Senator Rob Portman, a Republican from Ohio, speaks during an interview in Washington on July 10, 2014.
Andrew Harrer—Bloomberg/Getty Images
September 11, 2014 12:45 PM EDT

Ohio Sen. Rob Portman criticized President Barack Obama’s national address Wednesday evening on the threat of the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), telling reporters Thursday that he should not have bragged about withdrawing American troops from Iraq.

“It was tardy,” Portman said of the speech. “I wish he’d done it sooner.”

Speaking at a breakfast for reporters organized by the Christian Science Monitor, Portman, a Republican, argued that the United States’ failure to maintain a combat troop presence in Iraq after 2010 “is the reason we’re in the situation we’re in” with ISIS.

“He is proud of the fact that we are ending the combat mission in Afghanistan this year,” Portman said of the President, adding that Obama is indicating to would-be partners and foes that the U.S. is not “in it for the long haul … Again we are not learning the lessons of Iraq.”

“I don’t consider it a new war [against ISIS],” he added. “I consider it a continuation of something that began 13 years ago.”

Portman said he was broadly supportive of the strategy Obama laid out for Iraq and Syria, saying that Congress should approve the President’s funding request to train the moderate Syrian opposition: “I think the speech last night laid out a general strategy that I hope most republicans will support.”

The Vice Chairman for Finance of the National Republican Senatorial Committee said that with 53 days until Election Day, the battle for control of the Senate is “too close to call” and that “what happens in terms of the economy is always the x-factor.” He admitted it was unlikely to change dramatically before the election.

Portman said he isn’t actively weighing a run for the White House in 2016. “Yeah, I’ll take a look at it after the election,” he said. Asked about any upcoming visits to the early state of New Hampshire, he quipped, “My daughter goes to school up there, so part of my heart is in New Hampshire.”


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