Terrorism Takes Over as Major Issue for Midterm Elections


The politics of terrorism have returned with a vengeance for the midterm elections.

National security dominated the first election cycles after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, with Democrats fearful of being labeled unpatriotic if they criticized then-President George W. Bush.The Republican advantage eroded years later as public opinion soured against the Iraq War. By the time President Obama sought reelection in 2012, he was able to tout the killing of Osama bin Laden to portray Democrats as the party of strength in foreign policy.

But now, with the 13th anniversary of 9/11 just days away, Obama and the Democrats are back on the defensive.

Obama’s response to the advances made by the radicals of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has provoked a chorus of criticism, including from vulnerable Democrats up for reelection this year.

And it’s not just the broad threat posed by ISIS that has changed the political landscape — Obama has given GOP critics an opening by fumbling several public statements.

One gaffe came during a recent press conference when he admitted that, when it comes to countering ISIS, “we don’t have a strategy yet.”

Former spokesman Robert Gibbs called it a “wince-able” moment.

Senate Democrats who are running for reelection in a tough political environment are sounding the alarm bell.

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) fired off a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder demanding to know what the Justice Department is doing to intercept American jihadists returning from Syria.

“I was troubled by the president’s recent suggestion that the administration has not yet developed a comprehensive strategy to address the growing threat of ISIL’s activities in Syria,” he wrote, using an alternative acronym for ISIS.

Separately, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) pounced on Obama’s remarks during a trip to Estonia where he characterized ISIS as a “manageable” threat.

“This is not in my view a manageable situation. They want to kill us,” he warned.

It was a rare instance when some Democrats sided with McConnell over the president.

“Do not believe ISIL is ‘manageable,’ agree these terrorists must be chased to the ‘gates of hell,’ ” tweeted Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), who is facing a tough reelection race.

Following the criticism, Obama on Friday tried to walk back his comments, saying ISIS must be destroyed and cannot be contained.

He will expand on that idea when he delivers a televised address to the nation on Wednesday. Previewing his message in an interview with “Meet the Press” Sunday, Obama said that he wanted the American people to understand ISIS is “a serious threat” but that “we have the capacity to deal with it.”

Democrats who could replace Obama in the Oval Office, including Vice President Biden and Hillary Clinton, are also using more muscular foreign policy rhetoric. Biden has vowed to follow ISIS “to the gates of hell,” while Clinton has blamed the growth of ISIS on “the failure to help build a credible fighting force” against strongman Bashar Assad in Syria.

Republicans who are mulling their own quest for the White House in 2016 are attacking Obama’s foreign policy with gusto.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) blasted the president for “dithering and debating” and “always playing catch-up” on international crises that threaten U.S. interests.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) declared “we ought to bomb [ISIS] back to the Stone Age.”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who in the past warned against foreign entanglements and called for ending foreign aid, declared in Time magazine, “I am not an isolationist,” and faulted Obama for letting a “jihadist wonderland” blossom in Libya and Syria.

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SOURCE: Alexander Bolton 
The Hill

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