…and it’s not a particularly favorable one.
Today’s New York Daily News, which as a center-left paper is a reasonable representation of the non-propagandist Old Media, skewers the president for his rather anesthetic and torpid response to the attempted Christmas Day bombing of a Northwest Airlines flight over Detroit.
“President Obama’s initial response Monday was too long in coming, too cool in delivery and too removed from the extreme gravity of the plot,” said the paper.
Obama’s boilerplate speech on the topic Monday, in which he used the word “allegedly” to describe Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s attempt to blow up the plane with a bomb sewed into his drawers, promised the American people he’d keep us safe by instituting a “series of reviews” of the ineffectual policies which allowed Abdulmutallab to board a plane for America despite being on a British no-fly list and an American terror watch list in the first place (not to mention having his father warn the U.S. embassy in Lagos of the danger his son presented mere weeks ago), and characterized Adbulmutallab as an “isolated extremist” despite a mountain of evidence that he was part of an ongoing Al-Qaeda plot against American air travel, has done more to stoke controversy around the incident than reassure the country. The speech rang hollow and the consensus even on the left seems to be that Obama and his people simply don’t recognize the nature of the threat Abdulmutallab and those like him represent.
Accordingly, when the New York Times’ top-rated lefty bomb-thrower Maureen Dowd begins to lay the wood to the president, it’s an indication that he’s losing the confidence of the people he’s got to have to govern effectively.
None of the lefty criticisms so far have mentioned one of the fundamental unaddressed problems of approach which colors this incident, however; the fact that Adbulmutallab is being treated as a common criminal for his actions and is being held in a Detroit jail.
The Obama administration has taken pains to assure the American people that the country is still at war with Al-Qaeda, and it’s clear Abdulmutallab is an Al-Qaeda footsoldier. Given that, you wouldn’t expect him to have been charged as a criminal; he was waging war against the United States, not shoplifting. So after an initial spate of disclosures following his capture, Abdulmutallab has, predictably, lawyered up and clammed up.
This fiasco hasn’t apparently damaged Obama’s overall approval rating, which today checks in at minus-16 in Rasmussen’s Approval Index. Rasmussen did find, however, that the American people only believe we’re winning the war against militant jihadist Islam by a 36-30 count. Worse, Americans don’t feel safe from the jihadists:
Just 27% now say that the United States is safer today than it was before the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. However, 47% say it is not, That latter figure marks a nine-point jump from earlier in the month and is the highest negative finding on the question since Rasmussen Reports began surveying on it in 2002. We have been tracking the question monthly since November 2006 and also measured it regularly in 2004 and 2005. Before that, it was asked on an occasional basis.
And Obama’s national-security nemesis and former Vice President Dick Cheney has now delivered a verdict…
“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. He seems to think if he gives terrorists the rights of Americans, lets them lawyer up and reads them their Miranda rights, we won’t be at war. He seems to think if we bring the mastermind of Sept. 11 to New York, give him a lawyer and trial in civilian court, we won’t be at war.
“He seems to think if he closes Guantanamo and releases the hard-core Al Qaeda-trained terrorists still there, we won’t be at war. He seems to think if he gets rid of the words, ‘war on terror,’ we won’t be at war. But we are at war and when President Obama pretends we aren’t, it makes us less safe. Why doesn’t he want to admit we’re at war? It doesn’t fit with the view of the world he brought with him to the Oval Office. It doesn’t fit with what seems to be the goal of his presidency — social transformation — the restructuring of American society. President Obama’s first object and his highest responsibility must be to defend us against an enemy that knows we are at war.”
The predictable partisan back-and-forth has now followed Cheney’s statement. From The Politico comes this gem:
A senior Democrat said in response: “It’s telling that in attacking the president and the administration, that Vice President Cheney did not condemn the attack against our nation on Christmas Day.”
And then, a bit of editorializing:
Although Cheney and other Republicans have accused Obama of a muted response to the attack, President George W. Bush was quieter for much longer about the attack by shoe bomber Richard Reid in December 2001.
Obama went before cameras on Monday, the third day after the fizzled bomb attempt.
It was six days after Reid’s attempted attack that Bush finally discussed the incident, saying as part of a response to a question at his ranch in Crawford, Texas: “[W]e’ve got to be aware that there are still enemies to the country. And our government is responding accordingly.”
The day before, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had refused substantive comment, saying: “That’s a matter that’s in the hands of the law enforcement people.” Earlier, White House press secretary Scott McClellan had said officials were “continuing to monitor events.”
A very good criticism can be made that Richard Reid should never have been put through the court system and that instead of the Supermax prison he’s currently warehoused he should have been packed off to Guantanamo as an enemy combatant, so the Politico’s point is as least partly made. It’s not so easy, however, to square the Bush administration’s commitment to fighting terrorism in December 2001 with that of the current administration; at the time of the shoe bomber’s failed attack, Bush was in the process of capturing Kabul after having routed the Taliban while the current president is in the process of pulling troops out of Iraq, appeasing Iran’s tottering regime and signalling a limited at best commitment to victory in an Afghanistan war he had styled as “necessary.”
This is not to defend the former president. While his attention to the fight against Al-Qaeda and their jihadist cohorts was clearly on a higher level than that of the current occupant of the White House, Bush was not without mistakes. News that two of the four plotters who put Abdulmutallab up to his attempted bombing of Flight 253 had been released from Guantanamo in 2007 to Saudi Arabia, where they were put through an “art therapy” rehabilitation program and then released makes a clear mockery of the effectiveness of American intelligence and security where it comes to Islamic terror operatives.
But an attack on the Bush administration for fecklessness and incompetence in prosecuting a war against Al-Qaeda hardly recommends the other side, which insists on fighting a war with law enforcement tools and fussing about with legalese constructs in combatting a 7th-century barbarian enemy. The inability to even recognize the terrorist component of the Ft. Hood shootings, for example, or the idiotic assertion that “the system worked” by Obama’s clownish Homeland Security director, gives off a “frying pan into the fire” vibe to the current effort to keep the country safe.
In any event, two things seem apparent. First is that Obama’s heart is not in the fight against militant jihadist Islam. Second, our enemies recognize this and are emboldened by that recognition.
And as Power Line’s John Hinderaker mentions today, this puts the American people in the unenviable position of being dependent upon Obama’s not-insignificant storehouse of luck. “No one can be lucky forever,” Hinderaker points out. “It’s hard to avoid a foreboding that Obama’s run of good fortune will inevitably come crashing down in some horrible catastrophe.
“The problem is, he’s the President; so his catastrophe will be ours, too.”
Let’s hope Hinderaker is wrong. Let’s also hope that on the security issue, Obama starts making his own luck – by addressing the war against militant jihadist Islam for what it is and not for what he’d like to make it.