Republicans wasted little time Sunday night dismissing President Barack Obama’s nationally televised call for new gun restrictions while defending his administration’s handling of terror threats.
In a rare address from the Oval Office, Obama sought to reassure a nation on edge in the wake of last week’s shooting spree in San Benardino, Calif., that left 14 dead, telling viewers that his plan to defeat terrorism won’t “depend on tough talk, or abandoning our values or giving in to fear.”
Obama reiterated several familiar talking points on guns and terror and promised a review of a visa background check that failed to prevent one of the assailants in Wednesday’s mass shooting from entering the country.
Obama also asked Congress to approve an authorization for the use of military force against the Islamic State, or ISIL, the terrorist group in control of parts of Syrian and Iraq that one of the two assailants in last week’s attacks pledged allegiance to on Facebook.
“The threat from terrorism is real, but we will overcome it. We will destroy ISIL and any other organization that tries to harm us,” he said.
The reaction from Republican presidential candidates ranged from incredulous to outright derision.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who has surged in GOP presidential polls recently as national security has taken center stage after the Islamic State attack in Paris, called the president’s speech “disappointing.”
“He announced nothing new other than we need gun control, even though it would have done nothing to prevent the attack in California,” Rubio said in an appearance on Fox News. “People are really scared and worried. … I think not only did the president not make things better tonight, I fear he may have made things worse in the minds of many Americans.”
GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump trolled the president on social media, tweeting his more than 5 million followers a dismissive “Is that all there is?”
Is that all there is? We need a new President – FAST!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 7, 2015
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said via Twitter the Obama administration is “focused on gun laws that won’t stop terrorists while pushing policies that will let more of them in the country.”
GOP contender Carly Fiorina tweeted: “Vintage Obama: No strategy, no leadership. Politics as usual.”
Vintage Obama: No strategy, no leadership. Politics as usual.
— Carly Fiorina (@CarlyFiorina) December 7, 2015
On Capitol Hill, House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wisc., tweeted: “This was disappointing. No new plan, just a half-hearted attempt to defend and distract from a failing policy.”
Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., called the president’s speech a lecture: “President Obama used tonight’s remarks to lecture Americans on the most politically correct ways to speak of Islam and to push new gun control measures that would have done nothing to prevent this tragedy.”
Another Tennessee Republican, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, called the president “tone-deaf” in a Facebook post.
New York’s Rep. Lee Zeldin said in a statement: “If ISIS is the JV team, President Obama is riding the bench at T-Ball today.”
But Democrats rallied to the president. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called Obama “resolute and strong.”
Another California Democrat, Rep. Karen Bass, tweeted: “Time for Congress to pass common sense gun legislation.”
The president “correctly offers clear-eyed appraisal of threat posed by terrorism,” tweeted Virginia Democrat Gerry Connelly.
The president’s remarks came four days after the San Bernardino killings and a day after a rare page one editorial in The New York Times calling the epidemic of mass shootings in the country a “moral outrage.”
In the editorial, the paper calls for an end to civilian ownership of certain types of combat rifles, arguing that, “It is not necessary to debate the peculiar wording of the Second Amendment. No right is unlimited and immune from reasonable regulation.”