It took former Vice President Dick Cheney mocking President Barack Obama to fire up the stoic, no-drama, vacationing White House last week and provoke the ultimate response — sending John Brennan, Obama's counterterrorism adviser, out to the Sunday shows to hit back at Cheney. It was the exactly the kind of response they should have used out of the box.
To be sure, the signals coming from the president and his administration in the days following the attempted terrorist attack on our soil Christmas Day have been both muted and mixed. First, press secretary Robert Gibbs and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano sought to assure us that the "system" worked following the attempted murder of hundreds of Americans aboard a jetliner on final approach to Detroit. The only thing that worked was that the would-be terrorist martyr was able to elude scrutiny and place himself aboard a flight to the United States after (1) purchasing a one-way airline ticket to America after (2) his father had warned American officials as to the "radicalization" of his son and (3) said terrorist was placed on a watch list by American authorities. The system worked, indeed.
Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) may have become one of those 50 monkeys at a typewriter who has actually come up with something. Usually he just spews out garbled slime that serves no other purpose than to add to the highly partisan incoherence. This time he may have landed on a valid target: Errol Southers.
As galling as it may be, perhaps he's actually correct when he says there should be no rush, that senators need to think a little bit longer before they decide whether to confirm Southers as the best person to head the Transportation Security Agency. Not that he had nailed the correct reasons. DeMint's motivation, after all, was blatant obstructionism of the most Republican kind. He claimed it had to do with the possibility that Southers might allow TSA employes to unionize, which, to the GOP base, is akin to Satanism.
If Janet Napolitano should be fired for her role in the Christmas bombing plot, George W. Bush should have been impeached for being warned about planes flying into buildings in New York and ignoring those warnings, and Dick Cheney should have been impeached for his role in the CIA leak case and prosecuted for his role surrounding torture.
No, the cheap, partisan attacks should stop. Republicans should be far more modest about their own responsibility. Of course, Napolitano could have handled this better, but the consequences of her mistakes are nothing compared to the consequences of mistakes by Bush, Cheney, Alberto Gonzales and many others.
After almost a year of his presidency the first impression given by Barack Obama holds up: That he is a smart guy, a nice guy, a guy who wants to do the right thing. But questions arise now as to whether or not he has the ability to do the right thing. It has been proposed here at The Hill and elsewhere that Janet Napolitano be fired. She has no place in her job. But does Obama have the character to fire her? Does he understand management’s necessities? Does he understand battle?
Here, there and everywhere after the terrorist attempt on Christmas Day in Detroit heroically thwarted by a passenger, the original feelings came up again that first surfaced after 9/11. The same feelings I felt when troops were first sent to Tora Bora; mixed feelings that sadness, helplessness would now be vindicated by courage and neutralized by vengeance and possibly justice. George W. Bush said he would bring Osama bin Laden back dead or alive. It was not a bad thing to want then or now.
12/25 might in time, and time not far along, prove to be a very good day for George W. Bush. Maybe not so good for Barack Obama. Because Obama from here on out will be compared to Bush.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano needs to go. Immediately. For the safety and security of the nation. It's not personal, it's just that, well, Americans would prefer not to risk getting blown to smithereens just to spare President Obama the "embarrassment" of having to fire one of his Cabinet members and to spare Napolitano some hurt feelings. Especially after both urged Americans to give them the benefit of the doubt after the Fort Hood massacre.
Unlike the economy's ups and downs, a terrorist attack or attempted attack cannot be spun by the spinmeisters. At least not successfully and certainly not with any moral fiber. It is what it is. And the failure of Obama to keep the nation safe after former President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney managed to do so after 9/11 is, interestingly, talked about very little in the mainstream media. I guess they are too busy wiping all of that egg off their faces.
Anyone who has an elementary understanding of crisis management, from all that has been learned through the mindless catastrophes of major corporations and governments, would expect Janet Napolitano, U.S. secretary of homeland security, to eagerly express her deep sorrow for the mismanagement of the failed terrorist attempt of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab.
However, the American people couldn’t have possibly prepared themselves for Napolitano outrageously claiming the system, designed to keep the citizens of America safe from the barbaric attacks of fundamentalist savages, worked in this situation. She has really spit on the intelligence of the American people with this one.
The Obama administration's response to a foiled terrorist incident that could have taken hundreds of lives is laughable. It took a day for Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to take back her statement — echoed by White House spokesman Robert Gibbs on Sunday shows — that the system worked. It "worked" when a passenger had to subdue a terrorist and put out a fire intended to kill everyone aboard because our "system" had allowed Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to board a one-way plane without luggage, bound for the United States with his intact U.S.-issued visa, despite his father warning authorities that his son had been radicalized and posed a potential danger.
At a more innocent time in Washington — the LBJ era — someone with the same name as mine attended a presidential bill signing, one I had been invited to, though my invitation went to him. As the present media and government rend their garments over how an uninvited couple got into a hot-ticket White House dinner for the prime minister of India, recalling my earlier experience reminds how times have changed in our age of national-security anxiety.
The discussions about the responsibility of high-ranking federal officials in the Defense Department, CIA and Vice President’s Office, and the lawyers who advised them about the legality of torture, seem to be going nowhere. How we define torture and when it is permissible seem more appropriate questions for philosophers than politicians. Reading the lawyers’ analyses about whether throwing someone against a wall or how long it is OK to pour water down someone’s throat makes for some weird jurisprudence. Behind the torture question is the provocative “ticking bomb” rationale.