What did the candidates think of Obama’s national security address?

Following President Barack Obama’s address to the nation Sunday, the candidates jockeying to have his job in more than a year reacted to the president’s strategy for defeating ISIS and terror threats at home.

Before the president’s Oval Office speech began, Donald Trump was prepared to respond.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., expressed his disappointment with the president’s remarks, especially regarding the call for tighter gun control.

The Kentucky Republican also appeared on Yahoo News with Katie Couric immediately following the president’s address.

Some candidates — like Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., former Gov. Mike Huckabee, R-Ark., and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. — took to the cable shows to criticize the president.

“People are scared, not just because of these attacks, but because of a growing sense that we have a president that’s completely overwhelmed by them,” Rubio told Fox News’s Bret Baier.

He slammed President Obama’s offensive strategy against ISIS, saying there is no coalition fighting the group, and that it can’t be defeated by airstrikes alone.

“I’m very disappointed tonight,” he added. “I think not only did the president not make things better tonight — I fear he may have made things worse.”

Huckabee also reacted to the president’s speech on Fox News:

“We need to understand that we’re dealing with an enemy that is like … a cancer. And I’ve said: When you have a malignant cancer, you don’t just try to take care of the area around it. You eradicate that cancer. Then you radiate around it, so it doesn’t come back. That’s how you deal with ISIS,” Huckabee told Fox News’s Jeanine Pirro.

“I don’t know anybody with a brain that can’t identify that when people follow jihad — when they believe their duty to God on this earth is to kill everybody that does not accept their caliphate — I don’t know why this president can’t say, ‘Folks, these are our enemies,’” he added.

Sen. Graham sounded the drumbeat for an increased ground game against ISIS.

“Another 9/11 is coming here,” he said on Fox News. “This is not about lone wolves … the people who planned Paris want to come here.”

“If I’m president of the United States, we’re gonna have a ground war against ISIL.”

Other candidates opted for written statements, like former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

President Obama has finally been forced to abandon the political fantasy he has perpetuated for years that the threat of terrorism was receding. We need to remove the self-imposed constraints President Obama has placed on our intelligence community and military, and we need to put in place an aggressive strategy to defeat ISIS and radical Islamic terrorism as I have proposed. Unfortunately, neither he nor Hillary Clinton has the resolve to put in place such a strategy.
This is the war of our time. It should not be business as usual. We need a war-time Commander-in-Chief who is ready to lead this country and the free world to victory. — Jeb Bush

“The President’s strategy is not enough. Without taking the fight to ISIS on the ground, ISIS won’t be defeated. Since February I’ve been calling for a coalition to do that. We must stop delaying and do it. We delayed in helping the Syrian rebels and look where it got us, and when we decided to act it was too little. Bolder action across the board is needed because our way of life is what’s at stake. Also, when terrorists threaten us, our response can’t be to target our own constitutional rights. Our rights aren’t the problem, our unwillingness to act to defeat extremists is the problem. We need to decisively and aggressively protect our nation and our ideals. We can’t delay.” — John Kasich

“On December 7, 1941, in response to Pearl Harbor, FDR did not give a partisan speech, rather he called on Americans to unite and ‘win through to absolute victory.’

“If I am elected President, I will direct the Department of Defense to destroy ISIS. And I will shut down the broken immigration system that is letting jihadists into our country.

“Nothing President Obama said tonight will assist in either case.” — Ted Cruz

“President Obama is right. ISIS will be destroyed with an international coalition in which Muslim troops on the ground are supported by the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia and other leading powers. We must learn the lesson of Iraq. American troops should not be engaged in perpetual warfare in the Middle East.

“Further, as we destroy ISIS, it is essential that we do not allow fear and division to undermine the constitutional rights that make us a free people.” — Bernie Sanders

But many of the candidates critiqued the president more succinctly on Twitter …

… including a former Democratic candidate.


The NewsHour political team will continue to update this post as additional candidates react to the president’s statement. And tune in to the NewsHour Monday night for further analysis of the president’s speech, including Politics Monday with NPR’s Tamara Keith and Amy Walter of the Cook Political Report.