Obama's ISIS Response Causes Republicans and Democrats to Clash, No Surprise There
It's that time again. With the rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and an election rapidly approaching, it seems we're bound for a season of national security drama. And both Republican and Democratic are in the swing of things — lawmakers are clashing over ISIS, and President Obama's response to the militant Islamic group.
Sometimes, the specter of terrorist threat can result in a sort of reflexive bipartisanship — the PATRIOT Act passed the Senate with just one "nay" vote, you may remember — and sometimes, it only serves to galvanize two sides into their familiar roles. California Senator Dianne Feinstein is a prime example of the former — Feinstein was critical of President Obama in an interview on NBC's Meet The Press Sunday, for what's been widely perceived as a cautious approach to addressing ISIS. In the words of Feinstein, maybe "too cautious."
That this criticism is coming from Feinstein is both understandable and noteworthy, given her position as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. She's has been a Democratic Party hardliner on issues of terrorism for a while now, particularly relating to surveillance — Feinstein was a strong proponent of the NSA's data collection practices which were revealed by leaker Edward Snowden in 2013.
She's also a major figure in the Democratic congress, however, so this public criticism of a Democratic President over such a sensitive strategic issue is surprising.
But she's not the only politician who's been kicking around their hot takes on the President's response to ISIS — here are a few other notable examples.
Republican Rep. Mike Rogers
It hardly comes as any surprise that Republicans would be pouncing on the chance to criticize President Obama's foreign policy responses. With midterm elections looming, and a wide-open presidential race in 2016, the GOP would love to restore the status quo stereotypes on national defense about the two parties — weak and ineffectual Democrats versus strong-willed, quick-thinking Republicans.
And it doesn't hurt at all that ISIS' spread through the Middle East, and its apparent appeal to western sympathizers and recruits (Britain in particular has a high number of citizens joined to ISIS' cause) makes it a pretty easy subject to worry about.
Enter Rep. Mike Rogers. Rogers has offered a lot of stern criticism of the administration's approach to ISIS over the last several days, stating that he's "not sure the severity of the problem has really sunk in to the administration just yet." Appearing on Fox News Sunday, Rogers laid into Obama specifically, claiming his foreign policy is "in absolute free-fall," as detailed by the Washington Post.
There have been plans on the table. The president just did not want to get engaged in any way. That is a decision, that is a policy, that is a strategy, and it's not working.
Republican Senator John McCain (and Lindsay Graham, of Course)
Another not-terribly-surprising critic, McCain's entire foreign policy outlook in recent years has followed a pretty consistent trajectory — arming the rebels, and endorse airstrikes. Along with his frequent senatorial sidekick, Lindsay Graham of North Carolina, McCain has been one of the GOP's loudest and most reliable voices for foreign military invention, and he's been none too pleased with President Obama's response to ISIS. You need look no further than his Sunday op-ed in The New York Times, written with Graham. The title gives it away: "Stop Dithering, Confront ISIS."
The president clearly wants to move deliberately and consult with allies and Congress as he considers what to do about ISIS. No one disputes that goal. But the threat ISIS poses only grows over time. It cannot be contained. It must be confronted. This requires a comprehensive strategy, presidential leadership and a far greater sense of urgency.
For what it's worth, McCain and Graham did say that President Obama deserves support — but only if he "changes course" to something more like their plan.
Democratic Rep. Adam Smith
President Obama is not without his supporters, however, Rep. Adam Smith of Washington among them. Appearing on CBS' Face the Nation Sunday, Smith offered something of a dissenting opinion from the heightened focus ISIS has assumed within the American consciousness. As detailed by CNN, Smith called it "a bit of an overstatement" to cast ISIS as more dangerous than al-Qaeda, and backed Obama's restrained approach.
There is no evidence at this point that they are actually doing the sort of command-and-control plotting, planning specific attacks against Western targets, like al Qaeda was, gosh, for better -- for almost a decade before 9/11. ... We can't simply bomb first and ask questions later. We have to have the right targets and the right support in order to be effective in stopping ISIS.
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