Ayotte has harsh words for Obama
Ayotte, the junior Republican senator from the Granite State, was harshly critical of the administration's responses and actions to radical Islam, the rebel uprising in Syria, Iran's nuclear ambitions, the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya and the decision to bring the son-in-law of slain terrorist leader Osama bin Laden to the United States for trial.
"Our allies feel uncertain and our enemies feel emboldened," she said. "That's what happens when we lead from behind."
She identified the Sept. 11 attack on the Benghazi consulate, in which four Americans were killed, as the worst example of the administration's foreign policy. Following the attacks, Ayotte pressed the administration for answers about what happened at the consulate. The attack was initially labeled a spontaneous response to an anti-Islamic video, then later called a coordinated terrorist attack.
"Let's be clear: the administration did not and still does not want to come clean with the facts," she said.
"Unfortunately, we still haven't gotten all the answers of what happened," she said. "But I want you to know that we will keep pushing, I will keep pushing to get to the bottom of this debacle."
Ayotte said the administration also erred after catching Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, a son-in-law of Osama bin Laden, and deciding to try him in a civilian court in Manhattan. Ghaith pleaded not guilty Friday morning to conspiring to kill Americans.
"Unbelievably, instead of taking this foreign terrorist to Guantanamo Bay, holding him in military detention, what does this administration do with him? They bring him to New York City, right near where our country was attacked on September 11," she said. "They brought him to a civilian court. They gave him a lawyer. And they told him, 'You have a right to remain silent.' It is shameful."
She said the administration has further failed to halt nuclear enrichment by Iran, which she said could result in opposing factions in the Middle East scrambling to assemble nuclear weapons.
"A nuclear arms race in the world's most volatile region would be like lighting a match in a tinderbox," she said.
"The Obama administration is sending the worst signal to the ayatollahs at a most critical time," she said. "We talk, they enrich. They don't take us seriously. And this leading from behind strategy? It isn't working."
She said Iran recently announced it was enriching uranium at underground centrifuges.
"How many of you believe that they are enriching all of this uranium for peaceful nuclear power or for medical isotopes?" she said. "I don't believe it either."
She also accused Obama of "undercutting" commanders in Afghanistan and of taking passive roles during the Libyan and Syrian rebellions.
"In Syria, we sat on the sidelines while over 70,000 Syrians were slaughtered, ceding our policy to the vetoes of the Russians and the Chinese and the United Nations to a bunch of United Nations bureaucrats," she said.
Several times, Ayotte invoked the memory of former President Ronald Reagan, who she said was a strong leader on foreign policy. She said the country has to go back to his policy of protecting world peace, "because nobody else can."
"If America fails to lead, we will create a vacuum that will empower extremists and make America less safe," she said.