Obama Returns, With Hopes for a Careful Look at the Refugee Debate

Screen Shot 2015-11-23 at 8.15.06 AMCARL HULSE

Monday, November 23, 2015


Good Monday morning. Even with Congress out of town for the Thanksgiving holiday, the heated debate over refugees from Syria and Iraq continues to be a steady presence in Washington and on the trail. President Obama was on a trip to Asia during the back-and-forth and the Paris attacks that prompted it. But, on Monday, he comes home.

Mr. Obama returns from 10 days overseas on Monday and will try to regain the political offensive on both the Syrian refugee question and his military strategy against the Islamic State.

The president will have the Washington stage to himself with Congress out of town for Thanksgiving. Mr. Obama said on Sunday before leaving Malaysia that he hoped the interlude would provide an opportunity for the public to learn more about the stringent scrutiny that refugees from Syria and Iraq undergo before being allowed into the United States.

“My hope, though, is, is that now that we’ve got some time to catch our breath and take a look at this carefully, people understand that refugees who end up in the United States are the most vetted, scrutinized, thoroughly investigated individuals that ever arrive on American shores,” Mr. Obama told reporters.
It was an eventful week for Mr. Obama during his time out of the country, with the Paris attacks followed by the rapid action in the House to put new standards in place for vetting refugees and by the terrorist attacks in Mali. He came under strong criticism by Republicans for his response to the violence in Paris and lost nearly 50 Democrats in the House vote on the refugees.
In his remarks on Sunday, he vowed that “we will destroy” the Islamic State and that “we will take back land that they are currently in,” even as he warned that discrimination and prejudice exhibited toward refugees would strengthen the terrorists while undermining national security.
Mr. Obama will get a chance to again try to convince Americans that he has the right response to the bloody turmoil in the Middle East when he meets on Tuesday at the White House with President François Hollande of France, who is pushing for an aggressive international show of force against the Islamic State. Mr. Obama is then scheduled to repay the visit, traveling to Paris for climate talks early next week.