Steve Marmel at Huffington Post:
America lucked out this holiday season. It’s as simple as that. Something terrible could have happened and It was the bravery of passengers, and the ineptitude of a would-be terrorist, that prevented it.
Not the police bottlenecking the only road into the airport. Not the nice lady making sure my liquids were in the right containers. Not the German Shepherd sniffing my boy parts.
It was luck.
And if you’re like me – that scared the crap out of you. You probably wanted assurances. What will be done to prevent this? How are we reacting?
If you’re like me, you’re not looking for Attorney General Eric Holder, or Representative Pete King, to be telling you how it could have been worse or how it will be managed.
When the nation is attacked, I expect to be informed and hopefully calmed by the President of the United States.
So I ask, one more time – of this president who understands that how a message is delivered is just as important as what the message is – What is wrong with this picture?
Yes, the president deserves a vacation. Especially this president, who I believe has worked so hard on issues he cares about to the best of his ability; who is attacked and stalled by enemies for every attempt to fix every ill he inherited over the last eight years.
This is a man who needs a break.
But that vacation should have been over moments after the plane landed at noon on Christmas day, and everybody was starting to do the math that once again, al Qaeda tried to strike at this country.
This is no “My Pet Goat,” or sharing birthday cake with John McCain while New Orleans flooded. But it’s close enough that it’s making the hairs on the back of my neck stand up… and I like this president.
On the one hand, it is slightly gratifying to see some on the Left applying the same standards to Obama as they did Bush. Foolish consistency may be the hobgoblin of little minds but there’s at least some honor in it. On the other, Bush and Obama both displayed the right initial instinct in not immediately rushing to a microphone.
Despite the insistence of a ponytailed questioner during the 1992 debates, the president is not, in fact, our national daddy. It’s not his job to go on TV and assure us that everything will be all right every time something mildly scary happens. Indeed, in Obama’s case, it would be better if he did less of it than he does.
The attempted bombing now looks to be more serious than it first appeared. But it wasn’t another 9/11. Neither thousands of lives nor the heart of a major city were at stake.
It’s a president’s job in the aftermath of these attacks to light a fire under his top people to make sure we get to the bottom of it as quickly as possible and make sure we’re taking appropriate security measures. There’s no reason to presume he’s not doing that; all presidents have, after all. Indeed, TSA has already overreacted, enacting ridiculous new regulations; one hopes the president countermands this in the near future, once the dust has settled.
Otherwise, though, Obama is doing what we should all do: Carry on with life as usual. We’ve now been in Threat Level Orange at airports for so long it’s hard to recall when it was otherwise. The remote threat of being killed by terrorists is something that we’re all vaguely aware of but, otherwise, it’s just background noise while we’re removing our shoes and putting our laptops in a separate tray. Given that we’re still more likely to die in a car accident on the way to and from the airport, that’s probably how it should be.
Marc Ambinder at The Atlantic:
In his Farenheit 9/11, filmmaker Michael Moore juxtaposes images and words of a terrorist attack in Israel with President Bush’s first words about the incident, spoken to a press pool on a golf course, with him leaning casually against a tree. Today, as the nation’s law enforcement agencies respond to an attempted terrorist attack on U.S. soil, as the cable news channels and news websites pull in reinforcements to cover the incident from all angles, President Obama has been silent.
