President Barack Obama addressed the nation on Sunday night on the topic of keeping Americans safe in light of the San Bernardino shooting now being linked to terrorism.
Republicans were less than impressed.
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee released a statement:
Under President Obama’s watch, ISIS has expanded their reach and reign of terror – all while he has called them the JV team, assured us they were contained, and lectured the American people about politics that have nothing to do with defeating terrorism. He is more interested in the radical registration and confiscation of weapons from law-abiding Americans than the elimination of radical Islam.
The Obama Administration’s policies have only weakened America’s reputation worldwide and emboldened ISIS. I don’t know why this President can’t say, ‘They are our enemy. We are going to eradicate them before they have the opportunity to keep killing us.’
We must stand up to radical Islamic terrorism before another American life is lost, and President Obama is clearly not up to the job.
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio appeared on Fox News with Bret Baier to give his reaction:
BAIER: Your thoughts on this address from the president about ISIS, the threats, and how they’re evolving.
RUBIO: Well, let’s begin by understanding the mood of the country. People are really scared and worried. Last night I ran into a couple that often travels abroad or to other parts of the country for New Year’s Eve. For the first time in a decade, they’re not traveling anywhere this year because they’re so scared. I ran into someone else who said they’re avoiding stadiums and malls this holiday season because they’re scared. They’re scared not because of these attacks, but the growing sense we have a president that’s completely overwhelmed by them.
This is the president that called them the JV when they first emerged, ISIS did. Just on the eve of the Paris attacks, basically argued they were being contained. Called the attacks in Paris a setback, as opposed to a widespread terrorist attack that showed real progress on the behalf of ISIS. After Paris, by the way, the only emotion the president ever showed on his overseas trips is when he was attacking the GOP on the debates we were having here about what to do with the Syrian refugee program.
Nothing that happened in the speech tonight is going to assuage people’s fears. First of all, we heard tonight that the same strategy that’s brought us to this point is the strategy he’s going to continue with. He honestly believes that there’s a coalition fighting against ISIS. This is absurd. There’s no such coalition. A lot of countries have put their names on a piece of paper, but the reality of it is we continue to conduct very limited air assaults and you can’t just defeat them from an air perspective, and we can talk more about that in this interview I suppose. Beyond that tonight, he announced nothing new other than we need gun control, even though it would have done nothing to prevent the attack in California. We need to prevent people on the no-fly list from buying these weapons, even though there are people that work for DHS that are on the no-fly list.
By the way, these individuals that conducted this attack would not have been prevented from accessing their weapons. And then the cynicism, the cynicism tonight to spend a significant amount of time talking about discrimination against Muslims. Where is there widespread evidence that we have a problem in America with discrimination against Muslims. And the refusal to call this what it is, a war on radical Islam. I am very disappointed tonight. I think not only did the president not make things better tonight, I fear he may have made things worse in the minds of many Americans.
BAIER: Senator, the president finished his address by saying that freedom is more powerful than fear. And specifically, what would a President Rubio do differently than what President Obama is doing and laid out tonight?
RUBIO: Well, first, we would be straight forward and honest with the American people. ISIS is a growing, significant, and very serious threat. They’re not contained. They’re growing ever more present in multiple places. They now have a very substantial presence not just in Iraq and in Syria. They now have very substantial presence in Libya, a growing presence in Afghanistan. They’re actively plotting and you will see them over the next few months attempt attacks in places like Kuwait, Bahrain, and Jordan. They’ll target American troops in places like Turkey. They’re actively trying to use the refugee crisis to infiltrate fighters into Europe, Canada, here into the homeland. They’re a very real threat. We are at war with a radical jihadist group, more capable than any terrorist group and any armed insurgency this nation has ever confronted. We can defeat them. If we employ the power of the United States in a true coalition with others around the world, we can defeat this group. but it will take a combination of things. It will take a substantial ground force to which the primary bulk of it must be made up of local Sunni Arabs, but there will be the necessity to significantly increase the number of US special operators embedded alongside them.
BAIER: Do you have a number?
