Media Unimpressed By Obama’s Speech & Former Admin Officials Pile On Criticism
|President Obama addresses terrorism / screenshot|
Last night, the President delivered a disappointing address from the Oval Office regarding Terroism. An ARRA News Service article by Gary Bauer on the President's speech can be found here. Additional news commentary on the speech is at the end of today's article.
The House reconvened at 12 PM today, and then recessed until 2 PM.
Not much will be considered by the House today. There will be no bills requiring Roll call votes. Two bills which may be addressed are:
S. 614 — "To provide access to and use of information by Federal agencies in order to reduce improper payments, and for other purposes."
H.R. 1321 — "To prohibit the sale or distribution of cosmetics containing synthetic plastic microbeads."
In Saturday, in the Weekly Republican Address House Administration Committee Chairman and Homeland Security Committee Vice Chair Candice Miller (R-MI) discussed strengthening the visa-waiver program to help prevent foreign terrorists from entering the United States. “We have a major weakness in our visa-waiver program—a glaring hole that we have to close,” Chairman Miller says. “The members of ISIS will use every means within their power to attack our country. And that’s why we have to use every mean within our power to defend it.” The text of her address may be viewed here.
Yesterday, in response to the President Obama's weak Oval Office address, Speaker Paul Ryan responded: "Our primary responsibility is to keep the American people safe from the real and evolving threat of radical Islamic terrorism. That will require the president to produce a comprehensive strategy to confront and defeat ISIS. The enemy is adapting, and we must too. That’s why what we heard tonight was so disappointing: no new plan, just a half-hearted attempt to defend and distract from a failing policy.
"American families should have confidence that our leaders are working together to address this threat. That’s why this week the House will vote on a bipartisan bill to update our visa waiver program to reduce the risk of an extremist entering the country from abroad. This legislation builds on a recent bipartisan vote to strengthen the certification requirements in our refugee program.
"But the ultimate solution is a comprehensive plan to eliminate the extremist threat, and only the commander-in-chief can provide that. The horrific events of recent weeks remind us that any hope to contain ISIS has been a failure. Until we hear from the president what more can be done —with our military, our intelligence-gathering, and our international partners — we will remain one step behind our enemy. This is not just the next president's problem. It is our problem, and we must confront it today."
The Senate reconvened at 2 PM today and began a period of morning business.
At 5:30, the Senate will vote on confirmation of the nomination of Travis McDonough to be United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Tennessee.
Last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell filed cloture on the conference report for S. 1177, the Every Student Succeeds Act, the bill to replace the No Child Left Behind law. The Senate is expected to take up the conference report tomorrow.
Reaction to President Obama’s prime time address last night discussing his administration’s approach to fighting terrorism has been markedly critical.
The AP summarizes, “There were no new policy prescriptions, no fresh military strategies and no timelines.”
Politico says, “President Barack Obama wanted to show he was so serious about the threat posed by ISIL that he gave a speech from the Oval Office about it—standing up. But afterwards, America knows just about as much what he's doing and what's going on as it did before he scrambled Sunday's prime time schedule with the ultimate presidential prop. . . . Obama looked firmly into the camera and gave America a not-so-peppy pep talk. . . .
“People had to look somewhere else for how he's going to step up the mission against ISIL, his positions on several related pieces of legislation in Congress or how exactly he thinks that a 13-minute summoning of political theater is going to turn around two-and-a-half weeks of dismissing much of the response since the Paris attacks as overreaction and Republican fear-mongering.”
The Washington Post observes, “Nothing new here. From a policy standpoint, Obama didn't break much new ground. This wasn't a pivot speech; Obama wasn't using the recent violence in San Bernardino, Calif., and Paris to make a case for why ground troops were now necessary in the fight against ISIS -- or anything like it. . . .
“Tolerance, tolerance, tolerance. It seemed as though Obama knew he needed to get through the first half of the speech -- where he laid out that the status quo would be kept policy-wise -- to get to the second half, which focused on what the country should not do in the face of the ISIS threat. . . . Make no mistake: The tolerance message was why Obama really wanted to deliver this speech.”
