GOP Candidates Take Aim at Obama on ISIS

GOP Candidates Take Aim at Obama on ISIS
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Republican presidential candidates are harshly critiquing President Obama’s comments Monday regarding the lack of a “complete strategy” to confront ISIS in Iraq.

“We don’t yet have a complete strategy because it requires commitments on the part of the Iraqis,” the president stated Monday during a question-and-answer session at the G-7 conference in Germany. He highlighted difficulties recruiting Iraqi soldiers, preventing the foreign inflow of ISIS fighters, and resolving sectarian tensions in the war-torn country.

Soon afterward, several GOP candidates seized the opportunity to attack Obama while touting their own foreign policy platforms.

“The threat posed by ISIL is growing exponentially, and President Obama’s lack of a strategy is Commander-in-Chief malpractice,” Lindsey Graham said in a statement. The South Carolina senator, who chairs several Senate subcommittees related to foreign affairs, has emphasized his credentials in an attempt to stand out from his opponents. He is a vocal advocate of a more aggressive policy in the Middle East that includes sending troops to Iraq.

Rick Perry continued to highlight his executive experience in his criticism of the president’s ISIS policy. “Positive rhetoric alone does not solve problems, action does,” he said in a statement. “If I were Commander-in-Chief, it would not take nine months to work with our military leaders to develop a complete strategy to destroy ISIS and protect American security interests and values.”

One of the former Texas governor’s talking points has been his record of decisive action rather than promises and speeches. In his campaign launch on June 4, he advocated for a tougher approach to Russia and Iran, declaring, “This will be a ‘show-me, don’t tell me’ election, where voters will look past the rhetoric to the real record.”

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who is currently on a tour of Germany, Estonia, and Poland prior to his expected campaign launch next week, tweeted, “In Germany, Obama admitted again what has been clear for a while, he has no ISIS strategy. A serious effort to defeat them is needed.”

Scott Walker, who has yet to formally declare his candidacy, also emphasized that American troops should play a larger role in the fight against the Islamic State terror group and that the president should reach out more to Kurds and Sunnis for cooperation. “For political reasons, President Obama isn’t willing to expand the role of American troops,” said the Wisconsin governor in a statement posted on the website of his Our American Revival PAC. “Politics should never dictate what needs to be done to ensure our safety and ensure victory when we deploy military power.”

In an appearance Tuesday on Fox News, Carly Fiorina also chimed in: “It’s been clear that he [President Obama] hasn’t had a plan. It’s been equally clear that the Pentagon has been giving him options, and of course our allies have been asking for very specific things to help us defeat ISIS.”

A spokesman for Ben Carson wrote in an email to RealClearPolitics that “Dr. Carson believes that ISIL presents a very clear, very real threat and the U.S. should be aggressive and committed to ISIL’s destruction.”

Foreign policy will likely be a key issue in the 2016 race. All of the GOP candidates, with the exception of Sen. Rand Paul, are hawks (and even the Kentucky senator has supported airstrikes against ISIS); however, critics assert that the Republican field’s foreign policy experience is meager when compared to that of former secretary of state Hillary Clinton, the favorite for the Democratic nomination.

Many GOP candidates had criticized Obama’s ISIS strategy even before the president’s made his comments in Germany. On May 29, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio penned an op-ed in the Washington Post attacking “Obama’s disengagement from the region” and advocating for a more active involvement through a broadened coalition of states in the Middle East while remaining tough on Iran.

Two days later, Bush appeared on CBS’s “Face the Nation” and called for a more aggressive approach to ISIS – though one that would limit American military ground support to mostly an advisory role. “We need a strategy. We don’t have a strategy right now,” he said.

A spokesperson for Paul’s campaign declined to comment on Obama’s remarks Monday, and spokespeople for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Bush currently narrowly leads the pack for the Republican nomination with 11.3 percent support, according to the RealClearPolitics polling average. Walker, Rubio, and Carson have 10.8, 10.3, and 9.0 percent of the vote, respectively, and Paul and Huckabee are tied for fifth with 8.8 percent each.

Update: The Huckabee campaign provided this statement to RCP on June 10:

“It’s deeply troubling and greatly unsettling that President Obama himself admitted he has no 'complete strategy’ to defeat the Islamic State. To date, ISIS has forcibly taken and now controls a landmass larger than the state of Florida. Our Commander in Chief needs to recognize the grave reality of the situation and quit making excuses. How many more Americans have to die and how unstable must an entire region become before for this President decides to lift a finger?

“The United States should arm the Kurdish Peshmerga, stop the ISIS propaganda machine, and build a broad coalition of Arab states to fight the ISIS cancer in its own backyard.” 

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