President Obama on Tuesday night tore into Republicans’ recent focus on barring Syrian refugees from the United States following the terrorist attacks in Paris, mocking conservatives for suddenly being scared of “three-year-old orphans.”
During a press conference with the president of the Philippines, Obama was asked about lawmakers’ concern about the U.S. plan to admit additional refugees from Syria.
Obama said that the U.S. is “not well-served when, in response to a terrorist attack, we descend into fear and panic. We don’t make good decisions if it’s based on hysteria or an exaggeration of risks.”
The president noted that the vetting process for refugees is incredibly “rigorous,” and that the U.S. has been criticized for using such a “cumbersome” process when helping victims of terrorism.
“And so if there are concrete, actual suggestions to enhance this extraordinary screening process that’s already in place, we’re welcome — we’re open to hearing actual ideas,” Obama said. “But that’s not really what’s been going on in this debate. When candidates say, we wouldn’t admit three-year-old orphans — that’s political posturing. When individuals say that we should have a religious test and that only Christians — proven Christians — should be admitted — that’s offensive and contrary to American values.”
“I cannot think of a more potent recruitment tool for ISIL than some of the rhetoric that’s been coming out of here during the course of this debate. ISIL seeks to exploit the idea that there is a war between Islam and the West,” he continued. “And when you start seeing individuals in positions of responsibility, suggesting that Christians are more worthy of protection than Muslims are in a war-torn land, that feeds the ISIL narrative. It’s counterproductive, and it needs to stop.”
Obama then criticized politicians who describe themselves as “tough,” noting that they are now afraid of women and children fleeing terrorism.
“These are the same folks oftentimes who suggest that they’re so tough that just talking to Putin or staring down ISIL, or using some additional rhetoric somehow is going to solve the problems out there. But apparently, they’re scared of widows and orphans coming into the United States of America as part of our tradition of compassion,” he said. “First, they were worried about the press being too tough on them during debates. Now they’re worried about three-year-old orphans. That doesn’t sound very tough to me.”
Finally, Obama worked in a hit on Congress and lawmakers on Capitol Hill’s sudden interest in barring Syrian refugees from the country.
“With respect to Congress, I know that there’s been discussion about legislation suddenly surfacing around refugees,” the president said. “I’ve been waiting for a year and a half, or more, for legislation that would authorize the military activities that we’re carrying out in Syria as we speak, and have not been able to get anything out of Congress. And now, suddenly, they’re able to rush in, in a day or two, to solve the threat of widows and orphans and others who are fleeing a war-torn land, and that’s their most constructive contribution to the effort against IISL? That doesn’t sound right to me. And I suspect it won’t sound right to the American people.”
Watch part of the president’s comments via NBC News: