Ohio Gov. and GOP presidential candidate John Kasich Tuesday admitted he doesn’t have the authority to refuse to allow Syrian refugees in the state but said it’s appropriate for him to “express our concern.”
In a lengthy and quickly organized speech at the National Press Club – blocks from the White House that he hopes to inhabit - Kasich said he’d fielded questions from his daughter on why he opposed bringing in Syrian refugees in the aftermath of Islamist terrorist attacks on Paris.
“You know we understand these people are in trouble, but think about putting somebody on our street or in our town or in our country doing us harm,” Kasich said he told her, saying there needs to be a “system” that can determine “who these people are.”
Tuesday evening White House officials conducted a conference call with 34 governors — including Gov. John kasich — to “provide information about existing refugee admissions policies and security screening measures,” the White House said.
Kasich’s comments were party of a speech aimed at underscoring his own preparedness to be commander-in-chief. He criticized President Barack Obama for creating “a great void” in foreign policy that has created a leadership vacuum worldwide.
“We have just been doing nothing,” he said. “We did not arm the rebels. We did a poor deal with Iran. We’re not creating a no-fly zone. Our allies have drifted away from us. We have made no decisions regarding Ukraine. There has been so much inaction.”
He also made it clear that eliminating ISIS would inevitably require ground troops, but stopped short of specifying how many, saying he would defer to military advisers for such details.
“You can bomb them until doomsday,” he said. “It’s simply not going to work.”
In a speech that touched on China, Russia and ISIS, Kasich called for U.S. to act in coordination with NATO and other countries in the Middle East to destroy ISIS.
“We must be swift, we must be decisive and we must be absolute,” he said.
He called for increased support to the Kurds in both Syria and Iraq, but added that the United States must satisfy Turkey’s concerns about arming the Kurds in Syria. And he called for a coalition including the Turks, the Jordanians, the Egyptians, the Gulf States and the Saudis to unite to defeat ISIS.
Obama has assembled an international coalition to attempt to defeat the Islamic State, which holds large swaths of land in Iraq and Syria. The U.S., Great Britain, Australia, Belgium, Denmark, France, Jordan, the Netherlands have launched air strikes in Iraq while the U.S., Australia, France, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates have used air power in Syria.
But building a firmer coalition has run smack into Russia and Iranian support for the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad. By contrast, Turkey and the Saudis have called for Assad’s removal from power.
Even as the U.S. struggles with how to respond in the region, a debate is ensuing on what to do with Syrians fleeing the country. Obama had earlier announced plans to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees in the United States.
According to a spokesman, aides to Kasich were scheduled to participate in a briefing later Tuesday with governors and the White House later Tuesday to discuss the Syrian refugee crisis. Senior White House administration officials who spoke on condition of anonymity told reporters Tuesday that anyone admitted to the United States undergoes a thorough “intensive screening” from “multiple” federal agencies, including fingerprints, biographic information and “lengthy” interviews. The officials said even more rigorous safeguards are being used on Syrian refugees.
Democrats criticized Kasich’s address saying he’s “been on the wrong side of so many foreign policy decisions.”
“As a Fox News commentator, Kasich repeatedly agitated for war, defended torture, and alienated Muslim-Americans who are among our most important partners in the fight against extremism. John Kasich offers the same go-it-alone foreign policies as George W. Bush and Dick Cheney that failed us in the past, and he can’t be trusted when it comes to America’s national security.” Democratic National Committee spokesman TJ Helmstetter said Tuesday.
Dispatch Washington Bureau Chief Jack Torry contributed to this story.