Obama Downplays Threat of World Unrest

President Barack Obama told Democratic donors that despite unrest in Ukraine and Iraq, the U.S. faces less of a threat than it did during the Cold War.

Speaking at a backyard barbecue today in Purchase, New York, Obama said the brutality of Islamic State extremists fighting in Iraq and Syria, as well as Russia’s incursion into Ukraine, have made Americans anxious about turmoil overseas.

The U.S. has confronted greater dangers and overcome them, including the stand-off with the former Soviet Union following World War II, he told about 250 supporters who paid as much as $15,000 per couple to attend.

“This is not something that’s comparable to the challenges we faced in the Cold War,” Obama said of the current crises. “This is something we can handle.”

Obama has moved cautiously in confronting Russia’s support for separatists in Ukraine and combating the Islamic State extremists who have captured swaths of territory in Iraq and Syria. On Aug. 8, he authorized airstrikes against the militants in Iraq while ordering surveillance flights over Syria.

The Islamic State group doesn’t reflect Islam, he said, “but rather just reflects savagery, and extremism, and intolerance.”

Yesterday, the president again ruled out military action in Ukraine, saying a military solution won’t sort out the conflict there with Russia.

Criticizing Republicans

Turning to domestic politics today, Obama said Republicans in Congress aren’t interested in getting anything accomplished.

“What they’ve realized is, if we don’t get anything done, then people are going to get cynical about government and its possibilities of doing good for everybody,” Obama said. “Since they don’t believe in government, that’s a pretty good thing.”

As people become more disenchanted, they stop voting, Obama said. “If turnout is low and people don’t vote, that pretty much benefits those who benefit from the status quo,” he said.

He said the Republican Party “has become captive to the most ideologically rigid, most unproductive, most cynical group that I have ever seen.”

The event in Purchase was one of three fundraisers Obama attended today. It was held at the estate of former UBS Americas chief executive officer and longtime supporter Robert Wolf and his wife, Carol Wolf, coordinator for special projects at the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights.

In New Rochelle, New York, the president met with 25 supporters donating as much as $32,400 at a fundraiser hosted by George Logothetis, chief executive officer of New York-based Libra Group, and his wife, Nitzia Logothetis.

Both events were to benefit the Democratic National Committee. The third event, in Newport, Rhode Island, was fundraiser for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Obama is set to travel to Westchester, New York, tomorrow to attend the wedding of the first family’s personal chef, Sam Kass, who is marrying MSNBC host Alex Wagner.

(An earlier version of this story was corrected because of an incorrect time reference to Obama’s comments.)

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