Mutiny: Senate Democrats urge Obama to get hawkish on the ISIS threat

A week which began with a revolt among key Senate Democrats over the White House’s strategy, or lack thereof, to address the proliferating threats to American national security overseas has only accelerated over the last several days. On Wednesday, a number of Democrats publicly urged President Barack Obama to adopt a more hawkish approach to combating the threat posed by the Islamic State.


In a direct shot across Obama’s bow, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) endorsed Vice President Joe Biden’s garment-rending apoplexy over ISIS’s beheading of Americans over Obama’s measured deliberation.

Shaheen faces a challenge this November from former Massachusetts Republican Sen. Scott Brown. That is a race that was once thought to not be competitive, but has tightened significantly according to the most recent polling.

Shaheen was joined by freshman Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) who, in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, expressed his concern over Obama’s equivocating statements regarding the ISIS threat.

“I was troubled by the President’s recent suggestion that the Administration has not yet developed a comprehensive strategy to address the growing threat of ISIL’s activities in Syria,” Franken wrote. “One American who went to high school in Minnesota has been confirmed to have been killed in Syria while fighting with ISIL, and others have traveled there to fight with ISIL as well. We must act diligently and responsibly to prevent Americans from taking up arms with ISIL, or from reentering if they do.”


Franken, too, will face his state’s voters in the fall in a race few analysts deemed especially competitive.

During a Wednesday night debate between Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC) and North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis, the vulnerable Tar Heel State Democrat adopted a more forceful tone when discussing the challenge to U.S. security in the Middle East. In doing so, she took a shot at Obama’s policy towards the Syrian civil war from which the Islamic State sprang.

“I think one of the issues here is the President should have weaponized the moderate Syrian rebels sooner,” Hagan said. “Without doing that, he has allowed ISIS to grow. I believe that ISIS is the most serious threat to our national security since 9/11.”

Even a few Democrats in the Senate with nothing to lose are seeking to distance themselves from Obama’s handling of ISIS.

“We need to be working now, full-speed ahead, with other countries, to destroy ISIS,” said progressive icon Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). “That should be our number one priority.”

Moderate Democrat Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) also demanded that Obama get serious on ISIS. “I urge the administration to come to Congress with a clear strategy and political and military options for eliminating the ISIL threat,” the Virginia Democrat said in a statement issued on Wednesday.


He added that the United States “should not take any military options off the table, because stopping ISIL is in the national security and foreign policy interests of the U.S. and our European allies.”

This list of nervous Democrats going off the reservation is only likely to grow in the coming days.

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David Strom 6:40 PM | February 29, 2024