RUBIO: I think that’s why you ask military officers to design a strategy, a plan. Those plans and those tactics are going to drive the number of people you need to implement. Whatever numbers it takes. By the way, the president tonight talked cynically again as is normally the case with him about we are not going to have an Iraq-style war again. No one is calling for an invasion of 100,000 American troops. We don’t need 100,000 troops from anywhere to defeat ISIS, but it will take a substantial ground army that needs to be made up primarily of Sunni Arabs from the region, but they will need American special operators, a significant increase in air support, and we will have to beef up our intelligence programs. I wish the president tonight had been honest with the American people. In order to prevent and disrupt these attacks in the future, we are going to need to be able to gather more intelligence, not less intelligence, and as president, he has supported measures and in fact implemented measures that have weakened our intelligence gathering capability. We do these things, we will defeat them. They will not be easy. It will take time. But we will defeat them. It starts by acknowledging to the American people that indeed we are at war. We’re at war with radical Islamic jihadists who are also terrorists of course. Who are motivated by their view of Islam. This is a war on radical Islam.
BAIER: How do you answer Senator Paul?
RUBIO: Well, first, there was an error here in this country two to three years ago, where because of the disclosures of a traitor like Edward Snowden, and other things out in the media, misrepresentations by elected officials, including some in the Senate, Americans, some came to believe that they were being spied on by the government. If someone in our intelligence community is unlawfully accessing the private information of any American, they should be fired, and they should be prosecuted.
But the bottom line is that both through executive order, presidential directives and this USA Patriot Act that passed earlier this year, we have taken out an important component of this plan. Here’s the reality of the metadata collection: There are a large and significant number of companies that have already said, we are either not going to collect records at all — we’re not going to have any records if you come asking for them — or we’re only going to keep them on average of 18 months. And so when the intelligence community or law enforcement comes knocking and subpoenas those records, in many cases, there won’t be any records because some of these companies already said they’re not going to hold these records.
And the result is that we will not be able, in many cases, to put together the full puzzle, the full picture of some of these individuals. In the case of these individuals that conducted this attack, we cannot see any phone records for the first three years — you can only see them up to two years to three years. You will not be able to see the full five-year picture. Maybe it provides some information, maybe it doesn’t. But we need every tool at our disposal. We are fighting an enemy here in radical Islam and in homegrown violent extremists unlike anything this nation has ever faced. This is not a time for ideological silliness. This is a time for serious action because the future security of our country is at stake.
BAIER: Quickly, Senator, in a GOP primary electorate that appears very skeptical of the government overall, do you think this is a winning issue for you?
RUBIO: I think it’s the right position to take for the future of our country. It’s the most important obligation of our federal government is to provide for our national security. And I will continue to support anything that provides for our national security, and I believe we can provide for it without violating the civil liberties of Americans. But we are going to need programs like this in order to identify people before they can attack us, to identify cells and break them up before they can conduct attacks. Even with the existence of these programs, these homegrown violent extremists have been able to carry out attacks. Imagine without them.
I know this, if God forbid there’s an attack tomorrow morning in another major U.S. city, the first question everyone is going to have is: Why didn’t we know about them, and how come we didn’t stop it. And the answer better not be: Because a tool we once had that could have allowed us to identify them is no longer available to us. And there are members of my party that through their votes, and by siding with isolationists and people who hold on to these theories that are false, have put potentially our nation in a position where we can’t gather this information any longer.
U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) responded:
The President tonight continued his failure of leadership and his outrageous quest to turn a necessary discussion on terrorism and national security into an unnecessary and ineffective gun control debate.
Let me be clear: disarming more law-abiding citizens will not stop mass murderers and terrorists. We should be advocating for more concealed carry ability for law-abiding Americans and an end to unconstitutional gun-free zones.
Second, we must fully examine and reform our border security, including refugee and visa programs. While the President paid lip service to this fight, he plans to keep the failed, current policies in place and allow tens of thousands of refugees to enter our country.
I couldn’t disagree more strongly. Immigration, visas, and refugees from countries with active terror networks must be halted while we determine how to better secure our borders and our people.
Finally, we must stop doing the same foolish things overseas that the President advocated for throughout his remarks. We must stop arming and training the allies of ISIS and al Qaeda.
We should not double down on this failed and dangerous policy that the President called for tonight. We must arm our allies, the Kurds, and insist on Arab boots on the ground for our allies in the region.
There are answers here to make our nation safe, but once again the President seems incapable of finding and implementing them. His administration is focused on gun laws that will not stop terrorists, while pushing policies that will let more of them into the country. It is 100 percent wrong and proves the need for new leadership in the White House.
