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)

    Even though most Republicons, and many of the Dems are vaguely criminal, I don't think they have the olives in the sack required to pull off another 9/11. But I could be wrong.

    May 26, 2013 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  2. brown

    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?

    It is thinking like this from our forever re-elected senators that has given us a terrorism problem to begin with.
    The geopolitics these fools are engaged in has left America in the most weakened position she has ever been in.

    The best defense against terrorism is to get involved in our government and impose some oversight of what our Congress is doing in our names in foreign lands. Our Congress is producing the terrorists that will threaten our kids

    Please vote!

    May 26, 2013 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  3. sparky

    The fact is that the Republicans, who SAY they're for small government, are mouthpieces for Lockheed, Boeing, Halliburton, and other beltway bandits who make a killing from never-ending war.

    Aside from maybe Ron Paul, the GOP doesn't believe in individual liberty. Otherwise, they'd be saying to Obama, "What took you so long???"

    The last decade has seen a precipitous erosion of civil rights. Warrantless wiretaps, warping the meaning of "imminent threat" to allow lethal force against US citizens, torture, indefinite detention - all made possible by a party that believes the Constitution isn't for just anybody. Just the good guys, and they get to decide who that is.

    May 26, 2013 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  4. Mickey D

    This president has no clue. Community organizer can't direct a foreign policy in the most dangerous times. There will be a major war in the next 5 years and it will be because we let our guard down. I can't stand that half wit president.

    May 26, 2013 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  5. gary

    These GOP'ers are so worried about Threats from abroad. Same group of nit-wits that won't pass any gun reform laws, because they think 20 dead first grader's isnt that big of a deal. They are only worried because their Gravy Train is about to dry up, and their pockets are about to be lightened considerably. This contraction policy is good. The USA cannot be the worlds police officer. Bring the troops home (funny how none of these congressmen or senators have kids in the armed forces at any level..they're all too busy working mom and dads connections to get jobs at Exxon and Halliburton earning $300K a year plus bonuses). We've done enough damage. Time to regroup, rebuild America. Lets cut some costs by bringing back the troops and shutting down some bases, and redirecting it to the intelligence community and to domestic agencies to prevent attacks from happening.

    May 26, 2013 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  6. new2abq

    We need to remember who we once were and we need to act as great as we were then to be as great as we can be in the future.

    May 26, 2013 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  7. OregonRealist

    As much as I dislike the current administration and its policies, I agree with Obama on this, at least in principle.
    I'm tired of seeing our flag at half-mast, I'm tired of the Patriot Act and the NDAA.

    May 26, 2013 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  8. Chris

    +1 for OBama

    -an Independent.

    May 26, 2013 01:56 pm at 1:56 pm |
  9. Floyd from Illinois

    Up the game in the war on terror- obama is wrong.

    Surge the Afghan campaign – Obama is wrong.

    Wind down the Iraq war – Obama is wrong.

    Wind down the Afghan war – Obama is wrong.

    Drone strikes on terrorists – Obama is wrong.

    Change drone strike policy – Obama is wrong.

    Escalata e the WOT – Obama is wrong.

    De-escalatae the WOT – Obama is wrong.

    I sense a pattern – and it is a self-contradicting, circular pattern that amounts to a rut that Republicans simply cannot escape from.

    May 26, 2013 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  10. Steve

    "Walk Softly and Carry a Big Stick" Republicans used to understand this but forgot.

    May 26, 2013 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  11. General Bush

    That is right. We need to be ready to fight 3 concurrent wars including one against aliens from Mars. So lets start distributing Bushmasters to all able bodied kids.

    May 26, 2013 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  12. conoclast

    It's time now for the GOP to come to a decision: are they republicans or are they Americans? Their knee-jerk negative response to the president's every attempt to govern-not to mention their threats to commit national economic suicide if they don't get their way-is fast approaching what used to be called "treason".

    Face it throwbacks, the American people have spoken very clearly: YOU LOST THE ELECTION. Now please act like you still consider yourselves one of us.

    May 26, 2013 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  13. caesarbc

    Here's an idea... create jobs.

    Then the world will heal like it has before.

    May 26, 2013 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  14. Kevin

    I am not worried about terror because the worst thing that can happen to me is I die and suffer forever. And even thats endurable even its not pleasant because if I suffer forever, then I have to logically exist forever in order to feel suffering forever since obviously only people who exist can suffer

    May 26, 2013 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  15. Fish

    I think we should rethink our verbiage when we use the term terror. America is not terrorized by these people because they cannot cause national destruction only local mayhem. Terror happened in WWII when the axis powers threatened world domination and communication was primitive compared to now when even a radio program could cause widespread panic. We have the finest military the world has ever known, we do not fear these hoodlums because we have been protected from them. We fear greed the only force which can destroy our nation. That is what should be termed terror!!!

    May 26, 2013 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  16. sqeptiq

    If the debt were paid off in the next three years, unemployment went to zero, and every terrorist group in the world laid down their arms and swore allegiance to the US, teapublicans would blame Obama for dragging his feet, destroying the economy and surrendering to the enemy. And they still would filibuster everything he tried to do.

    May 26, 2013 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  17. Rankdaddy

    "Mission Accomplished"-minus the banner.

    May 26, 2013 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  18. sparky

    It's a big-business world. We just happen to live here. The only way that the war will end is if Wall St. decides that it the war is dragging the economy down.

    Then the bought-and-paid-for GOP will run around in circles trying to decide which master it wants to please more: The banksters or the defense industry.

    Then, sorry defense industry: Wall St. can pay 100 times more for a senator than you can.

    May 26, 2013 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  19. NameGoose

    This is definitely the worst President we have ever had. For god sake please get him out of office. I am a veteran and I look upon this President as the most stupid assnine President we have ever had. He knows nothing about the military. People wake up, this President and his administration are criminal and stupid with the ideals they have in store for America. Please let's get rid of this President and bring in a President who has intelligence, understands the military, one who is honest and one who has class to bring honor and respect back to our great country.

    May 26, 2013 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  20. Hans Stuk

    Yet it was Bush's failed policies that got us into this mess in the first place. Just think if the FBI/CIA would have acted on the tip that terrorists were planning to hijack planes. They had credible evidence days before the attacks. Had they not ignored the threats there never would have been a 9/11 and we wouldn't have air marshalls on every plane, huge wasteful security checkpoints and all this other crap we go through for the "War on Terror".

    We then invaded Afghanistan and Iraq for what? Of course we'll be attacked on foreign soil but they haven't been successful on US soil since. I would not expect the FBI/CIA to stand down based on this change.

    May 26, 2013 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  21. Rick Johnson

    Obama is the ultimate poster child for affirmative action. An unqualified neo-marxist that wants to bring the U.S. down to the level of the rest of the world because of his own narcisistic predjudices.

    May 26, 2013 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  22. rrock

    How can you have a war last forever? I guess the republicans and their culture of fear can justify a bloated defense department and huge payments to defense contractors.

    May 26, 2013 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  23. Phattee

    Of course it does. For years GOP power has largely been built on a foundation of fear, superstition, and stupidity.

    May 26, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  24. Chuck

    "McCaul said Sunday the intelligence he’s seen as chairman of the homeland security panel suggests a more serious danger than Obama described." What a tool McCaul is. Show us the threats or resign.

    May 26, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  25. joyce m. small

    if that's true I would think it would be good to keep our friends close and our enemies
    closer. A self-fulling prophecy is definitely possible when it comes to terror attacks..
    Be prepared!

    May 26, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
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