November 18, 2015

Facing Blowback From Fellow Democrats, Hassan Waffles On National Security

In the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks, Governor Maggie Hassan, in a transparent effort to look less liberal as she runs for senate, broke with Hillary Clinton and most other Democrats by calling for the United States to stop accepting Syrian refugees:

The Governor believes the federal government should halt acceptance of refugees from Syria until intelligence and defense officials can assure that the process for vetting all refugees, including those from Syria, is as strong as possible to ensure the safety of the American people.

The reaction from Hassan’s fellow Democrats was immediate and overwhelmingly negative, with her Party leaders lashing out at Hassan and other governors who took the same position:

  • President Obama: “President Barack Obama is taking an even harsher tone against governors and lawmakers who want to stop the U.S. resettlement of Syrian refugees, blasting them for being ‘scared of widows and orphans’ while playing into the hands of the Islamic State terrorist group.” (Politico)
  • Hillary Clinton: “Later Tuesday at a campaign event in Dallas, Clinton pressed further, saying that denying refugees isn’t in line with American values. ‘We can’t act as though we are shutting the door to people in need without undermining who we are as Americans,’ she told a crowd of supporters.” (CNN)
  • Elizabeth Warren: “Warren said that the United States isn’t a country that sends ‘children back into the hands of ISIS murderers because some politician doesn’t like their religion, and we are not a nation that backs down out of fear.’” (The Hill)
  • Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin: “Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin says governors who turn away Syrian refugees are “stomping” on American values…‘The governors who are taking those actions are stomping on the qualities that make America great,’ Shumlin said at an unrelated news conference Monday morning, ‘which is reaching out to folks when they’re in trouble and offering them help, not hurting them.’” (Burlington Free Press)

Liberal activist groups called Hassan out directly. Democracy for America accused Hassan of caving to the Islamophobic fear-mongering of far-right extremists,” called her positionincredibly disappointing” and accused her of using “fear or racism to win elections,” and the ACLU of New Hampshire wasdeeply saddened by Governor Hassan’s call to close America’s door to Syrian refugees fleeing violence and oppression.”

Facing this clearly unanticipated backlash, Hassan rushed to do damage control. She penned an op-ed walking back her tough talk by framing the issue as a matter of government bureaucrats getting their paperwork in order: 

This should be a temporary measure. The federal government can and must work in a timely fashion to conduct a thorough re-evaluation of every step in the screening process, including ensuring proper resources for departments responsible for carrying out these screenings.

And complained to reporters that her statement was “misunderstood’:

This isn’t the first time Hassan has muddled her response to the threat posed by ISIS. When she announced her run for the senate in October, she initially told a newspaper that “we have to wipe out ISIS wherever it is,” but then took boots on the ground off the table in a radio interview just days later. In her op-ed this week she has yet another different answer, advocating “targeted special operations.”

Bottom line: Granite Staters searching for leadership in the fight against global terrorism cannot rely on Hassan to provide any semblance of courage or consistency on this vital national security issue.