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. Greg

    The US government is the most dangerous terrorist organization in the world according to the UN, but hey, what does the rest of the world know, right?

    May 26, 2013 10:45 pm at 10:45 pm |
  2. Anonymous

    Is this the assassination president talking about a war ending. Sure say the war is over...then keep assassinating and killing innocent people with no accountability. The DNC should be listed on the terror watch list. These liberal clowns are killing anyone that disagrees with them. Wake up!

    May 26, 2013 10:45 pm at 10:45 pm |
  3. chris

    I agree that as the terrorists threat evolves to different leverls, we must evolve with it. That makes sense only if you believe in evolution, Mr Graham

    May 26, 2013 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  4. Move_on

    And Lindsay Graham said he disagreed with the president whatever he said.

    May 26, 2013 10:57 pm at 10:57 pm |
  5. maltesefalconx9

    THEY think they are in World War II. THEY are crazy.

    May 26, 2013 11:07 pm at 11:07 pm |
  6. Hypatia

    So what else else is new? They whine about everything.

    May 26, 2013 11:09 pm at 11:09 pm |
  7. In Other Words

    In other words, their corporate interests are not as well served when our government is not war.

    May 26, 2013 11:31 pm at 11:31 pm |
  8. Nonsensical

    The entire War on Terror was simply an overreaction by a president who was ill equipped to deal with the situation. Did the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq result in the death of Osama bin Laden? Any cost benefit analysis would clearly show gobs, and gobs of money have been wasted in this effort. The cost is terms of death and suffering is incalculable.

    May 27, 2013 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  9. Dean

    This is all a distraction from all the Obama scandals. Next week it will be a something else.

    May 27, 2013 12:24 am at 12:24 am |
  10. nik green

    The eternal irony: Bush said that "they attacked us because they hate our freedoms". It appears that the alleged terrorists' wishes have been granted, many times over, by the very government they were attacking. Furthermore, Osama bin Laden *allegedly* said that his big quarrel with the US that gave rise to 9/11 was the fact that US troops were stationed in Saudi Arabia, the cradle of Islam. Within months of 9/11, Osama's wishes were granted to the full, as all US troops were pulled from Saudi Arabia.

    Now, the difficult one, a bizarre situation has never been remotely explained to any satisfaction: how did 19 rookies with very little flying ability manage to run rings around the entire US military-security-intelligence-law enforcement complex, for an hour and a half, in their own front yard, in the most heavily monitored skies on Earth, without a hint of a response.. and every person in every agency that failed so completely that morning was promoted, or "laterally arabesqued" to other positions? And why was the 9/11 Commission hijacked by executive director Philip Zelikow, leading to the unanimous conclusion by a majority of the senior Commissioners that "the 9/11 Commission was set up to fail" and "the truth is probably very different to what was outlined in the Commision's final report"?

    May 27, 2013 12:26 am at 12:26 am |
  11. Deb

    Oh look, it's the evil old men who let Bush start a war based on lies and won't free the people in Gitmo who were never charged because hey, some of them MIGHT be terrorists! I definitely care what they have to say about this subject.

    If there was any justice in the world, people like Graham would be dead and the thousands of Americans, Afghans and Iraqis he helped kill would still be alive. Better yet, make these chicken hawks serve on the front lines. That should be the rule for voting for war – you and your immediate family (everyone 18 and up, male and female) is drafted into service.

    May 27, 2013 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
  12. don keller

    aren't these the same republicans that were wining last week that Obama was being too aggressive ?

    May 27, 2013 12:34 am at 12:34 am |
  13. Antony

    Hold the presses!! Democrats and Republicans don't agree on something!?!?
    Maybe we should examine if the actions we're taking abroad are creating more terror than they're suppressing.

    May 27, 2013 01:11 am at 1:11 am |
  14. coflyboy

    Republicans biggest fear is an economy based on peace. If we stopped waging war, who would line Republican's pockets?

    May 27, 2013 01:14 am at 1:14 am |
  15. BeverlyNC

    Republicans created the era of fear/paranoia/hate called the "war on terror". It was just a part of the Bush administration hysteria to allow them freedom to attack any country by claiming it was a threat -even though there was no valid proof.

