MOUNT PLEASANT, S.C. (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio said in South Carolina on Wednesday that the Obama administration is making the United States less safe instead of more secure.
Traveling with his wife and children, Rubio told supporters during a stop near Charleston that the U.S. must confront groups like the Islamic State directly and build a coalition of support. The Florida senator also criticized President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton for worrying about the appearance of a "war on Islam."
"ISIS hates Muslims, too," Rubio said, using the acronym for the Islamic State group. "We have no choice but to confront them and to defeat them."
For Rubio, that means more airstrikes, as well as a U.S.-led coalition.
"We have no choice," he said. "Either they win, or we win. There is no middle ground here."
Rubio's remarks came just after Obama told reporters at the White House that there is no "specific and credible" intelligence to suggest terrorists have plans to strike the United States over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, seeking to reassure anxious Americans.
Speaking after meeting with his national security team, Obama said it was understandable that Americans might be nervous following the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris, which killed 130 people and wounded hundreds more. While he encouraged Americans to remain vigilant, he urged people to go about their normal activities.
"While the threat of terrorism is a troubling reality of our age, we are both equipped to prevent attacks and we are resilient in the face of those who would try to do us harm," Obama said. "And that's something we can all be thankful for."
Rubio also said that Obama's insistence on a deal with Iran that includes sanctions relief will ultimately put more weapons in that country's hands.
"Iran is governed by a radical Shia cleric. And this president is giving him $150 billion of sanctions relief," Rubio told the crowd of a few hundred at an outdoor restaurant on picturesque Shem Creek. "They're going to use it for what Iran has always used their money for, to sponsor terrorism, to build a long-range missile that can strike the United States."
Rubio also said that cuts to U.S. military budget, as well as what he described as a weakened intelligence network, further endanger the country. The blame for that is also borne by some Republicans, he added.
After a terror attack, "the first question everyone's going to have is, why didn't we know about it, and why didn't we stop it?" Rubio asked. "And the answer better not be, because we weakened our intelligence programs."
Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP.