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Obama’s terror speech divides Long Island congressional delegation

U.S. Rep. Peter King in Great Neck on

U.S. Rep. Peter King in Great Neck on Sept. 2, 2015. Credit: Jeremy Bales

Long Island’s delegation to Congress split along party lines in their reactions to President Barack Obama’s national address on terrorism Sunday night, with Democrats generally backing his approach and Republicans panning the speech for offering no new strategies.

Obama made the rare address from the Oval Office to reassure the nation he has a plan to combat the Islamic State after two radicalized American Muslims shot 14 people to death in San Bernardino on Wednesday. Obama called the massacre an “act of terrorism, designed to kill innocent people.”

Republican Reps. Peter King of Seaford and Lee Zeldin of Shirley said he fell far short of that goal.

Democratic Reps. Steve Israel of Huntington, Kathleen Rice of Garden City and Gregory Meeks of St. Albans said Congress should heed Obama’s requests to declare war on ISIS and pass laws to tighten visa waivers for visitors to the United States and to keep guns out of terrorists’ hands.

But Rice said Obama has not done an adequate job of explaining what he is doing about ISIS.

Before Congress can declare war on ISIS, she said, “We need to hear a much clearer, more detailed strategy for destroying Daesh [ISIS] once and for all. The American people expect and deserve to know how we’re going to do it.”

King said Obama’s speech was “almost pitiful.” King said the president showed a “lack of leadership” because he did not offer new plans to send more U.S. troops to Iraq and Syria, and he failed to include proposals to step up surveillance of American Muslim communities.

“Nothing he discussed would have prevented San Bernardino. He has not changed anything in his approach,” King said.

Zeldin also criticized Obama for saying he would not put more boots on the ground while doing just that to fight ISIS.

“He should be more honest on that with the American public and with the rest of the world,” Zeldin said, and he should “give commanders the flexibility and resources to accomplish their mission and don’t tie their hands behind their back with flawed rules of engagement.”

Meeks offered the strongest approval of the approach Obama outlined, calling it “comprehensive and multifaceted.” Meeks added, “This is not a threat that can be extinguished quickly, and the president was realistic about the difficulties ahead.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said short of committing more troops and money to the fight, “The president’s view that we can decimate ISIS in an air war with intelligence, reconnaissance and drones — and arming on-the-ground Middle Eastern enemies of the group — represents, I believe, the best possibility of subduing ISIS.”

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