    Good for President Obama. It's time to end this constant state of fear, hatred of all Muslims, and the war mentality. We need a domestic war on joblessness, poverty, substandard education, and extremism seen in Republican groups like the Tea Party and the NRA
    It would certainly be nice to go back to a normal airline flight system. The insanity of not being able to take your toiletry items or even a soft drink on the plane needs to be rescinded. If the TSA was going to let on pocket knives – I should be able to take my shampoo on my trip.

    It is time to return to a pre 9/11 mentality. It is time to repeal the intrusive Patriot Act. It is time to leave all the Republican hate, bigotry, lies and do-nothing obstruction in Congress in the past and move the nation forward for the PEOPLE. No more Repulblican in office for a generation so we can return to a nation of morality, humanity, equal treatment of all, and laws putting the People first over corrupt corporations, banks, and those who try to buy elections and take away our most basic right to vote.

    Besides, when do Republicans ever agree or like anything President Obama says, does, or his efforts to serve the People?

    May 27, 2013 01:24 am at 1:24 am |
  16. Texasmike

    More of the same from this deadbeat bunch of rightwing drones. America has drones against terrorism and the republicans use drones against commonsense.

    May 27, 2013 01:34 am at 1:34 am |
  17. Dax

    I don't really see the other side of opinions here. Any suggestions from a supporter's standpoint?

    May 27, 2013 01:54 am at 1:54 am |
  18. J.V.Hodgson

    "Graham Lindsey" "when our homeland is trying to be attacked every day"
    Wow speaks volume favorably for our intelligence services!!
    We know or rather he does where and by whom we have people trying to attack us.. QED, no problem we can drone attack them end of problem.
    They dont face reality:-
    1) In europe only 3 significant attacks since 9/11 ie multiple deaths of more tha 10 people
    2) In the US one on an army base 13 dead. By a rogue muslim officer.
    3) The key point foe me is that by staying militarily in Afghanistan or any other primarily Islamic nations affairs you justify the extreme part of that faiths right to conduct jihad. We were not " invited" to rid Iraq of Saddam Hussein and we certainly were not invited to boot out Al Qaeda and the Taliban from Afghanistan. Taking away key element of Not being at war with Islam or muslims undermines Jihad = less terrorism. Unfortunately our generations long wars have created a very large number very hard line jihad extremists.
    Get real and learn the hard way as the " British empire did " that gun boat diplomacy" was the beginning of end of the Empire. And that what were then described in the 1950"s as guerilla wars were realised as impossible to " win" either militarily and for certain politcally, together, were the end of the of the British Empire. No single nation can maimtain a war ( or threat thereof) all over the world it simply costs to much and appears dictatorial however benevolently intended.
    Americas war on terror.
    Face facts you can not prevent a suicide bomber.

    May 27, 2013 02:01 am at 2:01 am |
  19. Name Uche Agonsi

    When you deliberately distort facts, to suit your purpose, your worries become cosmetic/ artificial. Obama's statement underlined the need for fight against terrorism to reflect shift of threats. It does not imply any scaling downward of security. The strenght was also to score some diploma impacts...... America should not be seen as war monger rather than peace seekers. Otherwise, discrepancies in intellectualism sometimes cause misunderstandings......& unnecessary oppositions. GOPers need to be wiser in their comments.

    May 27, 2013 02:05 am at 2:05 am |
  20. Mike m

    How about end the war of drugs for a start? Our idiotic government, I swear.

    May 27, 2013 02:10 am at 2:10 am |
  21. Reggie

    YES! This is the best thing I've heard Obama say since he was elected. If he keeps talking sense I'll have to start liking him.

    May 27, 2013 02:16 am at 2:16 am |
  22. Name willard

    A federal appeals court is backing the us Goverment descison not to release photo and video take bin laden during and after a raid in which the terroist lead was killed by us commando
    The court said that the cia propertly witheld pubication of the image the court conculded that the photo used the concduct facial recogonation analysis of bin laden could reveal class field intellagence
    Methods and that image of bin laden burial at sea could trigger violence against amercian citizens

    May 27, 2013 02:35 am at 2:35 am |
  23. Daisycutter

    Obamaphobia makes America less safe in the world .

    May 27, 2013 05:28 am at 5:28 am |
  24. Hugh_Mann

    GOP : The Boy That Cried WOLf, WOLF !!!

    May 27, 2013 05:29 am at 5:29 am |
  25. The fact of the matter

    "The global "war on terror," launched in the aftermath of those attacks, must end, "like all wars... " It's an entirely different situation. Always keep your guard up.

    May 27, 2013 06:16 am at 6:16 am |
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