 pm |
  2. Ralphdsc

    Well the repukicans are correct they bible has told them that we must be at war with the world. Gee, I wonder why this country is in trouble- our education and freedom are being attacked by these idiots.

    May 26, 2013 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  3. FactChecker

    Too bad we wasted so many years concentrating on Iraq and put al Qaeda on the back burner. We lost the initiative there. Step one should have been to exterminate everyone hiding in Tora Bora. What we did there was military ineptness of the worst kind.

    May 26, 2013 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  4. Mike

    Everything "worries"the GOP. They are now the CLP- The Chicken Little Party.

    May 26, 2013 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  5. JRJ

    One whacko with a bomb is what we are talking about fighting. Impossible, especially since they have C NN to advertise for more.

    May 26, 2013 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  6. Searcher

    NO, the GOP wants ETERNAL WAR. They just need to slash Social Security to pay for it......

    May 26, 2013 06:56 pm at 6:56 pm |
  7. Ken

    Our prez can say anything he wants, but it doesn't make it real. Look at Boston, and England, the enemy is still fighting us. They still are at war with us, and we are talking about just letting them go?

    May 26, 2013 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  8. Freddo

    The way we were caught by surprise on 9/11 – particularly given that there were warnings of attempts to hijack and crash planes in the Philippines – should have been enough of a reminder that we can't return to the "mentality" of pre 9/11.

    Obama has lost his marbles.

    May 26, 2013 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  9. Conservative

    Everyone commenting here about the evil Republicans and their propensity to disagree with President Obama is simply regurgitating the liberal rhetoric supplied by media organizations like CNN, NBC, MSNBC, CBS, and ABC. Republicans want to know where the money is coming from because THERE IS NO MONEY. Matters of money are very simple: you can't spend more than you have. The FED is printing money that doesn't exist, and Obama is spending money that doesn't exist.

    Every politician will try to spend money in certain ways to appease the lobbyists who pour money into their political campaigns and cement their power. This is not endemic to the Republican Party–it's an issue tainting all parties and politicians. Instead of making ignorant blanket statements about all Republicans (because I'm sure you all personally know a bunch of them), do some real reading from a source that isn't 'mainstream'. Form some conclusions on your own.

    Wars aren't necessarily good for the country, just like federally funded entitlement programs and government-run health care aren't necessarily good for the country. Stop hurling these childish insults around and educate yourselves. You might become libertarians.

    May 26, 2013 07:05 pm at 7:05 pm |
  10. Conservative

    where were you during the Boston Marathon bombings, Elliot?

    May 26, 2013 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  11. Fed up with the GOP

    First, they're not happy about the war on terror and complain about the cost... Now they complain about the phaseout of OVERSEAS military operations against terrorists. Hypocrits!

    May 26, 2013 07:09 pm at 7:09 pm |
  12. Cory

    Apparently the President forgot about Boston already.

    May 26, 2013 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  13. webvisor2013

    The GOP loves the Fear gets them elected...

    May 26, 2013 07:21 pm at 7:21 pm |
  14. Cindy

    Leftist lib's are cowards.

    May 26, 2013 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  15. works4me

    "pre-9/11 mentality,"... ah yes under the Republicans. That was 12 years ago. They don't believe we've come a long way since then? What a narrow minded bunch of GOParrots.
    President Obama is winding it down and they want to turn it up? WT*

    May 26, 2013 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  16. red shirt from season 2

    in very simple terms, they blew up 2 buildings, we blew up 2 of their COUNTRIES.... i think we're even arent we?

    May 26, 2013 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  17. Marie MD

    @rick, rick rick, Sticking your head in the sand, and declaring we are no longer at war, is going to laughable when the next attack comes......and we all KNOW it is coming.\
    Isn't that what the war criminal #43 and his cronies did with 9/11? They had plenty of intelligence reports that civilian planes were going to be flown into buildings.
    Oh right, 3000+ died (and he started a war that had nothing to do with bin laden where thousands have died) but that's not Benghazi worthy You see how utterly ridiculous your party of tea trolls is?

    May 26, 2013 07:35 pm at 7:35 pm |
  18. Safejourney

    I see the GOP warmongers are hard a work. They want their never ending war. What in the hell is wrong with republicans these days

    May 26, 2013 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  19. Anonymous

    Before you end a war, don't you need to know that the other side agrees?

    May 26, 2013 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  20. Chuk

    GOP will have two problems: first, they will disagree with ANYTHING the President proposes regardless of how reasonable, and second, they are obsessed with defense – always seeing phantom threats. With the second mindset, the country's spending on defense should never be questioned but spending on social programs should be curtailed.
    It's ok for their fellow country men/women to surfer while the country throws its weight around the world.

    May 26, 2013 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  21. Peter

    How do you unilaterally end a war? Did anyone check with the other side?

    May 26, 2013 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  22. Scott

    Such a typical republican response. Take something Obama says, turn it into a straw man, and then use it as a talking point to bash him, even though there's no resemblance whatsoever between what he said and what the Republicans twisted it into. There was NOTHING in Obama's speech that suggested ANYTHING like adopting a "pre-9/11 mentality."

    May 26, 2013 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  23. Justin Staller

    I'll match your "I see a big difference between the president saying a war is at an end and whether or not you've won the war" and I'll raise you one "Mission Accomplished."

    May 26, 2013 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  24. Eric

    From those wonderful people who brought us"Mission Accomplished"!

    May 26, 2013 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  25. jjay7

    When Obama says return to a pre 9/11 mentality, I do not think he means that the country should be run by a barely functional "dry drunk" Republican. We will have to deal with terrorist murders, as we have to deal with other murderers, but we do not have to sacrifice our sanity and our freedom to do it.

    May 26, 2013 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
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