Perry criticizes Obama for ‘no strategy’ on Syria

DALLAS — Texas Gov. Rick Perry is wasting little time pouncing on President Barack Obama’s “we don’t have a strategy yet” comments about the violent militant faction attacking cities in Iraq, accusing the White House of “dithering and debating” the threat posed by the Islamic State group.

Perry is one of a string of Republicans mulling 2016 presidential runs who is addressing thousands of delegates this weekend in Dallas at the annual summit of Americans for Prosperity, an influential conservative organization backed by the billionaire industrialist Koch brothers.

“Yesterday, the president admitted he had no strategy to deal with ISIS,” Perry will say in his Friday afternoon speech, according to excerpts released early by his campaign. “The deepening chaos in Iraq, Syria, Gaza, and Ukraine is all the clear and compelling evidence the world needs of a president one step behind, lurching from crisis to crisis, always playing catch up.”

Perry was indicted this month in Austin on two felony counts related to abusing the power of his office. But a conviction in the case looks like a longshot, and Perry has gained favorable attention nationally by dismissing it as a political ploy.

Obama spoke Thursday, shortly before convening a meeting of his national security advisers to discuss a range of Pentagon options for confronting the Islamic State group. The U.S. is already striking militant targets in Iraq, and administration officials have said the president was considering similar action in neighboring Syria.

“We don’t have a strategy yet,” the president said. “I think that’s not just my assessment, but the assessment of our military, as well. We need to make sure that we’ve got clear plans, that we’re developing them.”

Also addressing the conservative gathering in Dallas on Friday was Gov. Mike Pence, but he didn’t mention Obama’s speech during his prepared remarks — and ducked a chance to ding the president in comments afterward.

“I didn’t hear his remarks, and I haven’t read them. But the president of the United States is the commander of chief of our armed forces,” Pence told The Associated Press. “I wouldn’t want to prejudge what his military advisers counsel.”

Also appearing at the summit later Friday is tea party-backed Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky. Through a spokesman, Paul offered no immediate comment on Obama’s speech.

Perry, though, was far less hesitant.

“President Obama’s response has been to minimize the threat, as if his words have the power to make it so,” Perry is planning to say of crisis in the Middle East and Ukraine. According to the excerpts, he’ll add: “American leadership is needed now, more than ever. Presidential leadership is needed now, more than ever.”

Addressing the Americans for Prosperity summit Saturday is tea party firebrand and fellow Texan, Sen. Ted Cruz, who himself has frequently been a vocal critic of the Obama administration’s foreign policy.