RPII: House Intelligence Chair boosts Ernst, blasts Obama & Braley
Matt Strawn, the former chief of staff to House Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Rogers, organized the event. This is a feature of Republican Party of Iowa Intel. Sign up for regular updates by subscribing here.
JOHNSTON, Iowa—Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, visited Iowa Saturday to boost the candidacy of state Sen. and Lt. Col. Joni Ernst in her close contest with Rep. Bruce Braley, a Waterloo Democrat and former trial lawyer.
Rogers, a former U.S. Army officer and FBI special agent, said that Ernst’s leadership abilities and military experience set her apart in this race—and among all U.S. Senate candidates. Ernst, of Red Oak, has served in the Iowa National Guard for more than 20 years.
“She looked into the eyes of these 17, 18, 19-year-old kids who had the courage to wear the uniform of the United States of America,” Rogers said. “If she can do that for 19-year-olds, she can do that for the United States Senate and the people of Iowa.“
Rogers oversees 16 American intelligence agencies, working with other committee members to set intelligence policies, determine budgets and hold agencies accountable. He sharply criticized President Barack Obama for leaving a gaping void of leadership in the world.
“If you want to see what the world looks like without U.S. leadership, just turn on your TV,” Rogers said, citing aggressive stances by China on territorial issues (predicting that China and Japan will have a “skirmish” within 18 months), Russia projecting power by deploying a nuclear submarine while still holding 20 percent of Georgia’s territory and occupying Crimea.
“There’s a void in leadership in the world, and they think they can get away with it,” Rogers said.
He reserved his harshest criticism of Obama for his handling of foreign policy in Iraq, Syria and the broader Middle East.
“Once the president made the decision to pull out of Iraq… it left a huge void for the support of a secular government,” Rogers said.
Former Prime Minister Nouri al-Malaki joined forces with Iran, removed leaders that the U.S. military trained and replaced them with unreliable Shia allies. This degraded the Iraqi military as al-Malaki consolidated control in a top-down Soviet-style manner, Rogers said. When ISIS emerged as a threat, Malaki ordered his leaders back to Baghdad, and the remaining Iraqi forces were overrun by the Islamic radicals, who have beheaded two American journalists—not to mention committed other atrocities such as crucifying Christians, massacring civilians, and forcing women into sexual slavery.
“The pullout in Iraq was based on [President Obama’s] politics,” Rogers said. “Every military officer I knew, every intelligence officer I knew… said that was probably a big mistake.“
Rogers faulted President Obama for refusing to arm the Kurdish Peshmerga for 18 months. The Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, controls territory in Iraq and Syria roughly the size of Indiana. The terrorist group operates like a national army, Rogers said, and they count among their ranks 3,000 people with Western passports, which allow them to enter the United States without visas. ISIS controls more than $1 billion in cash, precious metals and other goods. It also takes in millions per day through extortion, kidnapping and the black market oil trade.
Rogers suggested U.S. citizens who have fought for ISIS could already have returned to the United States to plan attacks.
“It does impact us,” he said. “We need to start reasserting ourselves.”
In contrast, Rogers said, President Obama has “continually undermined America’s leadership in the world. This is unconscionable, the world isn’t getting more safe—it’s getting less safe.” He said the Obama administration has proposed reducing the Navy to the smallest level since WWI and the Army to its lowest level since before WWII.
Rogers recounted a recent discussion with a Lebanese intelligence official. “Would you do me a favor? Will you tell Americans to not give up on themselves?” the official said. “Who will care about Christians in a government like Lebanon? It can only be you.” Two months later, the official was killed by a suicide bomber.
Rogers offered conditional support for President Obama’s recent strategy of targeted airstrikes against ISIS positions in Iraq and Syria, but he faulted Obama for setting preconditions for battle—including not putting American “boots on the ground.”
It’s “not the plan I would have come up with, but, hey, it’s something. But can you imagine FDR saying… here are the five things I won’t do to beat the Japanese?”
Rogers said that President Obama—and Americans—have a moral obligation to defeat ISIS and restore liberty to Iraq.
“In Iraq, they’re closing girls schools,” he said, explaining that women with newfound freedoms risk slaughter if they continue to exercise them. “I don’t know how we live with ourselves,” if we let that happen, Rogers said.
On a related issue Rogers slammed Obama for bumbling negotiations with Iran on issues of sanctions relating to their nuclear program. At a recent meeting of Arab league partners, Rogers said they felt “stabbed in the back” by Obama’s concessions to Iran.
“It looks almost like the Keystone Cops,” Rogers said. Obama’s foreign policy is “based on the philosophy that if we just hug the people that hate us, everything will be okay.”
Rogers ended by noting that with all the threats that America faces, Iowans cannot afford to send Rep. Bruce Braley, a liberal trial lawyer who skipped more than 70 percent of Veterans Affairs Committee hearings, back to Washington, D.C. as their next U.S. Senator.
Dardis praises Ernst’s combat experience, offers effusive endorsement
Lt. Gen. Ron Dardis, who retired from the Iowa National Guard in 2009, has endorsed Ernst and praised her leadership skills overseeing 149 soldiers during her deployment as a company commander in 2003’s “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” The Iowa National Guard has deployed more than 17,000 soldiers and airmen over the last decade to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan (“Operation Enduring Freedom”)—as well as outer countries as part of the Global War on Terrorism.
Enrst “played an integral part in this mobilization period,” Dardis said. “She has exceptional leadership skills. Her Transportation Company’s mission was performed in a combat zone and a very dangerous environment. The roads of Iraq were IED-laden and quickly became the most dangerous place in Iraq.”
Dardis cited the many Iowa soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice fighting for their country, noting that Ernst faced “life and death decisions” daily.
All 149 soldiers under her command returned to Red Oak safe and sound to reunite with their families. The safety of soldiers under her command was of utmost importance to Ernst, Dardis said.
“She loved her soldiers and they loved her,” he said. “This speaks to her caring and compassionate style of leadership. She always put the needs of her people first.”
“Joni demonstrated to us by her performance in Iraq as a combat commander that she was ready for increased responsibility,” Dardis said, and military leaders later promoted her to command of the largest battalion in the Iowa Guard. “This doesn’t happen by chance. Representing us in Washington will require strong leadership in order to make a difference. Joni is ready for that challenge. She is not afraid to make the tough decisions.”
“If you can provide leadership for 149 soldiers in a combat zone for 12 months, perform the mission they performed, and bring them all home safe and sound, you are ready to make a difference in Washington D.C.,” he said.
Dardis served in the military for more than 40 years. He was appointed Adjutant General of the Iowa National Guard by then-Gov. Tom Vilsack and led Iowa’s flood recovery efforts in 2008. He ended his speech Saturday by urging Iowa voters to make history.
“Joni was the first woman to command a combat unit in Iraq from the Iowa National Guard,” he said. “Let’s make Joni the first woman from Iowa to serve in the U.S. Congress!“