President Obama accused Republicans of delivering a propaganda victory to ISIS by opposing his plan to bring Syrian refugees to the United States.
“I cannot think of a more potent recruitment tool for [ISIS] than some of the rhetoric coming out of here in the course of this debate,” Obama said during a press conference in the Philippines, where he is traveling for an economic summit.
Republican and Democratic governors have said they won’t cooperate with federal efforts to settle Syrian refugees in their home states, a resistance that speaks to the security fears and political risks of the move. Obama was eager to confront both, arguing that his administration can vet refugees and taking direct shots at the GOP presidential field.
Obama mocked Republicans for opposing the refugee program in the same way that he derided their complaints about the media following the CNBC debate. “These are the same folks oftentimes who suggest that they’re so tough that just talking to Putin or staring down [ISIS], or using some additional rhetoric somehow is going to solve the problems out there,” he said. “But apparently, they’re scared of widows and orphans coming into the United States of America as part of our tradition of compassion.”
#share#The president dismissed New Jersey governor Chris Christie’s unwillingness to accept “orphans under five” as “political posturing,” and took aim at Jeb Bush’s suggestion that the U.S. should prioritize the rescue of Christian refugees and Texas senator Ted Cruz’s push to ban Syrian Muslims from coming to the United States.
“ISIL seeks to exploit the idea that there is a war between Islam and the West,” Obama said. “And when you start seeing individuals in positions of responsibility, suggesting that Christians are more worthy of protection than Muslims are in a war-torn land, that feeds the ISIL narrative. It’s counterproductive, and it needs to stop.”
U.S. policy toward Christian refugees was reaching a flash point between Obama and Republicans even before the Paris attacks. State Department officials have signaled to Congress that Yazidis, but not Christians, will be recognized as genocide victims. Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R., Calif.) introduced legislation two weeks ago that would designate Christians and Yazidis in the path of ISIS as victims of genocide, thereby giving them priority over other other applicants for refugee status.