The Wall Street Journal editors were certainly unimpressed. They write, “President Obama showed Sunday night that he realizes the growing threat from Islamist terror is a grave risk to his political standing in his last year in office. What he didn’t show is that he is willing to consider any changes to his failing strategy to defeat the threat from Islamic State. . . .
“[T]he President devoted most of his speech to defending the strategy he has pursued for 16 months against Islamic State without much success. He cited his bombing campaign, but he didn’t mention that the vast majority of sorties drop no bombs because of the limits he has placed on the military. He mentioned the recent allied bombing of Islamic State’s oil infrastructure, but then why has the U.S. waited so long to take this initiative?”
Politico suggests Americans will need something more than just another speech. “By contrast [to Republican critiques], Obama tried to go bloodless, waiting as at other crucial moments of his presidency for comments like that to set the tone—a new CNN/ORC poll shows people disapproving of Obama’s handling of ISIL 64-33 percent and his handling of terrorism 60-34 percent—then built up a high-profile speech to respond, and said close to nothing.”
Even The New York Times acknowledges, “President Obama’s speech to reassure the nation on Sunday night included no new strategy to contain or defeat the Islamic State. . . . The question now is whether the rising tempo of attacks carried out or inspired by the Islamic State — from the savagery of Paris to the almost impossible-to-predict killings in San Bernardino, Calif. — will continue to outpace the Obama administration’s ability to ramp up a national response.”
The Times reports, “Many of the advisers Mr. Obama surrounded himself with in his first term have their doubts. Just hours before the president spoke, Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state and the leading contender for the Democratic nomination for president, made a passionate argument that the United States needed to move faster to get its Special Operations forces in place and to block Islamic jihadists from social media networks, which they use to spread their ideology. . . .
“[I]n the past few weeks, the argument that Mr. Obama has moved too incrementally has come from some of his closest former counterterrorism advisers. Michael G. Vickers, who ran counterterrorism operations at the Pentagon until April this year, wrote in Politico just before Thanksgiving that ‘by any measure, our strategy in Iraq and Syria is not succeeding, or is not succeeding fast enough.’ He added, ‘We are playing a long game, when a more rapid and disruptive strategy is required.’
“Mr. Vickers cited a fascinating statistic: In the two months during which the United States drove Al Qaeda out of Afghanistan in 2001, after the Sept. 11 attacks, it conducted as many airstrikes as it has in the past 16 months in Iraq and Syria.
“Michael J. Morell, the former deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency — whom Mr. Obama twice asked to lead the agency on an acting basis — has argued that the pace of attacks on the top leadership of the Islamic State has to be increased drastically. ‘It’s got to be one or two a week,’ he said recently, ‘not just one or two every three or four months.’”
Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta said recently on ‘Meet the Press,’ “Well, obviously there's a lot of concern about whether or not we've deployed the resources to be able to accomplish the mission that the President described. …I think that the resources applied to that mission, frankly, have not been sufficient to confront that. And for that reason I think we have to be much more aggressive and much more unified in the effort to take on ISIS.”
Other former Obama administration officials have been even more pointed in their criticism.
According to The New York Times, “John D. Cohen, a professor at Rutgers University and a senior Homeland Security Department counterterrorism official until last year, said the administration needed to ‘wake up’ to the threat and change an approach that is ‘ill-suited to deter these kinds of attacks.’
“Alberto M. Fernandez, who until earlier this year led the State Department unit that counters militant propaganda, said, ‘The administration seems to be really flailing and tone deaf to this latest challenge.’ He called the San Bernardino attack “D.I.Y. jihad,” and said it ‘forces the administration to look at where it does not want to go and is weakest, at jihadist ideology and its dissemination.’”
As The Wall Street Journal editors concluded, "Perhaps the oddest note in the President’s speech was toward the end when he claimed that the U.S. will defeat the jihadist threat because we are ‘on the right side of history.’ History is made, not delivered as a birthright, and victory against killers has to be won. Islamic State has been gaining so much ground precisely because it has appeared to be winning. Mr. Obama has yet to show that he knows what it takes for the U.S. to win."
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