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. Joan

    President Obama's speech made sense, was timely, covered a lot of very important issues and showed that he understands the current problems. He does not focus on the past as several of his opponents seem to be doing. Things have changed in the world and you have to be able to change too to face those challenges. That is why the Republicans didn't get his speech because they can't grasp the concept of moving on with the times.

    May 26, 2013 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  2. Quest

    The Republican party is worthless! We need to revenue here, not in the overseas military.

    May 26, 2013 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  3. allan dupuis

    its funny how the republicans trash this idea when there are tons of articles explaining how 9 in 10 republicans personally profit off the war machine. if your making money off something shut your fasciest mouth when it comes to policy change. i know for one im sick and tired of seeing what has been happening around me since Georgyboy Bush put on his big boy pants and declared war on the world.. (which his entire family still profits from).

    May 26, 2013 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  4. Fish

    The GOP doesn't care about America's safety they only care if their stocks do well. When they talk about security they are concerned if the military contracts get cut off or the money flow is interrupted in any way. This is all about money, the wars, our economic collapse, the stock market rallies. the war on the middle-class. It's simply greed gone wild!!!

    May 26, 2013 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  5. hasc

    Okay, then we no longer need a Department of Homeland Security. That will be a welcome change.

    May 26, 2013 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  6. disgustedNY

    Pre-911 mindset mentality....OH THE HYPOCRISY OF THE GOP. During the summer of 2001, the CSG (counter-terrorism security group) pleaded with the Bush administration to bomb Al-Qeda camps and go after Bin Laden directly, but Bush never believed that one man could be so dangerous so he ignored them.

    May 26, 2013 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  7. frank

    And when this policy shift fails, as all of his initiatives are failures reducing this country to third class what will he say? I didn't know, it wasn't me, we didn't know!!!! And he is supposed to be the Commander in Chief, Protector of this country? And what other Constitutional Rights MUST us citizens GIVE UP so the KING OF LIARS can get his way????? Make him Accountable!!!!

    May 26, 2013 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  8. davecu

    ""We have to recognize that the scale of this threat closely resembles the types of attacks we faced before 9/11," the president said."

    We weren't prepared then and Barry is making sure we won't be prepared again.
    This borders on treason!

    May 26, 2013 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  9. FamilyDoc2

    Republicans have been playing the "defense card" on the Democrats ever since Chiang Kai-Shek was losing to Mao. It worked against our national interests then and it has been working against our national interests since 1960. Military spending goes to defense contractors, who do support both sides but support the GOP more. Tell me the name of one national Democratic figure who has been CEO of a defense contractor?

    May 26, 2013 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  10. g

    the obama team killed more terrorist in three years,then bush and cheney did in eight years.they got more americans killed then terrorist.but they did build a billion dollar embassy for the oil companies command post

    May 26, 2013 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  11. CraigRB

    It's the Republicans that are irrelevant. Drones are very relevant.

    May 26, 2013 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  12. Mike

    Pre-9/11 mentality? Does that mean we will ignore all the intelligence saying an attack is imminent while preparing to invade another country for its natural resources?

    May 26, 2013 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  13. gerry luimes

    Just leave all the pending political soluitions to mr.Cruz,the darling of the Tea party.He,the deranged born in Canada power seeker , invited to the Divided States of A as its citizen will make certain to change that country into a no mans land as soon as possible.

    May 26, 2013 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  14. texasnotea

    If Obama gave a speech and said he is for free speech the republicans would convene a hearing to investigate why the President wants to give something free away without Congresses approval. They would call him "King" and"dictator" and many other things just as they have with every other positive thought the President has put forward. All the while, America as a whole suffers the consequences of a do nothing republican led Congress.

    May 26, 2013 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  15. texasnotea

    The republicans in Congress need to vote for the 38th time to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act to show their base they are working so hard to perform the job they were elected to do.

    May 26, 2013 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  16. texasnotea

    And to show the rest of America how misguided they really are.

    May 26, 2013 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  17. sadlyperturbed

    Republicans seem to love to live in fear. They have had years of fear, but never seem to grow tired of it. Fear of terrorists, fear of Obama and his policies, fear of people being gay, fear of the poor. The list goes on and on.

    May 26, 2013 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  18. Indy for all

    As one shouldn't be for repubs, don't be a drone for the dems (Obama/ the admin) either as they are no better. We should be skeptical of all gov't... Independent or nothing!

    May 26, 2013 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  19. Jerry

    Hammy said:
    "It's deeper than just this one subject. Most republicans get worried when the sun goes down in the evening. They just can not figure out where it goes, or if it'll return."

    Whereas the Democrats create a "Department of Natural Lighting" with a staff of 12,000 and an annual budget of $39 billion to make sure it DOES come up again, a "Department of Lighting Relief" with a staff of 24,000 and an annual budget of $52 billion to make sure it goes down again, commission a $1.2 billion study to see if we can make it come up and go down more efficiently, a $630 million study into staffing inefficiencies at the new agencies, a Congressional Commission to investigate the whole "sun going-up, sun going-down" thing and figure out who's to blame (i.e. how to blame the Republicans,) create 137 new taxes and raise everyone's Income Tax to pay for it all.

    May 26, 2013 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  20. RossOKC

    Everything Obama proposes worries Republicans, Health Care Reform, the Stimulus (began by Bush), Wall Street Reform, Ending the War in Iraq, Drawdown of War in Afghanistan, Eliminating Osama bin laden, Turning Around U.S. Auto Industry, Recapitalizing Banks, Repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Toppling Moammar Gaddafi, Telling Mubarak to Go, Reversing Bush Torture Policies, Improving America’s Image Abroad, Kicking Banks Out of Federal Student Loan Program, Expanding Pell Grant Spending, Increasing Support for Veterans....

    May 26, 2013 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  21. Jeff

    I think it will be news when Obama does something that Republicans like.

    May 26, 2013 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  22. NY Repub

    These are the same Republicans that missed all the warnings of 9/11, said the Iraqi's would welcome us with open arms and agreed with Bush when he says he didn't worry about Bin Ladin anymore. Iraq was a waste of 1 trillion dollars and counting. Afganistan would have been over in 3 months if resources were not diverted for a planned war in Iraq and we are supposed to trust them on national security.

    May 26, 2013 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  23. Brian Smith

    Yeah, it would be much better for us to continue to kill anyone we feel like, no matter where they are or what time it is, or for whatever reason we want to make up. By doing that we improve our country's safety a hundred-fold.

    May 26, 2013 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  24. The Rev Dr Sherwood Forrester

    Pray, CNN, why is this even news? Of course the Republicans are "worried", because that's their automatic stance: if a Democrat says it, they don't bother listening, they automatically oppose it, even if it's something that a Republican originally proposed.

    May 26, 2013 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  25. ateef khan

    ISLAMIC country of PAKISTAN is most respect, Peace and woman rights. Islamic country of PAKISTAN is Victim here...okay? understand?jdsfdsif0

    May 26, 2013 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
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