U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson said fighting terrorism is “the equivalent of World War III, as far as I’m concerned” at a meeting of Lanier Village Estates residents Friday.
Isakson spoke principally about terrorism and veterans benefits in his 45-minute presentation, which included questions from the audience. More than 100 people attended.
Isakson has announced that he will seek a third term in November, and he revealed in late 2015 that he has Parkinson’s disease. He will be opposed on the May 24 primary ballot by Republican challengers Mary Kay Bacallao and Derrick “Tmot” Grayson. Democrats Cheryl Copeland, James Knox, Jim Barksdale and John F. Coyne III also qualified for the primary.
Isakson both criticized and complimented President Barack Obama for his terrorism efforts. He was critical of the president’s refusal to talk about “radical Islam,” but he said, “I appreciate the president finally made the commitment,” referring to U.S. attacks on Islamic State leaders since the attacks earlier this week in Brussels.
The U.S. has killed six of the top 12 leaders of IS, Isakson said.
He said Obama had not committed as much of the U.S. military power as he should have before now.
Isakson said there is “only one way to stop” people who are “willing to kill themselves to kill you, and that’s to kill them first.”
However, he also said, “Not all Muslims are evil” and specified that “part of (Islam) has been hijacked.”
He said that portion of the religion is evil and must be fought. He called “radical Islam” a “sect.”
Isakson said the U.S. first fought Islamists — the Barbary pirates — when Thomas Jefferson was president.
He also said he knows of no area in the U.S. that is under Sharia Law. He said he does not know of any areas in the U.S. that have “no go” areas where police and officials do not go because of the Muslim concentration.
Another man questioned the benefits he said immigrants get while benefits of disabled veterans have been cut.
“I know of no cuts for any veteran, period,” Isakson said. He added that some immigrants have children in the U.S., and those children are citizens and eligible for benefits in the U.S.
Isakson, who is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, said he expects to introduce bipartisan legislation in April that will improve veterans’ benefits and their access to care through the Veterans Administration.
He said he hopes legislation is signed by Obama in a White House ceremony on Memorial Day.
Isakson said he is working on that legislation with Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, and also has talked with White House officials about the bill.
“I’m as confident as I can be that the legislation will pass,” he said.
Isakson also talked about the national debt and the upcoming presidential election. He said the U.S. is at a critical point because, by some measures, the U.S. debt is 100 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.
He said that needs to be reduced to about 80 percent.
The “beginning” of a solution, Isakson said, was a biennial budget process that he proposed. That would allow one year to set budgets and one year to review programs for “cuts, savings and review.”
However, he said the country has a need to “recalibrate the formula” for Social Security. That largely means extending the age limit for younger citizens because of increased life expectancy.
Medicare also needs to be changed, he said, calling for “means testing” for benefits in the program.
He introduced the topic by saying the country needs to “keep our priorities in order.”
Isakson also predicted there will not be a “brokered convention” and that candidates Donald Trump, Ted Cruz or John Kasich will be the Republican nominee for president.
He predicted the GOP has a 60 percent chance of retaining control of the Senate, but he also said “how the presidential race goes probably will determine” what party wins control.