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush released a statement:
President Obama has finally been forced to abandon the political fantasy he has perpetuated for years that the threat of terrorism was receding. We need to remove the self-imposed constraints President Obama has placed on our intelligence community and military, and we need to put in place an aggressive strategy to defeat ISIS and radical Islamic terrorism as I have proposed. Unfortunately, neither he nor Hillary Clinton has the resolve to put in place such a strategy.
This is the war of our time. It should not be business as usual. We need a war-time Commander-in-Chief who is ready to lead this country and the free world to victory.
Ohio Governor John Kasich also released a statement:
The President’s strategy is not enough. Without taking the fight to ISIS on the ground, ISIS won’t be defeated. Since February I’ve been calling for a coalition to do that. We must stop delaying and do it. We delayed in helping the Syrian rebels and look where it got us, and when we decided to act it was too little. Bolder action across the board is needed because our way of life is what’s at stake. Also, when terrorists threaten us, our response can’t be to target our own constitutional rights. Our rights aren’t the problem, our unwillingness to act to defeat extremists is the problem. We need to decisively and aggressively protect our nation and our ideals. We can’t delay.
U.S. Senator Ted Cruz released remarks in advance of President Obama’s address:
The recent attacks in Paris and San Bernardino have further confirmed that radical Islamic terrorists are at war with the West. The attack in San Bernardino was the worst Islamic terrorist attack on American soil since the attack on Ft. Hood in my home state of Texas.
At the time of that attack, the President insisted that it was a case of “workplace violence” ignoring the clear evidence that it was a terrorist attack. I was proud to have been able to help ensure that each of the victims of the Ft. Hood attack finally received a Purple Heart for their sacrifice.
The reality is that what President Obama, Secretary Kerry and Hillary Clinton have done has not worked. Their policies have in fact made the world more dangerous. It is time for a dramatic shift in both foreign and national security policy.
Tonight when President Obama addresses the nation, I hope that he will acknowledge and take responsibility for the failed policies of his administration and will take concrete steps to reverse the damage done.
He should start by finally calling our enemy by its name. Denying who the enemy is will only delay their defeat. The terrorists call themselves the Islamic State. So tonight, I challenge President Obama to finally acknowledge the enemy that the United States and our allies face. It is radical Islamic terrorism.
Second, after naming our enemy, the President should lay out a bold strategy to defeat ISIS, not to try to change the subject to gun control or the compliant media headline to global warming, but rather lay out a plan for decisive action for victory over evil.
Third, Americans want to know how this administration intends to keep them safe here at home. Border security is national security. We can no longer accept a border that is not secure and the President should announce the immediate steps he will take to ensure that it is.
We now know that one of the attackers was here on a visa. She went through the same background checks that the President says the refugees from Syria will go through. We also know that ISIS has made it clear that they intend to infiltrate the refugees in order to get to the United States. That can’t happen.
The President should place an immediate moratorium on refugees from countries with a significant al Qaeda or ISIS presence, such as Syria. I’ve introduced legislation to make this happen; it is not a desired step, but a necessary step for the security of the United States.
Finally, the President should resist using terrorist attacks to try to take away the rights of law-abiding Americans. Millions of Americans have chosen to protect themselves and their families by purchasing a firearm. This is their right; indeed protecting their families is their obligation. The President should be looking to stop those who would do us harm – not attempting to take away the constitutional liberties of millions of innocent Americans.
The American people know that the threat is very real. They will be looking for the President to address restoring America’s role in the world, defeating ISIS, securing the border, and keeping them safe from radical Islamic terrorism here at home.
They want to know the specific steps the President intends to take to keep them safe.
We need American leadership, and we need America winning again. The world does as well.
Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) summarized his speech this way on Twitter:
Pres solution – 'Congress authorize what I am already doing and restrict law abiding people's right to defend themselves.'
— Rick Santorum (@RickSantorum) December 7, 2015
Carly Fiorina also took to Twitter:
Vintage Obama: No strategy, no leadership. Politics as usual.
— Carly Fiorina (@CarlyFiorina) December 7, 2015
What I would do to defeat ISIS:https://t.co/d9ZWMqRrgv
— Carly Fiorina (@CarlyFiorina) December 7, 2015
Donald Trump summed up his speech this way:
Is that all there is? We need a new President – FAST!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 7, 2015
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