President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference following the G-20 Summit in Antalya, Turkey, Nov. 16, 2015.
Photo by Susan Walsh/AP

Obama defends American values, pushes back against GOP

11/16/15, 10:51 AM ET

Pres. Obama: Our goal is to ‘degrade and ultimately destroy’ ISIS

President Obama addresses Friday’s terror attacks in Paris and answers questions relating to global counterterrorism efforts at a G20 Summit news conference in Antalya, Turkey.
In the wake of Friday night’s terrorism in Paris, Republican policymakers and candidates have settled on a very specific policy demand: blocking ISIS’s victims from seeking refugee status in the United States.
Initially, it was GOP presidential hopefuls exploiting fear to advance their own ambitions, but soon after, Republican governors began scurrying to announce their “No Syrian Refugees Here” plans.
President Obama could have stuck his finger in the wind, but speaking from the G-20 Summit this morning, he took a stand in support of the United States doing the right thing.
“Slamming the doors in [refugees’] faces would be a betrayal of our values,” Obama said. Syrian “refugees are the victims of terrorism.”
“The people who are fleeing Syria are the most harmed by terrorism … they are parents, they are children, they are orphans.” Obama said. “It is very important that we do not close our hearts to these victims of such violence and somehow start equating the issue of refugees with the issue of terrorism.”
Given his remarks, the president has clearly heard some of the new Republican talking points, and he’s not impressed.
“When I hear folks say that well maybe we should just admit the Christians but not the Muslims, when I hear political leaders suggesting that there would be a religious test for which person who’s fleeing from a war torn country is admitted,” Obama said. “When some of those folks themselves come from families who benefited from protection when they were fleeing political persecution, that’s shameful. That’s not American, that’s not who we are.”
“We don’t have religious tests to our compassion,” Obama added, warning U.S. politicians not to “feed that dark impulse inside of us.”
There’s such an important difference between those who talk about leadership and those who lead. It’s as important as the different between those who talk tough and those who are tough.
Some U.S. leaders may have found it easy to announce this morning that the United States is simply too afraid to welcome any of ISIS’s victims as refugees. Such an announcement might have even been popular.
It’s all the more reason to give President Obama credit for defending American principles, even when it’s not easy.
Postscript: BuzzFeed published a very compelling piece this morning, noting that one of ISIS’s goals with the Paris attacks was to create a backlash against refugees.

Barack Obama, Foreign Policy, ISIS, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, Refugee and Syria

Obama defends American values, pushes back against GOP