Obama downplays ISIS threat, defends economic record in State of the Union – FoxNews

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President Obama, with an eye on cementing his legacy and countering the narrative on the Republican campaign trail, used his final State of the Union address Tuesday night to defend his economic record – and, in stark language, downplay the threat from the Islamic State.

“Over-the-top claims that this is World War III just play into their hands,” the president said, arguing that ISIS fighters “do not threaten our national existence.”

The remarks on ISIS are sure to rile Republican critics who say the president’s strategy for confronting the group is inadequate – particularly just hours after ISIS was blamed for another deadly attack, this time in Istanbul.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, one of the leading candidates for the GOP presidential nomination, tweeted afterward that the address was “less a State of the Union and more a state of denial.”

The backdrop of the address undeniably was election-year politics, though Obama is not on the ballot. Throughout the speech, the president took several implicit jabs at the GOP candidates competing for his job, and in doing so sought to shore up his own legacy.

His message to them seemed to be: The sky is not falling.

On the economy and on national security, Obama called the criticism “political hot air.” More broadly, the president sounded a call for “better politics” and bipartisanship, and cast the rancor directed at his administration’s policies as the product of an overheated political system.

“Let me tell you something, the United States of America is the most powerful nation on Earth. Period,” Obama said, to those who say America is getting weaker.

And to those who say the economy is just limping along, Obama countered: “Anyone claiming that America’s economy is in decline is peddling fiction.” He said America’s is the “most durable economy in the world” and one that has improved on his watch.

The defiant remarks were met with skepticism from Republicans in the audience. House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office said the “lofty platitudes” still did not explain how to defeat ISIS and get the economy back on track.

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