By Brigitte L. Nacos
On December 28, 2001, 6 days after the would-be shoe bomber
Richard Reid tried to blow up a U.S.-bound American Airlines flight, President
Bush mentioned the incident for the first time in passing during a press
conference at his
“The shoe bomber was a case in point, where the country has
been on alert. A stewardess on an American Airlines flight—where the country
has been on alert. A stewardess on an American Airlines flight—or a flight
attendant on an American Airlines flight was vigilant, saw something amiss, and
responded. It’s an indication that the culture of
There was no criticism whatsoever by Democrats as far as the delayed timing and lack of substance in this short remark was concerned. Contrary to Republicans during the Clinton [and Carter] administration, leading Democrats renewed their unconditional support for President Bush that they had expressed immediately after the 9/11 attacks. The following exchange between host Tim Russert, Republican Senator Don Nickles, and Democratic Senator Tom Daschle during the Meet the Press program of December 30, 2001 attests to this:
MR. RUSSERT: Do you believe Republicans would have supported President Clinton as much as Democrats have supported President Bush on a war against terrorism?
SEN. NICKLES: You bet. All of us. You know, I remember the
rhetoric--of course, I was in
SEN. DASCHLE: Tim, I would just say, look at some of the
evidence after the attacks [in response to
Compare this to the reaction to President Obama’s first, lengthy, detailed response on December 28, 2009, 3 days after the would-be underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab that is worth reading for comparative purposes :
“Good morning, everybody. I just want to take a few minutes to update the American people on the attempted terrorist attack that occurred on Christmas Day and the steps we're taking to ensure the safety and security of the country.
The investigation is ongoing and I spoke again this morning with Attorney General Eric Holder, the Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, and my Counterterrorism and Homeland Security Advisor John Brennan. I asked them to keep -- continue monitoring the situation, to keep the American people and members of Congress informed.
Here's what we know so far. On Christmas Day, Northwest Airlines
Flight 253 was en route from
Thanks to the quick and heroic actions of passengers and crew, the suspect was immediately subdued, the fire was put out, and the plane landed safely. The suspect is now in custody and had been charged with attempting to destroy an aircraft. And a full investigation has been launched into this attempted act of terrorism and we will not rest until we find all who were involved and hold them accountable.
This was a serious reminder of the dangers that we face and the nature of those who threaten our homeland. Had the suspect succeeded in bringing down that plane it could have killed nearly 300 passengers and crew, innocent civilians preparing to celebrate the holidays with their families and friends.
The American people should be assured that we are doing everything in our power to keep you and your families safe and secure during this busy holiday season. Since I was first notified of this incident I've ordered the following actions to be taken to protect the American people and to secure air travel.
First, I directed that we take immediate steps to ensure the safety of the
traveling public. We made sure that all flights still in the air were
secure and could land safely. We immediately enhanced screening and
security procedures for all flights, domestic and international. We added
federal air marshals to flights entering and leaving the
Second, I've ordered two important reviews because it's absolutely critical
that we learn from this incident and take the necessary measures to prevent
future acts of terrorism. The first review involves our watch list
system, which our government has had in place for many years to identify known
and suspected terrorists so that we can prevent their entry into the
Apparently the suspect in the Christmas incident was in the system, but not on a watch list such as the so-called no-fly list. So I've ordered a thorough review not only of how information related to the subject was handled, but of the overall watch list system and how it can be strengthened.
The second review will examine all screening policies, technologies and procedures related to air travel. We need to determine just how the suspect was able to bring dangerous explosives aboard an aircraft and what additional steps we can take to thwart future attacks.
Third, I've directed my national security team to keep up the pressure on those who would attack our country. We do not yet have all the answers about this latest attempt, but those who would slaughter innocent men, women and children must know that the United States will do more than simply strengthen our defenses -- we will continue to use every element of our national power to disrupt, to dismantle, and defeat the violent extremists who threaten us -- whether they are from Afghanistan or Pakistan, Yemen or Somalia, or anywhere where they are plotting attacks against the U.S. homeland.
Finally, the American people should remain vigilant, but also be
confident. Those plotting against us seek not only to undermine our
security, but also the open society and the values that we cherish as
Americans. This incident, like several that have preceded it demonstrates
that an alert and courageous citizenry are far more resilient than an isolated
extremist. As a nation we will do everything in our power to protect our
country, as Americans we will never give in to fear or division, we will be
guided by our hopes, our unity, and our deeply held values. That's who we
are as Americans. And that's what our brave men and women in uniform are
standing up for as they spend the holidays in harm's way, and we will continue
to do everything that we can to keep
Contrary to Democrats’ unwavering support for President Bush and his administration after the foiled shoe bomber incident, Republicans sharpened their relentless attacks on President Barack Obama following the would-be underwear bombing with the same recklessness that former Vice President Richard Cheney launched immediately after Obama took office and has continued in concert with other members of his family. Two weeks after Obama took office, Cheney warned of a catastrophic biological or nuclear terrorist attack and said that “the Obama administration’s policies will make it more likely the attempt will succeed.” This became the refrain of the unrelenting attacks on Obama’s counterterrorism policy.
During his appearance on “Meet the Press” on January 10, 2010, Michael Steele, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, was asked by host David Gregory, “Is the Republican Party guilty of politicizing terrorism right now [in the wake of the shoe bomber incident]? Steel denied this categorically, exclaiming,“Oh, absolutely not. Oh my goodness, no.” And then he added, “Dick Cheney has it dead right. This administration has not put out a clear vision of how they're going to handle national security and what--were going to, were going to stop--close Gitmo, not done. We're surprised and amazed that the dots weren't connected on what happened on December 25th. The American people don't trust the direction this is going. If you can't call a thing what is, and that is terrorism, people wonder if you know what to do with it. And that's where we are right now, and it's not the place to be.”
By charging again and again that President Obama and his administration clueless or soft on terrorism—or both--and that their policies compromise the security of the homeland, Republicans act un-American: they invite leaders of Al Qaeda Central and like-minded terrorists to strike by telling them their attacks are likely to succeed because of Obama’s and the Democrats’ soft and risky counterterrorism policies.
While I wrote this blog, a guest appearance on ABC's This Week was used by Dick Cheney to once again go on the attack and repeat his outrageous charge that Obama is soft on terrorism and puts the lives of Americans at risk as Politico reports. I'll read the full transcript of the segment as well as that of Vice President Biden's appearance on NBC's Meet the Press as soon as they are available.