WH: Republicans' Rhetoric 'A Significant Problem' for Obama, Who's 'On the Hook' for Nat'l Security

By Susan Jones | March 29, 2016 | 6:46am EDT
White House spokesman Josh Earnest says Republicans' rhetoric on refugees is "counterproductive to our national security." (AP File Photo)

(CNSNews.com) - The kind of "rhetoric" that's coming from "multiple candidates on the Republican side" is not only "contrary to our values," it is putting President Obama in a difficult spot, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said on Monday.

"Their (Republicans') rhetoric is also counterproductive when it comes to protecting the American people. And that's a significant problem, particularly when you're the commander in chief and you are on the hook. You are the one that's primarily responsible for the safety and security of the American people.

"And the suggestion on the part of some of these Republican candidates is to marginalize certain communities in a way that could be counterproductive to our national security."

In his Saturday radio address, President Obama said Americans must fight Islamic terrorists, not only in the air, but through "the power of our example," including "our openness to refugees fleeing ISIL's violence."

Republican Donald Trump on Monday described President Obama's open-door policy toward refugees as catastrophic: "And it's going to lead -- I mean, you talk about downfall. This could lead to the downfall of the greatest nation on Earth," Trump told Fox & Friends.

A reporter asked Earnest to respond to Trump's criticism:

"His comments don't actually represent the facts of the situation," Earnest said. "The fact of the matter is that individuals who enter the United States through the refugee program are subjected to more intensive scrutiny than any other individual trying to enter the United States.

Typically, takes between 18 and 24 months for an individual who is entering the United States for the refugee program. The reason for that, is individuals who are seeking to travel to the United States as refugees are subjected to in-person interviews. They are subjected to background checks, their names are run through a variety of databases that are maintained by the U.S. military and the United States intelligence community.

"These individuals are required to submit biometrics and biographical information, so that information can also be used to vet them. All of this is critical to our national security to vet them."

Earnest noted that the U.S. takes in more refugees through a United Nations program than any other country in the world, and he said Americans should be proud that their country is viewed as a safe haven.

Then he mentioned the State Department's recent declaration, made under pressure, that Islamic State terrorists are committing genocide against Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East:

"There was a hullabaloo in the Republican Party...about whether or not the State Department would conclude that genocide -- acts of genocide -- were being carried out by ISIL in Iraq and in Syria. Are Republican suggesting that somehow, we should turn our backs on people that we have now concluded are fleeing genocide in their own country? Is that what they're suggesting?

"So they're suggesting that somehow, we should be tough on ISIL, and that we should protect people who might be victims of genocide, but we shouldn't let them in the United States even after they've undergone two years of intensive background checks?

“That's not right. That certainly is not what our values entail and it's why I continue to believe -- and Secretary Kerry and the president have both commented -- that the -- that these kind -- this kind of rhetoric from the Republican Party is counterproductive to our national security and flies in the face of the values that our country hold dear."

Does Obama get fired up when he hears Republicans say these things, a reporter asked Earnest.

"His response, I think, is rooted in the fact that as the commander-in-chief of the United States, that his top priority is to keep the American people safe," Earnest said.

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