Conservative 2016 hopefuls responded to the president’s prime-time address on his strategy to defeat Islamic State militants with harsh criticism, saying his latest plan is too little, too late.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz called Mr. Obama’s speech “fundamentally unserious,” and slammed the president for comparing his new strategy in Iraq and Syria to “successful” campaigns in Yemen and Somalia.
“Surely one must question anyone who holds up the nations of Somalia and Yemen as models for any kind of success — especially if he is the United States President,” Mr. Cruz said in a statement Wednesday. “To this day, these nations remain hotbeds of terrorism.”
In a statement on Thursday, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio also expressed concern over the president’s comments on Somalia and Yemen and his “unwillingness to prepare the American people for what will likely be a long, difficult struggle.”
Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire expressed skepticism toward Mr. Obama’s “tough talk” in a statement on Wednesday, and said she hopes the president will “take decisive actions to match his words.”
The president announced he would launch an air war in Iraq and Syria supported by smaller ground forces but said he would not engage in another ground war in Iraq.
But former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin argued that long-term airstrikes would not be as sufficient as a swift and strong ground initiative.
“War is hell. So go big or go home, Mr. President,” Mrs. Palin wrote in Facebook post Wednesday night. “Big means bold, confident, wise assurance from a trustworthy Commander-in-Chief that it shall all be worth it. Charge in, strike hard, get out. Win.”
In an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity, conservative wild-card Rand Paul rejected the president’s claim that America is safer now, calling his previous campaigns in Libya, Syria, and Iraq a “disaster,” and blaming the administration for making poor foreign policy decisions that led to the uprising of jihadist groups.
“The reason we got here is because, we took it upon ourselves to topple secular dictators who were the enemy of radical Islam,” the Kentucky senator said.
Ms. Ayotte also objected to Mr. Obama’s claim, pointing to the growing number of American citizens joining the terrorist group.
“Based on the briefing I received today in the Homeland Security Committee about the number of Americans and Western passport holders who have joined ISIS, the estimates that ISIS is raising as much as $1 million a day, and the safe havens they retain in Iraq and Syria, I believe that ISIS is a current threat to our homeland and I disagree with the president’s assertion tonight that America is safer,” Ms. Ayotte said.
In the days leading up to the president’s announcement, many lawmakers debated whether Mr. Obama had the authority to launch a military campaign against the Islamic State without congressional approval. Mr. Cruz and Mr. Paul condemned the president on Wednesday for stating that he had the authority he needed to move forward without congressional approval.
“It isn’t the constitutional way,” Mr. Paul told Fox. “It doesn’t in any way represent what our constitution dictates nor what our Founding Fathers intended. So it is unconstitutional what he’s doing.”
Mr. Cruz also alleged that Mr. Obama’s decision was unconstitutional saying that congressional approval is “not a luxury, or an option. It is required by the Constitution.”
But Sen. Rob Portman, Ohio Republican, supported Mr. Obama’s plan for more airstrikes and said Congress should move to grant the president the funding he has asked for during a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor, Real Clear Politics reported Thursday.
Rep. Paul Ryan, Wisconsin Republican and former vice presidential candidate, also stood behind the president’s decision, predicting that Congress would grant his request.
“I support his ask, we’re debating this right now in Congress and I think he will have bipartisan support,” Mr. Ryan said in an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “We don’t want to play armchair generals. We don’t want to second-guess. I’m glad he’s changed his policy, I think he’s going in the right direction, I think he needs to be supported for doing this. I just think going forward, let’s learn from the mistakes that have been made in the past and not second-guess and micromanage our military. Let’s give them the job and then give them the flexibility to actually complete the job.”
But Mr. Ryan did say he was concerned that Mr. Obama dismissed any notion of increasing boots on the ground, arguing that he should consider all options.
“That’s one of the mistakes I think our president consistently makes which is telling our enemies what we will not do,” Mr. Ryan said.
Although the president addressed conservative criticism over a lack of strategy to defeat the Islamic State, some claimed that he focused too much on political matters like debating the legitimacy of the Islamic State name and the ongoing conflict between the Shia and Sunni tribes.
“You must acknowledge reality: The organization calling itself the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is, in fact, ‘Islamic,’” Mrs. Palin said in response to Mr. Obama’s claim that the group is not Islamic because the religion does not condone killing.
“Not many of us pretend to be experts on the Muslim religion, but these terrorists obviously consider themselves Muslim and they believe what they’re horrifically doing to innocents is part of their ‘religion of peace,’” she added.
Mr. Cruz told Fox New on Wednesday night that the president’s comment sought to “diminish” the threat of the Islamic State by “suggesting they are a regional threat.”
Both Mr. Cruz and Mrs. Palin accused the president of foreign policy actions that reversed military achievements.
“President Obama squandered the gains that so many men and women of the military bled and died to accomplish,” Mr. Cruz said in the Fox interview, while Mrs. Palin urged Facebook users not to support “politicians who join Obama in diminishing our military.”