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Republicans Go Bonkers Over Obama and Flight 253

5 years ago
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As 2009 comes to a close, it seems that some Republicans are looking to reach new heights of rhetorical excess. The bumbled-and-thwarted Christmas Day terrorist attack has caused many GOPers to become hysterical, as they crassly seek to exploit this near-tragedy to bash President Barack Obama. Ex-Veep Dick Cheney, no surprise, has led this dishonorable charge, issuing a statement:
As I've watched the events of the last few days it is clear once again that President Obama is trying to pretend we are not at war. He seems to think if he has a low-key response to an attempt to blow up an airliner and kill hundreds of people, we won't be at war.
And Representative Tom Price, the head of the House Republican Study Committee, followed suit:
As our nation was once again targeted by extremism, this is a time for great resolve and strong presidential leadership. The slow trickle of troubling information, bizarre statements from administration officials, and a staggered response from the President, however, do not instill confidence that the White House appreciates the gravity of this situation.

There's no way to be polite about this: these guys are going bonkers--and they're hypocrites. When Richard Reid -- now infamously known as the al Qaeda shoe-bomber -- was arrested on December 22, 2001, after failing to ignite his home-made bomb on a Miami-bound flight, then-President George W. Bush, took no public action. He didn't even mention this failed terrorist attack for six days, and then all he said, at a press conference, was that the episode demonstrated the need for vigilance:

The shoe bomber was a case in point, where the country has been on alert. A stewardess on an American Airlines flight -- or a flight attendant on an American Airlines flight was vigilant, saw something amiss, and responded. It's an indication that the culture of America has shifted to one of alertness. And I'm grateful for the flight attendant's response, as I'm sure the passengers on that airplane. But we've got to be aware that there are still enemies to the country. And our government is responding accordingly.

Related: Debating the President's Hawaii Vacation: Should Obama be in Washington?

Bush made no separate statements on the episode. He publicly ordered no review of security procedures. The White House held no press briefings on the attempted bombing. A few days later, during a December 31, 2001, Q&A with reporters, Bush didn't refer to any actions taken in response to the incident. He merely said, "We're now giving [Reid] a chance to tell us what he knows about terror and about al Qaeda."

Let's compare Bush's lackadaisical holiday-season response to what the current commander in chief has done.

* On December 28, Obama issued a statement, noting that he was consulting his top officials and that he had ordered "enhanced screening and security procedures for all flights" and "added federal air marshals to flights entering and leaving the United States." He also said that he had ordered two reviews -- one focusing on the terrorist watch list, the other on air travel screening procedures.

* On December 29, Obama signed and released presidential memoranda establishing guidelines for these two reviews.

* That same day, he issued another statement, noting that a "systemic failure has occurred" and that "a mix of human and systemic failures . . . contributed to this potential catastrophic breach of security." He added that he will "insist on accountability at every level."

* Also on December 29, the White House conducted a background briefing, providing reporters with the latest information on the attempted attack. It also held an on-the-record briefing with National Security Council chief of staff Denis McDonough.

Ordering enhanced security measures, initiating two reviews, conducting detailed press briefings, issuing presidential statements -- how can anyone look at this and say Obama wasn't responding in a vigorous manner? Especially when compared to how his predecessor reacted to a similar terrorist plot?

I don't recall Democrats jumping on Bush for his thin response to the shoe-bomber caper. Yet GOPers, so keen to portray the guy who's expanding the Afghanistan war as weak on national security, are willing to say anything to score political points. For them, the war on terrorism is not about reasonably and calmly crafting the best actions to thwart terrorists; it seems to be about finding the best means to undermine the man responsible for protecting Americans from these terrorists.

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