Some potential 2016 candidates fault Obama war powers plan

AP News
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Posted: Feb 11, 2015 8:25 PM
Some potential 2016 candidates fault Obama war powers plan

Some Republicans who want to succeed President Barack Obama in the White House are voicing concern that his request to Congress for a limited authorization to use military force against Islamic State terrorists in the Middle East isn't robust enough.

Obama, saying he was determined to avoid another long ground war in the Middle East, submitted a use-of-force proposal Wednesday that would bar the sustained commitment of U.S. ground forces and would expire after three years, requiring Congress to revisit the matter early in the term of the next president.

Potential Democratic candidates, including former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and former Sen. Jim Webb, did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, said he was opposed.

A look at how some potential candidates responded:

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REPUBLICANS

MARCO RUBIO

The Florida senator said it was "good news" that Obama had submitted a request to Congress, but he faulted the president for seeking such a limited ability to respond to the Islamic State group.

"What we need to be authorizing the president to do is to destroy them and to defeat them, and allow the commander in chief — both the one we have now and the one who will follow — to put in place the tactics, the military tactics, necessary to destroy and defeat ISIL," Rubio said on the Senate floor, using an acronym for the Islamic State group.

Rubio said it was unprecedented for a president to seek to put constraints on his ability to use military force against an enemy.

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RAND PAUL

The Kentucky senator would not say one way or the other whether he would support the president's request.

"The only way this battle ultimately is won is with boots on the ground. But they need to be Arab troops. They need to be Iraqis. They need to be Kurds," Paul said during an interview with Fox News. "The Kurds are the best fighters over there. I think we really need to incorporate them and give them the goal of a homeland and I think they'll be even more fierce fighters."

Paul blamed potential Democratic rival Clinton for the rise of the Islamic State, saying Libya was "a breeding ground for terrorists and it is also a breeding ground for armament." Clinton was secretary of state when a NATO-led military campaign ousted Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

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SCOTT WALKER

The Wisconsin governor, during a trade visit to London, refused to answer questions about how the West should combat the Islamic State group, saying, "I don't think it's polite to respond on policy in the United States when you're in a foreign country."

Earlier in the month, Walker said he was open to sending U.S. troops to the Middle East to combat Islamic State fighters, but said he wasn't calling for them immediately. And he said Obama hadn't been aggressive enough in confronting threats from Islamic State fighters.

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JEB BUSH

The former Florida governor declined to comment Wednesday. But in comments to reporters in Florida on Tuesday, Bush didn't mince words about the threat IS poses.

"We should not be timid about expressing exactly what their goals are ... to challenge our way of life," he said in Tallahassee. "And I think we need to develop a world strategy to take them out."

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LINDSEY GRAHAM

The South Carolina senator called the president's proposal "fatally flawed" and inadequate to destroy the Islamic State.

"My goal is to destroy ISIL, not to drag out the war but to actually get a strategy that will destroy them," Graham said at the Capitol. "I want to get after these guys before they hit the homeland. They're not going to surrender. They're not going to give up."

Graham said the authorization should make clear that Syrian President Bashar Assad would face penalties if he stands in the way of eradicating Islamic State fighters. And he proposed amending the authority to give the United States power to defend rebels fighting Assad's forces.

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TED CRUZ

The Texas senator said Obama's request would spark animated hearings that would force the administration to outline a strategy. Asked if he would like changes to the language, Cruz said there were bigger problems than the authorization.

"The most important change I would like to see is with the administration's strategy for dealing with ISIS," Cruz said, using a different acronym for the Islamic State. For several months, we've seen a photo-op foreign policy, where they've dropped a bomb here or a missile there. They have not focused directly on what should be the clear objective of destroying ISIS."

He also suggested the authorization should include a provision to directly arm the Kurds.

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RICK PERRY

The former Texas governor said in a statement that Obama's proposed resolution was "a start — but not an end — and Congress has been negligent in not advancing this issue before now. We must defeat ISIS. I'm concerned that the war authorization may limit the use of ground forces" and contain other limitations.

Perry added that Obama needed to "explain the threat, why it matters to our national security, and how we and our allies will defeat ISIS. Such leadership is a pre-condition for any discussion of an AUMF (authorization for the use of military force). Unfortunately, the president has not been up to the challenge to date."

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MIKE HUCKABEE

The former Arkansas governor said the resolution "demonstrates a broad understanding that the war against ISIS will require a sustained military effort and the support of the American people.

But he added that the three-year limitation and the commitment against sustained use of ground forces "place counterproductive restraints on our national power, and the military's ability to accomplish the mission."

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RICK SANTORUM

The former Pennsylvania senator said the president's proposal "puts our nation in an untenable position."

"To limit our commitment to fighting this existential threat to just three years is shortsighted and shows a complete misunderstanding of who our enemy is, what they believe and what motivates them."

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CHRIS CHRISTIE

The New Jersey governor's office and his top political aide did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday, but Christie has repeatedly criticized Obama for not doing enough to fight the militant group. During a speech in Iowa on Monday evening, the Republican governor said terrorists had been emboldened by a lack of leadership in Washington, but he did not delve into details about what he would do differently.

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DEMOCRATS

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON

The former secretary of state did not immediately offer her views on the president's legislation, declining comment through a spokesman.

Clinton backed Obama's decision last year to authorize airstrikes against Islamic State militants and training for Syrian rebels. In a speech in Canada last October, Clinton called the U.S. effort against IS a "long-term struggle."

In the speech, Clinton said military action was "critical" and "essential," to try to prevent their further advance and their holding of more territory. She also said Western nations must work hard to enlist support among Arab nations and fight the group's social media propaganda.

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BERNIE SANDERS

The Vermont senator, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, said he would not be supporting the president's request despite a desire to see the Islamic State defeated.

"I have supported U.S. airstrikes against ISIS and believe they are authorized under current law, and I support targeted U.S. military efforts to protect U.S. citizens," he said in a statement.

"It is my firm belief, however, that the war against ISIS will never be won unless nations in the Middle East step up their military efforts and take more responsibility for the security and stability of their region. The United States and other western powers should support our Middle East allies, but this war will never be won unless Muslim nations in the region lead that fight. ... This is a war for the soul of Islam and the Muslim nations must become more heavily engaged."

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MARTIN O'MALLEY

On Facebook Wednesday, the former Maryland governor said the new authorization "should address ISIS specifically, and mitigate any unintended consequences by including clear language on the use of ground troops and the length and terms of engagement."