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Oklahoma lawmakers respond to Obama's Oval Office address

WASHINGTON — Members of Oklahoma's congressional delegation responded Sunday night to President Barack Obama's Oval Office address about fighting terrorism at home and abroad.

Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City: "It is right for President Obama to speak to the nation and try to assure all Americans that he has a strategy to defeat ISIL and keep the nation secure. The President proposed a surge in intelligence sharing with Europe, new Special Forces in Syria and a continuing commitment to political resolution in Syria, though the President did not state tonight that Bashar al-Assad must be removed.

“After years of expansion of ISIL and the growing threat to our homeland, I believe most Americans are impatient and confused about why it has taken so long to destroy ISIL's oil business, why so many ISIL command and control facilities remain, and why Assad remains the leader in Syria. It appears that the Administration has only recently taken ISIL seriously.

"Our military and intelligence community do an outstanding job protecting the American people every day, but they need an effective strategy from the Commander-in-chief. Tonight, the President discussed small steps forward, but his approach still seems to be a strategy of containment. Those half-measures clearly have not worked.

"I agree with the President that Congress should revisit the Visa waiver program; it remains an obvious vulnerability for our nation. I also agree with the President that ISIL is a 'cult of death,' and that Americans should reject all forms of religious intolerance.

“But, the President stated months ago that he felt he already had the legal authority to carry out the attacks on ISIL, but he wanted an Authorization for the Use of Military Force to restrain any future President from using ground forces and to force a future president to withdraw from Syria within months of taking office.

"That kind of request is untenable in the face of the real threats we face today. Radical Islamic terrorism remains a threat to our nation and the world, as it did 15 years ago, and we need a clear, coordinated strategy to confront it."

Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Tulsa:  "Our president has been in denial for too long on the evil of terrorism and radical Islam, starting with his attempt to downplay Benghazi, to calling ISIS a JV team, to most recently stating that ISIS is 'contained' just hours before the attack on Paris.

"No matter how many times this president tells America and its people they are safe, that ISIS is on the run, and that ISIS will be defeated, one simple fact remains - the country has lost trust in this president and his administration to protect America and its citizens.

"Tonight the president listed three military objectives to defeating ISIL and one objective of bringing a political solution to Syria. Objectives do not make a strategy, gun control will not stop terrorism, and climate change is not the greatest threat to this country. Obama's lack of commitment and a strategy in the Middle East created vacuums that were filled by ISIS, Iran and Russia.

"The president needs to provide this country with the strategy and goals for Iraq, Syria, and the Middle East, including what resources are required to accomplish that strategy, what the U.S. commitment to that strategy will be, what timeline is required to achieve that strategy and how we assess success along the way to achieving our strategy. My colleagues and I stand ready to undo the President's disarming of America."

Rep. Steve Russell, R-Choctaw: "While I applaud the president for finally calling out a ‘dangerous ideology that has spread through...Islam’ a ‘cult of death,’ I am saddened that he has called on congress to take away the right of our citizens to defend themselves; has asked for authorization on the use of force he already has; and is tightening visa-waivers only after Congress has pressured him to do so.

“The president cannot continue to lead from behind. His four-point strategy is nothing new and fails to address how to accommodate the disenfranchised Sunni-Arab in the diplomatic effort.

“While I appreciate the president's strong statements on combatting discrimination and no religious tests for which Americans should have our liberties, I am not encouraged that the president has a capable strategy to defeat ISIS or protect the American people."

Rep. Markwayne Mullin, R-Westville: “From the beginning, President Obama has consistently underestimated the threat that ISIS poses to the United States. Our commander in chief did not outline an effective strategy for defeating ISIS and ensuring safety within our borders. Instead he politicized the recent terrorist attack in California, by pushing for policies that target the constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans.

“Known terrorists should not be walking our streets, period. The president needs to take action to identify radical extremists in the United States, give our law enforcement the resources and freedom to prevent terror attacks, and close our borders to individuals who wish to destroy our freedoms. The danger of Islamic extremism continues to grow and evolve, but the president’s rhetoric continues to stay the same.”

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Chris Casteel

Chris Casteel began working for The Oklahoman's Norman bureau in 1982 while a student at the University of Oklahoma. Casteel covered the police beat, federal courts and the state Legislature in Oklahoma City. From 1990 through 2016, he was the... Read more ›