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US Lawmakers React to Obama Speech at West Point

Sen. John McCain speaks during a forum with veterans in Phoenix, Arizona, May 9, 2014.
Sen. John McCain speaks during a forum with veterans in Phoenix, Arizona, May 9, 2014.
Michael Bowman
One of Barack Obama’s top congressional critics in foreign policy matters has responded forcefully to a speech in which the president mapped out his vision for U.S. engagement around the globe.

President Obama’s 2008 campaign opponent, Republican Senator John McCain, has repeatedly blasted what he sees as a lack of American resolve and action from Syria to Ukraine.  It was no surprise he criticized the president’s speech at the U.S. Military Academy in which Obama made a case for multilateralism and diplomacy first, with U.S. military force always at the ready.

McCain seemed to take personal umbrage at the president’s assertion that his critics are overly eager to see U.S. troops deployed around the world.  He spoke from his home state of Arizona, on Phoenix radio station KFYI, the Barry Young Show.

“None of us want to send troops to Syria, and for him [Obama] to continue to set up this straw man that all ‘interventionists’ want to send American troops everywhere - that is patently false,” he said.

McCain said, while deploying U.S. troops to Syria is not an option, the United States should be arming rebels fighting the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

The Republican senator was equally critical of Obama’s timeline for withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

“We are now seeing a replay of Iraq in Afghanistan, and one can only question whether this whole basis was that he [Obama] would be able to say at the end of his term that troops are out of both countries.  And that is in disregard to, I think, to the future security of this country.  It is a very sad time, and now he is going to talk about counter-terrorism and other things that obviously are needed.  But the first thing the United States of America needs to regain is its credibility,” he said.

McCain said U.S. vacillation on the world stage will exact “heavy prices” in “American blood and treasure.”

The chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Republican Ed Royce, had a similar reaction to the president’s speech.  In a statement, Royce said, “Too often, strong words have been followed by weak actions, or no actions.  The result has been a general loss of U.S. credibility, making successful foreign policy nearly impossible,” said the senator.

Democrats reacted more favorably to Obama’s address.  In a statement, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Eliot Engel, said, “President Obama made a clear and strong case for American leadership in the 21st century and why the United States must remain engaged around the world ... By working with our partners around the world to promote freedom, prosperity, and opportunity, we also advance our own interests, creating stronger relationships to contribute to the global economy and project stability across regions.”

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