by PABLO ROA
President Barack Obama addressed the American people from the Oval Office Sunday night to discuss the ongoing investigation of last week’s mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, and the general terrorism threat that the country faces on a daily basis.
The speech marked just the third time that Obama has used the Oval Office to address the American people during his presidency. Obama spoke from the Oval Office twice in 2010, first to discuss the B.P. oil spill and then to announce the end of the U.S.’ combat mission in Iraq.
“Tonight I want to talk with you about this tragedy, the broader threat of terrorism and how we can keep our country safe,” Obama said.
The president began his address by discussing the tragedy in San Bernardino, where a man and his wife opened fire at the nonprofit Inland Regional Center, killing 14 people and injuring 21 others. Authorities are investigating the shooting as an act of terror.
“So far, we have no evidence that the killers were directed by a terrorist organization overseas or that they were part of a broader conspiracy here at home,” Obama said. “But it is clear that the two of them had gone down the dark path of radicalization, embracing a perverted interpretation of Islam that calls for war against America and the West.”
In his address, Obama discussed the nation’s ongoing struggles with terrorism, both foreign and domestic, and how the country has taken measures to prevent terrorism at home since Al Qaeda’s attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, which killed nearly 3,000 Americans.
The president acknowledged that the “threat from terrorism is real” and reiterated the country’s commitment to fighting global terror and preventing violent acts like the shooting in San Bernardino.
“For seven years, I’ve confronted this evolving threat each and every morning in my intelligence briefing, and since the day I took this office, I have authorized U.S. forces to take out terrorists abroad precisely because I know how real the danger is,” Obama said.
“As commander in chief, I have no greater responsibility than the security of the American people,” the president added.
While Obama’s speech did not discuss any specific policy initiative to combat terrorism, the president broadly laid out his administration’s four-point plan to defeat the Islamic State.
“First, our military will continue to hunt down terrorist plotters in any country where it is necessary,” Obama said. “In Iraq and Syria, air strikes are taking out ISIL leaders, heavy weapons, oil tankers, infrastructure.”
Obama said the U.S. will also continue to support Iraqi and Syrian forces fighting ISIL on the ground and work with allies to “stop ISIL’s operations, to disrupt plots, cut off their financing, and prevent them from recruiting more fighters.”
Lastly, Obama discussed how the U.S. is working with the international community to bring about a peaceful resolution to the ongoing civil war in Syria.
“Doing so will allow the Syrian people and every country, including our allies, but also countries like Russia, to focus on the common goal of destroying ISIL, a group that threatens us all,” the president said.
Along with discussing his administration’s plans for fighting terrorism, Obama called on Congress to pass legislation that would make it more difficult for terrorists to buy weapons in the United States.
“Congress should act to make sure no one on a no-fly list is able to buy a gun,” Obama said. “What could possibly be the argument for allowing a terrorist suspect to buy a semiautomatic weapon? This is a matter of national security.”
Obama’s critics were quick to respond to the president’s roughly 15-minute long address, with Republican presidential candidates taking to Twitter to voice their displeasure at the president’s speech:
With the threat of terrorism around the globe continuing to grow and the shootings in San Bernadino, Paris and many others still fresh in everybody’s mind, Sunday’s address will likely not be the last time we hear from the president about terrorism in the near future. ISIS and other terrorist threats from around the globe — along with gun control at home — will likely play a key role in Obama’s final State of the Union address in January and in the 2016 presidential elections.
“The threat from terrorism is real, but we will overcome it,” Obama said. “We will destroy ISIL and any other organization that tries to harm us.”
Click here for a full transcript of the president’s Oval Office address.