In fact, he’s been golfing. He received a counterterrorism briefing early this morning, Hawaii time, and moments later, left for the gym. The president’s vacation activities might have become the subject of a fierce partisan fight — but really, the only carping is coming from the usual suspects on the right.There is a reason why Obama hasn’t given a public statement. It’s strategy.Here’s the theory: a two-bit mook is sent by Al Qaeda to do a dastardly deed. He winds up neutering himself. Literally.Authorities respond appropriately; the President (as this president is want to to) presides over the federal response. His senior aides speak for him, letting reporters know that he’s videoconferencing regularly, that he’s ordering a review of terrorist watch lists, that he’s discoursing with his Secretary of Homeland Security.But an in-person Obama statement isn’t needed; Indeed, a message expressing command, control, outrage and anger might elevate the importance of the deed, would generate panic (because Obama usually DOESN’T talk about the specifics of cases like this, and so him deciding to do so would cue the American people to respond in a way that exacerbates the situation.Obama of course will say something at some point. Had the terrorist blown up the plane, it;s safe to assume that Obama would no longer be in Hawaii. In either case, the public will need presidential fortification at some point. But Obama is willing to risk the accusation that he is “soft” on terrorism or is hovering above it all, or is just not to be bothered (his “head’s in the sand, “golfing comes first,” )in order to advance what he believes is the proper collective response to a failed act of terrorism.Let the authorities do their work. Don’t presume; don’t panic the country; don’t chest-thump, prejudge, interfere, politicize (in an international sense), don’t give Al Qaeda (or whomever) a symbolic victory; resist the urge to open the old playbook and run a familiar play.
Now, just one Obama-loving minute, here. That “two-bit mook” got a sophisticated bomb capable of bringing down an airliner past our security, and he’s the idiot? Something went wrong, or it was misconfigured. But if that’s what a “mook” can do, how about the then allegedly real thing in Ambinder’s mind? Do they not exist? Because it looks as though they don’t exist in Obama’s mind just now, true, or not.
What, because the guy didn’t get it past Obama’s security it’s no big deal? Would someone get this fool Ambinder a copy of the Constitution so he knows who is primarily responsible for protecting and defending this country. Geesh. And I take it Ambinder doesn’t read Huff-Po, or he thinks it’s on the Right? Echo chambers might be fine when your stock is going up. Obama’s has been going down since he was inaugurated. And his Hawaiian vacation right now isn’t going to help. God forbid there’s any additional incident over New Years. The people will be calling for this guy to go now, instead of waiting three more years.
In the Bush/Cheney era, we know officials read from a far different script. Incidents like these became opportunities to exploit. Top officials — Bush, Cheney, Rice, Ashcroft, Ridge — would fan out and start hitting the talking points. There’d be talk about invading Yemen. Maybe the Bush gang would get a bump in the polls, maybe Dems and administration critics would hold their fire for a few days. If they didn’t, the White House could take comfort in knowing that critics would be accused of “aiding and abetting” terrorists by attacking the Commander in Chief in the wake of a crisis.
Obama and his team obviously prefer a far more mature, strategic approach. It’s about projecting a sense of calm and control. It’s about choosing not to elevate some lunatic thug who set himself on fire.
Indeed, notice the pattern throughout the year. The Obama administration has taken out Saleh al-Somali, Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, and Baitullah Mehsud, while taking suspected terrorists Najibullah Zazi, Talib Islam, and Hosam Maher Husein Smadi into custody before they could launch potential attacks.
In each case, there were no high-profile press conferences, no public chest-thumping, no desire to politicize the counter-terrorism successes. Indeed, most of the country probably never heard a word about any of these developments.
It’s about competent and effective leadership, and it’s what the country was sorely lacking up until 11 months ago.
UPDATE: Steve Marmel‘s update:
Here is an outstanding piece by a gentleman who was actually on the plane.
But most importantly, I thought about the entirety of the blog piece. And by starting this discussion with incorrect information, I believe it muddies the piece as a whole.
The first piece I wrote here was this: “When Wrong, We Need to Own up to It.”
4:20PM UPDATE #2
Wow. Interesting day.
Several people have wondered whether I was coerced to redact the piece. While some of my opinions are still intact – that I wish this President got in front of this more, that there’s a difference between projecting calm and falling off radar – in reading more, in retrospect, some of my positions have changed.
Why choose to remove it? I want to be accurate in what sparks these opinion pieces. I incorrectly reacted to the when and where the President got his information, and incorrectly dropped in a golf photo from 2008.
It was my own personal belief that if I write an opinion piece based on a fact, and that fact is incorrect, then it’s my responsibility to deal with that. I knew what triggered that piece… and it came from an inaccurate place.
However, per the request, here’s where it started.
May you all have safe and happy holidays.
UPDATE #2: Michelle Cottle at TNR on President Obama playing golf.