Sen. Johnson: Obama's Detachment 'Frightening'

Monday, 28 Oct 2013 02:25 PM

By Jim Meyers and Kathleen Walter

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President Barack Obama's claim that he was unaware of the National Security Agency's spying on world leaders exemplifies his "frightening" lack of involvement in the "day-to-day management of things," Sen. Ron Johnson tells Newsmax TV in an exclusive interview.

European officials are in Washington Monday for meetings with White House aides and members of Congress following reports the U.S. was spying on as many as 35 world leaders.

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Story continues below video.

A German newspaper reported that the NSA listened in on German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone calls and that president Obama knew about it.

Sen. Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican and member of the Foreign Relations Committee, comments: "First of all, the reports I hear is that President Obama did not know about much of these activities of the NSA, which to me is alarming.

"The level of detachment of this president from just the day-to-day management of things that he should fully be aware of is actually frightening.

"One of the first priorities of government is our national defense — keeping Americans safe. The best way for us to do that is to have a robust intelligence-gathering process, and obviously, the disclosures by Edward Snowden are really doing great damage to our ability to do that.

"But there needs to be limits in terms of what America really does. I would say that tapping the personal phones of world leaders is not a good idea, but the president should be aware of what is or isn't happening under his watch, and that to me is almost more alarming.

"Because we're the world superpower, we really do provide an awful lot of security for other countries around the world and we need intelligence-gathering capability.

"There are certain things we need to be considering within our intelligence community and with very strong monetary oversight here by Congress. I'm not saying all the details of these debates should be held in public, though, because it needs to be, in many respects, very covert if it's going to be effective."

Asked for his assessment of how the Obama administration is handling anti-terror efforts, Johnson says: "President Obama's foreign policy is a long way from being effective, let's put it that way. I'm trying to be kind.

"What Americans should really understand is President Obama as a senator utterly opposed just about everything that President Bush did from the standpoint of programs to maintain our national security. But now that he's president of the United States, now that he has actually seen the presidential daily briefings, now that he's actually being made aware of the very real and very significant threats against America, he's pretty well embraced everything that President Bush did. That really ought to tell Americans something.

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"I just wish we had a president that was more engaged, not so detached, and actually had some kind of a strategy for meeting the world as opposed to just withdrawing from the world."

Johnson also asserts that we need to "very concerned" about the possible repercussions stemming from disclosures about U.S. spying on foreign leaders.

"I'm the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Europe, and we hear it all the time," he says. "Part of the real problem is this president does not have good relations with members of Congress, he does not have good solid relations with different world leaders. We have a total lack of effective leadership coming out of the White House and that should concern every American.

"The world's a very dangerous place. America faces many challenges. We need an effective leader in the White House and we are not getting that type of leadership out of President Obama."

See more of the Newsmax exclusive interview with Sen. Johnson
Sen. Johnson Prepared to Sue 'Lawless' Obama Administration

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