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David Jolly “beyond disappointment” about president’s post-Paris immigration stance

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Pinellas County U.S. Rep. and GOP Senate candidate David Jolly says it’s “heartbreaking” that President Obama isn’t redirecting his strategy toward combating the Islamic State, in reaction to the terrorist attacks that occurred Friday night in Paris.

“It’s more than disappointing, this is heartbreaking,” Jolly said in a telephone interview Monday morning. “I have been imploring the president and others have as well, that we need to do more to defeat ISIS and terror cells.”

Insisting that he wasn’t being partisan, the 43-year-old Republican said he would “beg of” the president to reconsider his comments, even as late as this morning that, “he is just going to continue along this path.”

Speaking to reporters in Antalya, Turkey earlier, Obama said, “There will be an intensification of the strategy that we’ve put forward, but the strategy that we are putting forward is the strategy that ultimately is going to work,” adding, “It’s going to take time.”

Although a few Republicans (such as Lindsey Graham) are advocating for thousands of U.S. ground troops be sent to Syria to combat ISIS, many others — including Jolly — are not. He says that the best military force to contend with an asymmetric threat like the Islamic State is by having U.S. Special Operations more actively engaged.

“I don’t think we’re at the place of moving a land army into the Middle East,” Jolly said. “Nor should we be, but through a coalition with the U.S., Russian and Western European allies, I think we can deploy an international force of special operators that finally can quench this threat, and ultimately protect it from coming to the homeland.”

CBS News is reporting that U.S. officials are pressing France and Turkey to send special forces to Syria to work alongside the 50 U.S. operatives already deployed there.

One of Jolly’s opponents in the Republican race for Senate, Ponte Vedra Beach U.S. Rep.  Ron DeSantis, today criticized Obama’s previously announced plan to allow thousands of Syrian refugees to find safe haven in America, saying, “We have to err on the side of protecting the American people and we cannot run the risk of bringing terrorists into the United States.”

Jolly was more nuanced when asked his thoughts on bringing Syrian refugees into the U.S.

He said somewhat ambiguously that he supports bringing in refugees who “we know do not compromise our safety.” But he said the emphasis now should be on providing resources to Western European nations or other areas that can create a safe haven for refugees. “Where perhaps we are supporting them financially and we are providing some type of security assistance, ” he suggested, instead of admitting any Syrian refugees until a more secure vetting process can be implemented.

Jolly said Congress has been absent in the debate.

“We have a responsibility as Congress to bring up an AUMF (Authorization to use Military Force) that reflects where the American public is today,” he said. “And I think the American people feel an urgency and a concern that if we do not significantly escalate our current response to this threat, we risk an attack on the homeland, and that would be greatest tragedy of all.”

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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