Alhurra Television’s live coverage of the State of the Union speech and the Republican response was followed by interviews with several members of Congress. Alhurra’s Congressional Correspondent, reporting from the Capitol Rotunda, spoke to them to get their reaction to the speech and their views of U.S. foreign policy in Iraq and Syria.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), remarked that President Obama’s statement about the role that the U.S. plays in the world was “very important.” He went on to say that, “America cannot be the policemen of the world, we cannot dictate to the rest of the world, but we do have a leadership role to play. I was very pleased that President Obama asserted that point.”
Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) also spoke about the U.S.’s role in Iraq and the fight against ISIL. He stated that both democrats and republicans have some areas of understanding, “I believe we all agree when it comes to ISIL that we need a unified response and we need a new authorization.” However, he did critique President Obama’s assertion that the U.S. would degrade and destroy ISIL. He commented that the U.S.’s response to the crisis has been “scattered and uncoordinated.” He said he did not think the President’s foreign policy has been successful, but that Republicans are willing to work with him.
By contrast, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD), stated that the model the U.S. used in Iraq, by making sure there are moderate leaders that represent all the people of Iraq was the best policy moving forward. “That is one of the best safeguards against the support for ISIL.”
Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) had a unique perspective as the first Muslim member of Congress. He stated that for the most part it has been a good experience, but admitted there had been a few rare occasions where his colleagues have made comments that are “disturbing.” He says that on those occasions he reaches out to them “try and dispel as much ignorance as we can.”
He also talked about ISIL and extremist groups trying to recruited young Muslim men from Minnesota. Rep. Ellison remarked that he was very concerned about the exploitation of families, stating, “I’ve talked to mothers that have seen their sons told a lot of lies and lured away and we just can’t tolerate it… All they are really doing is being asked to murder and kill innocent people.” To counter extremism in his community, Rep. Ellison said that he has been going around to different mosques to meet with imams and khatibs to talk about how to get across constructive messages about the true Islam. He said they are working to “teach people about what Islam really requires and allows.”
Alhurra also interviewed Sens. John Boozman (R-AR) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), as well as Representatives Robert Pittenger (R-NC), Steve Israel (D-NY), Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Ted Deutch (D-FL).