During a Nov. 18 diplomatic visit to Manila, Philippines, U.S. President Barack Obama offered a scathing criticism of Republican lawmakers and presidential candidates who have been pressuring his administration to block the entry of 10,000 Syrian refugees.
Following the Nov. 13 Paris attacks that resulted in 129 casualties, Republican governors, congressmen and presidential candidates have been expressing grave skepticism over allowing Syrian refugees into the country. They are joined by some Democratic politicians who also voice safety concerns, Business Insider reports.
Obama, during a press conference held with Philippine President Benigno Aquino, voiced exasperation with GOP presidential candidates. Not holding back his annoyance, the president suggested that they are not just wrong, but cowards, Business Insider reports.
“These are the same folks oftentimes who suggest that they’re so tough that just talking to Putin or staring down ISIL (Islamic State group)… is going to solve the problems out there,” Obama says, according to MSNBC. “But apparently, they’re scared of widows and orphans coming into the United States of America as part of our tradition of compassion.”
The president then took a swipe at the GOP candidates’ grumbling over the CNBC-moderated Republic debate, which they had complained was filled with “gotcha” questions and hostile moderators.
“First, they were worried about the press being too tough on them during debates,” Obama says, according to MSNBC. “Now they’re worried about three-year-old orphans. That doesn’t sound very tough to me.”
Obama remarks seem particularly pointed at current GOP front runner Donald Trump, who has pitched himself as a leader who would cow America’s enemies with his sheer force of personality.
The president is particularly offended by candidates former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who have suggested that the U.S. prioritize helping Christian Syrians over the Muslim refugees, calling the attitude “political posturing” and a great recruitment tool for the Islamic State group, Business Insider reports.
One GOP presidential candidate who has taken Obama’s comments personally is Ted Cruz. Asked about the president’s criticism, the Texas senator issued a challenge for debate.
“Let me suggest something Mr. President,” Cruz begins, according to MSNBC. “If you want to insult me, you can do it overseas, you can do it in Turkey, you can do it in foreign countries… but I would encourage you, Mr. President, come back and insult me to my face. Let’s have a debate on Syrian refugees right now. We can do it anywhere you want. I’d prefer it in the U.S. and not overseas where you’re making the insults.”
The Obama administration has not responded to Cruz’ challenge. In all likelihood, the president will be too busy to debate Cruz, whether the stage is in the U.S. or abroad.