Face in the News: Obama weighs in on Iraq as crisis deepens; Rubio, Rogers, and Boxer on the ISIS threat

(CBS News) -- This Sunday on Face the Nation, all eyes were on Iraq, as militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Al Sham captured four more towns pushing the country into further chaos. The extremists now control much of the Iraqi-Syrian border threating to further destabilize the region as well as Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki'scontrol of the country. Guest host Norah O'Donnell spoke to President Obama for CBS This Morning and heard his take on the ongoing crisis. In addition, Sen. Marco Rubio, R.-Fla., Sen. Barbara Boxer, D.-Calif., and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Rogers, R.-Mich., joined the broadcast to weigh in on the turmoil.

In an interview that aired in full today on CBS This Morning, O'Donnell asked the president if ISIS was an urgent threat to the United States. Obama cast the danger raised by the militant group in relative terms. "I think it's fair to say that their extreme ideology poses a medium and long-term threat," he said. "There are a lot of groups out there that probably have more advanced, immediate plans directed against the United States that we have to be on constant guard for."

ISIS weapons and soldiers have moved freely between the Iraq-Syria border over the last few weeks, taking advantage of Syrian chaos as that country remains mired in a brutal civil war. But Obama insisted that additional American support for the Syrian rebels, who hope to unseat President Bashar al-Assad, would not have been enough to mitigate the power vacuum that now exists and not enough to counter the growing firepower of ISIS. "This notion that somehow there was this readymade, moderate Syrian force that was able to defeat Assad is simply not true," Obama said. "The notion that they were in a position suddenly to overturn not only Assad, but also ruthless highly trained jihadists, if we just sent a few arms is a fantasy."

The president's comments were picked up by The Washington Post, USA Today, CNN, National Review, The Boston Globe, The Associated Press, and The Fiscal Times.

Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Mike Rogers both shared the assessment that ISIS posed an immediate threat, making the case that if the group managed to solidify its presence in Iraq, the likelihood of terrorist attacks in Europe and the U.S. would increase dramatically. "If you look at what happened before 9/11, the reason why al-Qaeda was able to carry out the 9/11 attacks is because they had a safe operating space in Afghanistan that the Taliban had given them," Rubio said. "And now history is trying to repeat itself."

Rogers was equally concerned, and he stressed that American allies in the region would suffer the fallout if ISIS continued its advances. "ISIS is as much a threat to their governments as it is to the Shia-led Malaki government," he said, referring to U.S. partners in the Arab League. "They are very frustrated with us... and nervous about what happens next."

He also criticized the President's characterization of U.S. strategy towards Islamic extremism: a refusal to play "whack-a-mole" where sectarian violence erupted. "It's easy to try to diminish the threat," Rogers said. "What we know happens, as we watched happen in Afghanistan: they build a safe haven. They train. They recruit. They plan operations that led to 9/11, the killing of three thousand Americans."

Rubio and Rogers's comments were picked up by National Review, Newsmax, The Hill, The Tampa Bay Times, Mediaite, Breitbart, The Orlando Sentinel, The Huffington Post, and Politico.

Sen. Barbara Boxer explained that she agreed ISIS posed a threat to the U.S., but she made clear that she was strongly opposed to any extensive involvement on the part of the American military. "We're not going to go back into that war again, ever," she said. "The fact is: what we're seeing now is an outgrowth of that bad policy the neocons got us in - that crowd on false pretense that said, 'Go in there.' And as a result, ISIS was born."

She also sharply criticized former Vice President Dick Cheney, who wrote recently about Barack Obama: "Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many."

"That is sick," Boxer said, pointing out that Cheney had been wrong on Iraq during the Bush administration. "It was just like, you know, a nightmare come back to haunt me."

Boxer's comments were picked up by Politico, Mediaite, Breitbart, RealClearPolitics, National Review, andMcClatchy.

  • Peter Fulham

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