- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The rise of terrorist threats has put the U.S. on a war footing and pushed national security issues to the forefront of political campaigns, with several U.S. Senate candidates trading jabs this week over who is weak on protecting America.

In North Carolina’s hard-fought race, Democratic Sen. Kay R. Hagan’s campaign accused Republican challenger Thom Tillis of “waffling” about how he’d confront the terrorist army that calls itself the Islamic State, which is also known by the acronyms ISIL and ISIS.

In New Hampshire, Republican Scott Brown aired a new TV ad Monday blasting rival Democrat Sen. Jeanne Shaheen for being “confused” about the terrorist threat. Mr. Brown played up his service in the National Guard in the TV ad, which included a photograph of him in uniform.

“Anyone who turns on the TV these days knows we face challenges to our way of life — radical Islamic terrorists are threatening to cause the collapse of our country. President Obama and Senator Shaheen seem confused about the nature of the threat, not me,” says Mr. Brown, speaking into the camera.

“I want to secure the border, keep out the people who would do us harm and restore America’s leadership in the world,” says Mr. Brown, a former U.S. senator from Massachusetts.

The Shaheen campaign responded by issuing a statement that accused Mr. Brown of “peddling the politics of fear.”

Mrs. Shaheen followed up with a separate statement applauding the U.S.-led airstrikes against terrorist facilities in Syria and touting her support for the military action.

“Striking ISIL targets in Syria sends the clear message that the United States and its allies will take the fight to these terrorists wherever they are,” she said. “I have supported, and will continue to support, aggressive action to destroy ISIL in Iraq and Syria, and I am encouraged that the United States was joined in this mission by Middle East partner nations.”

Terrorism has emerged as a top campaign issue throughout the nation.

An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll this month found that nearly half of Americans — 47 percent — said the country was less safe now than at any other time since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks by al Qaeda terrorists. Just 32 percent of voters approved of Mr. Obama’s performance on foreign policy, according to the poll.

The airstrikes in Syria could buoy Mr. Obama’s ratings and help Democrats who so far have been dragged down by Mr. Obama’s sinking poll numbers.

The political sparring over national security was particularly sharp in the neck-and-neck North Carolina race. While Mrs. Hagan hit Mr. Tillis for “waffling” about whether he would support Mr. Obama’s strategy against the Islamic State, he went after her for a record of absenteeism at Senate Armed Services Committee meetings.

The Tillis campaign said Mrs. Hagan had missed 27 of 49 of the committee’s hearings, including briefings about the Islamic State.

“If any North Carolinian skipped work more than half of the time, they’d lose their job, but Senator Hagan holds herself to a different standard, typical of an out-of-touch Washington politician,” said Tillis campaign spokeswoman Meghan Burris.

Mrs. Hagan’s attendance could not be independently verified, but a spokeswoman for committee Democrats told the Charlotte Observer that Mrs. Hagan had “one of the best attendance records.”

The Hagan campaign responded to questions about her committee attendance by criticizing vagueness by Mr. Tillis, who has resisted saying how he would have voted on Mr. Obama’s plan to arm Syrian rebels as a proxy army against the Islamic State.

“Speaker Tillis is great at spitting out talking points, but his answers on Syria and ISIS have been called ‘vague’ and ‘waffling,’ and he continues to refuse to answer what he would do to root out ISIS and protect our national security,” said Hagan campaign spokeswoman Sadie Weiner.

Nearly every senator and congressman running in Senate races voted for Mr. Obama’s plan to arm the Syrian rebels. The measure easily passed both chambers in one of the final votes before Congress left for a two-month break to campaign for the November elections.

Mr. Tillis voiced concerns about the plan but avoided saying how he would have voted.

“That’s a half-measure to give President Obama and Kay Hagan cover while they kick the can down the road,” he told the Raleigh News & Observer. “There’s more comprehensive strategy that’s come out of the House that they should be considering.”

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