Saturday, January 02, 2010
PARTY LINES: What does the recent terrorist attack say about U.S. security? By Todd Weiler - Republican
While most of us were enjoying the Christmas holidays with our families, Umar Farouk Abdulmutall was attempting to blow up Flight 253. Fortunately for everyone involved, his attempt was foiled. But preliminary indications suggest that the 23-year-old Nigerian has connections with a Yemen-based al Qaeda faction.
Obama, who already faced criticism for his plan to close Gitmo and transfer some of the prisoners to Yemen, was caught vacationing in Hawaii as events unfolded. Some are upset that he waited three days, went to the gym and played tennis before issuing a statement. On Monday, speaking from a clubhouse, Obama said: “The American people should be assured that we are doing everything in our power to keep you and your family safe and secure during this busy holiday season.” He then headed to the course to play a game of golf.
During the 2008 campaign, Obama promised preemptive strikes against terrorists, to escalate the Afghan war, pump massive funds into counterinsurgency campaigns, and to keep Bush’s anti-terrorism surveillance methods mostly intact. But a year later, Joe Lieberman blames Obama for lax security, terrorist watch breach, and faulty al Qaeda intelligence.
I think that this early criticism is a bit harsh. Just as presidents should not take credit for everything good that happens, they cannot be automatically blamed for everything bad. Although I am not convinced this attack is Obama’s fault, some in Congress contend that he has shut them out of intelligence briefings and ignored their requests for updates.
Last month, Rudy Giuliani called Obama soft on terrorism for deciding to try Khalid Shaikh Mohammed on U.S. soil, and said it would increase the security risk to the city. “What the Obama administration is telling us loud and clear is that both in substance and reality the war on terror from their point of view is over,” Giuliani said. “This seems to be an overconcern with the rights of terrorists and a lack of concern for the rights of the public.”
This week, Dick Cheney accused Obama of being in denial: “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. . . . President Obama’s first object and his highest responsibility must be to defend us against an enemy that knows we are at war.”
Although there is no evidence that we are less safe today than a year ago, I hope that Obama will answer last week’s wake up call and make appropriate adjustments.