Republicans take Obama to task over anti-terror strategy
The war with the Islamic State in the wake of the Paris attack is quickly becoming a war of words between President Obama and Republican presidential candidates.
As he rolled out a national security agenda Wednesday focused on meeting the growing terror threat, Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush railed against what he called the “absence of American leadership” that allowed the rise of the terrorist army known as the Islamic State.
The former Florida governor proposed a complete reversal of the national security and foreign policies of Mr. Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, the front-runner and heavy favorite to win the Democratic presidential nomination. Mr. Bush would replace their defense cuts with increased spending and substitute force reductions with an expansion of the Army by 40,000 soldiers and the Marine Corps by 4,000 Marines.
His plan would end the Obama administration’s unofficial moratorium of combat deployments, sending U.S. troops into Iraq and Syria to “totally destroy” the Islamic State, also known by the acronyms ISIS or ISIL.
“Bad things — and sometimes very bad things — happen when America steps away from hard challenges. It is time for American leadership again, and that leadership requires a change in course,” he said in a speech at The Citadel, the military college in Charleston, South Carolina.
His speech was the latest in a series of proposals from Republican presidential candidates to rebuild U.S. military might and bring it to bear on the Islamic State, which controls a swath of territory in Iraq and Syria the size of the United Kingdom.
The calls for expanded airstrikes and troops on the ground were met with derision by Mr. Obama, who has been traveling abroad. He rebuked them for wanting to “pop off” without offering an alternative strategy.
Mr. Obama also dismissed Republican candidates’ opposition to his plan to bring 10,000 Syrian refugees to America, despite a growing chorus of lawmakers and governors worried that Islamic State terrorists could be embedded with refugees, as were at least one of the Paris attackers.
“Apparently they’re scared of widows and orphans coming into the United States of America as part of our tradition of compassion,” the president said of the Republicans while visiting the Philippines.
He said Republicans’ views regarding the refugees were “offensive” and “un-American.”
That spurred Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas to dare Mr. Obama to “insult me to my face.”
“Mr. President, if you want to insult me, you can do it overseas, you can do it in Turkey — you can do it in foreign countries. But I would encourage you, Mr. President, come back and insult me to my face,” Mr. Cruz told reporters on Capitol Hill.
“It’s easy to toss a cheap insult when no one can respond, but let’s have a debate,” he said. “Let’s have a debate on Syrian refugees right now. We can do it anywhere you want. I’d prefer it in the United States and not overseas, where you’re making the insults.”
The rhetoric also heated up over Secretary of State John F. Kerry’s comment that the Paris massacre lacked the “rationale” behind an attack earlier this year by Islamic State in Paris on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which offended the terrorists by drawing cartoons of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.
“He needs to get some sleep and shut up is what he needs,” Republican presidential candidate and New Jersey Gov. Christie said of Mr. Kerry in an interview on Fox News.
“There’s something different about what happened from Charlie Hebdo, and I think everybody would feel that,” Mr. Kerry said Tuesday. “There was a sort of particularized focus and perhaps even a legitimacy in terms of — not a legitimacy, but a rationale that you could attach yourself to somehow and say, OK, they’re really angry because of this and that. This Friday was absolutely indiscriminate.”
Republican presidential candidate and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush decried the “absence of American leadership” that allowed the Islamic State to fester in the Middle East, and proposed a reversal of President Obama’s policies to contain the threat.