Obama Outlines Strategy; Ohio Republicans Unimpressed

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Ohio Republicans sharply criticized President Obama’s speech Sunday night that outlined the U.S. strategy for addressing terrorism in the wake of the San Bernardino and Paris attacks.

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, characterized the president’s strategy as “fundamentally flawed,” one that “treated ISIS as a JV team.” He called on the administration to develop “an aggressive and clear strategy” to defeat the so-called Islamic State before the next attack on American soil takes place.

Speaking from the Oval Office, Obama said the U.S. military would continue to pursue “terrorist plotters in any country where it is necessary,” provide training and equipment to Iraqi and Syrian forces fighting ISIL on the ground, work with friends and allies to stop ISIL’s operations by disrupting plots, cutting off financing, and preventing the recruitment of more fighters, and work with the international community to establish a process and timeline to pursue ceasefires and a political resolution to the Syrian war.

Domestically, the president called on Congress to enact legislation to prevent anyone on a no-fly list from purchasing a gun, make it harder for individuals to purchase assault weapons such as those used in San Bernardino, and strengthen screening for individuals who come to America without a visa.

“Finally, if Congress believes, as I do, that we are at war with ISIL, it should go ahead and vote to authorize the continued use of military force against these terrorists. For over a year, I have ordered our military to take thousands of airstrikes against ISIL targets.  I think it’s time for Congress to vote to demonstrate that the American people are united, and committed, to this fight,” Obama said.

“This attack is another reminder of the need to review our security vetting procedures for visa applicants, as it now appears that the female terrorist was able to obtain a visa to enter the U.S. It’s also a reminder that we must not fight this enemy with one hand tied behind our back and we must ensure that we have every capability possible to stop these types of attacks. That includes considering the renewal of intelligence gathering programs‎ that expired in November,” the president added.

In his statement, Portman said the administration “insists on pursuing its failed policy despite the growing and obvious risks Islamic extremism poses to the security of our nation, its allies and our shared values.”

U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-6 Ohio, called Obama’s address “yet another missed opportunity to lead” with no substantive proposals. He also expressed disappointment that “a significant part” of Obama’s speech was devoted to gun control and lecturing Americans “on the importance of showing compassion and tolerance” to the Muslim community.

“First, terrorists, and others bent on killing, do not follow our laws — period. Curbing the rights of law-abiding Americans to keep and bear arms with meaningless, feel-good legislation is both naïve and dangerous,” he said. “Second, the attacks on Sept. 11, at the Boston Marathon and last week in California are a product of Islamic terrorism, not American insensitivity to our fellow citizens.”

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is seeking the Republican nomination for president, also characterized the president’s strategy as insufficient.

“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,” Kasich said. “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.”

Kasich’s statement concluded with a reference to Obama’s comments on gun control. “When terrorists threaten us, our response can’t be to target our own constitutional rights,” he said. “Our rights aren’t the problem, our unwillingness to act to defeat extremists is the problem,” he continued. “We need to decisively and aggressively protect our nation and our ideals.  We can’t delay.”

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.