Let's set the table. First, a reminder of what Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano (dubbed "Janet Incompetano" by Mark Steyn) said in a March interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel titled "Away from the Politics of Fear":
So how did the "policy of being prepared for all risks that can occur" move us beyond the "politics of fear?" I just returned to South Carolina through the Detroit airport that was the scene of the near disaster from the underwear bomber. Fear is not far from the mind of any rational passenger.
SPIEGEL: Madame Secretary, in your first testimony to the US Congress as Homeland Security Secretary you never mentioned the word "terrorism." Does Islamist terrorism suddenly no longer pose a threat to your country?
Napolitano: Of course it does. I presume there is always a threat from terrorism. In my speech, although I did not use the word "terrorism," I referred to "man-caused" disasters. That is perhaps only a nuance, but it demonstrates that we want to move away from the politics of fear toward a policy of being prepared for all risks that can occur.SPIEGEL: This sounds quite different from what we heard from the Bush administration. How will the new anti-terror policy differ from the previous one?
Napolitano: Our policies will be guided by authoritative information. We also have assets at our disposal now that we did not have prior to 9/11. For example, we are much better able to keep track of travellers coming into the US than we were before. The third thing is to work with our international partners and allies to make sure that we are getting information and sharing information in an appropriate and real-time fashion.
And where was our President during these trying days? From Jennifer Loven, Associated Press White House correspondent:
Until Monday, the president had not been heard from publicly since the Christmas Day scare. He was ordering stepped-up security measures and after-action reviews behind the scenes, but also enjoying his Hawaiian vacation with games of golf, basketball and tennis and trips to the beach.If Obama is so concerned that terrorists should have any "undue attention" which might encourage other attacks then why is he is bringing Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to trial in New York where the world media will put him on a stage bigger than any Broadway hit?
He drew questions about his level of involvement by not getting his first briefing on the incident until two hours after it was all over - and then only for 15 minutes, when he departed for the gym.
Aides defended the low-key approach as purposeful, designed to not glorify the attempted attack with undue presidential attention and perhaps encourage other terrorists.
Catastrophic failure? Let's hit the beach!
Does Obama really take this latest terror threat seriously? Even the New York Times is beginning to doubt it. Obama's vacation has been a whirlwind of beach, golf and tennis. But after his latest statement admitting a "catastrophic breakdown in security" he went snorkeling!
That old Obama magic seems to be wearing thin as reporters are starting to catch on. Writing at Politico, Carol Lee hints that we have seen this act before:
HONOLULU — There is a sense of déjà vu in the Obama administration’s response to the attempted terrorist attack on Christmas Day. A by-now familiar pattern has been established for dealing with unexpected problems.And of course the Obama team always, ALWAYS finds a way to blame Bush for the problem:
First, White House aides downplay the notion that something may have gone wrong on their part. While staying out of the spotlight, the president conveys his efforts to address the situation and his feelings about it through administration officials. After a few days, the White House concedes on the issue, and perhaps Barack Obama even steps out to address it.
That same scenario unfolded over the summer, when Obama said Sgt. James Crowley, a white Cambridge, Mass., police officer, “acted stupidly” when he arrested Henry Louis Gates Jr., a black Harvard professor, in his own home. It happened in March when the public was outraged over AIG dishing out hefty bonuses. More recently the public witnessed the dynamic after a security breach at President Barack Obama’s first state dinner.
But the fact that the issue now is a terrorist incident — albeit an unsuccessful one — makes the stakes much higher, and the White House’s usual approach more questionable. That this test of his leadership comes while he’s on vacation in tropical Hawaii further complicates things.
After delivering his first public remarks Monday about a Nigerian man’s attempt to blow up a Northwest Airlines jetliner over Detroit, the president motorcaded to the golf course at a nearby country club.
But contrast that C.Y.A. with the statement above by Janet Incompetano: "we are much better able to keep track of travellers coming into the US than we were before. "
“Obviously the procedures and the protocols employed in this instance are ones that we’ve inherited that had been built over the course of several years since 2003,” [National Security Council chief of staff Denis McDonough ]McDonough said. His comments echoed Obama, who pointed out that the review he ordered of the government’s terrorist watch-list procedures is of a system that “our government has had in place for many years.”
President Bush gave up golf because he didn't want the families of troops to see him enjoying himself while their loved ones were in harm's way. Obama has been very adept at keeping photos of himself enjoying his vacation out of the news (got a little help from his friends in the "news" media?). But his behavior gives the appearance that he cares more for enjoying himself than he does for the security of Americans.
At least Bush took the job of protecting Americans seriously. He didn't just read words off a teleprompter in between beach and golf.