Once again, in what is becoming the theme for this administration (and Congress), government incompetence is leading to the systematic punishment of all Americans.
During the 2008 Democratic primaries, Joe Biden (now Barack Obama's VP) had lobbed a verbal grenade at the rising Obama, pointing out that, "The presidency is not something that lends itself to on-the-job training." He's right, of course. George W. Bush waited seven minutes to leave a classroom to respond to the 9/11 attacks and was eviscerated for it. Barack Obama waited three days into his Hawaiian vacation to respond to Friday's terror attack on board an international flight as it was headed into Detroit.
Officials said that [waiting three days to respond] was deliberate - an effort by the White House to balance the need for the president to show concern but also to not unduly elevate a botched incident and thereby encourage other would-be attackers.
I'm not sure how the president being silent for three days discourages other potential attacks but it's precisely this kind of attitude toward terrorism and national security that converted me into a George W. Bush supporter and someone who voted for my first Republican in 2002. Obama didn't need to come out on Christmas Day and declare war on Yemen but while Americans across the country are concerned and airlines are reacting, the president could have certainly done what he does best and that's give a little camera time on the issue. I suspect it took three days for the Administration to wrestle with the question of whether or not he would actually use the words "act of terrorism" (he did) and even more challenging, the words "Islamic terrorism" (he didn't).
What he did speak of is the need to adapt measures against changing terrorist threats. Except one thing: this wasn't a changing threat! Based on what's been released so far, this incident is exactly what we most expect them to try!
Obama went on to say that the US "will continue to use every element of our national power to disrupt, to dismantle and defeat the violent extremists who threaten us." Continue to use? Mr. President, are you telling us that Umar Farouk Abdulmatallab circumvented "every element of our national power"? Obama's Secretary of Homeland Security, the truly embarrassing Janet Napolitano, had the gall to come out on Sunday and announce how wonderful the system worked, after the system failed:
"Once the incident occurred, the system worked."
NYDailynews.com referenced her saying that after the weapon failed, THEN everything worked "like clockwork".
The system not only didn't work; the system was on vacation (Napolitano, the next day, caved in to reality and agreed that the system failed). In similar fashion to the Fort Hood massacre, another Islamic terrorist attack that occurred just a few months ago, the warning signs appear staggering. Like Major Hassan, the Fort Hood murderer, Abdulmattallab did everything but hang a "Jihadist" neon sign around his neck.
As Professor Farnsworth would say, let's use the "What If? Machine". Let's say Abdulmutallab also succeeded at making everything 'work like clockwork' and he managed to destroy a plane and kill almost 300 people. Put aside that once the successful attack occurred, the system still worked.
Would Obama still have waited three days to respond in the hopes of not "unduly" encouraging other attackers?
Would any of the 289 people aboard had any problem with sensible profiling mechanisms in place that most likely would have prevented this man from ever stepping foot on that airplane?
Would all of the missed signals equate this to the infamous August 6th, 2001 PDB?
Would our first official announcements be to pat ourselves on the back over how well we handled the aftermath?
Even just on the grounds of being a perpetual political hack (and I believe he is), surely Obama and his inner circle must see just how politically disastrous it would have turned out for him had Abdulmutallab succeeded. The first successful and major terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11 under a president who seems confused and weak when it comes to foreign policy; who's policies of making friends with our enemies has not gained America or Obama anything; who's refusal to acknowledge a war on radical Islamic terrorists is petty and appears weak; who's main contributions to national security is to extend Constitutional Rights to foreign terrorists, move captured combatant prisoners around for political reasons and prosecute SEALS and CIA agents doing the work that helps discover extremists like Abdulmutallab before they get on a US-bound plane.
As George W. Bush said, we have to be successful 100% of the time; the enemy only has to be successful once. We, as Americans, always expect the day to come when something unforeseeable slips through the cracks and a successful attack of some magnitude, at some point in time, is probably inevitable. This should never have been unforeseeable. We can't afford these kinds of "oops" moments.
Alright, Mr. President. You managed to make gains on much of your boyhood fantasies domestically. Even if jobs, health care and personal liberty are not things to fight for, could you do us Americans all a favor: please start taking our security seriously? That means to stop playing child's games with language and Gitmo. The Administration now wants to know how flyers are placed on watch lists and screened. In the last year, with so much going on with Beer Summits and strategic verbal wars against FOXNews and Rush Limbaugh, think someone in the Administration might have already put these ducks in order?
Topping all of the insanity developing in the last few days has to be the airline security procedures being put in place as a response to this plot. Among the more bizarre reactions is the removal of blankets and the prohibition on potty breaks during the last hour of the flight. Pinch me. The problem here wasn't that he was able to light a bomb; the problem was that he was able to get on the plane – as a bonus, with a bomb – in the first place!
According to the failed terrorist, other airplane bombers are coming. That's the bad news. The good news during this holiday season of terror: no one was killed and the bomber, "managed only to set his crotch, legs and seat 19A on fire."
[UPDATE 12/29/09 7:45pm] To his credit, Obama has taken responsibility for the human and systemic failures that failed to stop this terrorist. This is in the face of his fanatic apologists who insisted that he didn't bear responsibility or it was Bush's fault. This especially goes out to those who believed that it wasn't the US government's responsibility to secure travelers on US-bound international flights:
Obama: "Had this critical [intel] been shared, it could have been compiled with other intelligence, and a fuller, clearer picture of the suspect would have emerged. The warning signs would have triggered red flags, and the suspect would have never been allowed to board that plane for America."