I could have picked any number of conservative pundits harping on the same theme. But I'll take Byron York over at the Washington Examiner. He writes:
Some Obama defenders are sending around new articles from the Huffington Post and the Politico arguing that President Obama is being subjected to a double standard of criticism for his handling of the Detroit terrorism incident.
In "Obama takes the heat President Bush did not," the Politico's Josh Gerstein writes that when shoe-bomber Richard Reid struck on December 22, 2001, "it was six days before President George W. Bush, then on vacation, made any public remarks…and there were virtually no complaints from the press or any opposition Democrats that his response was sluggish or inadequate."
Now, Gerstein continues, despite "striking" similarities between the Reid case and the Detroit incident, Obama has become the target of "withering" criticism from Republicans and some in the press. How to explain the "double standard"? The Huffington Post's Sam Stein writes that the "bellowing" from Republicans over Obama's performance "seems as much about political posturing as legitimate national security concerns."
And Gerstein et al are right. But continue, Mr York…..
Here's another answer. The most basic underlying question in the public discussion of Obama's handling of the Detroit case is whether the president and his administration take the threat of terror seriously. During the campaign, Obama and other Democrats accused the Bush administration of playing to the nation's fears about terrorism. Obama promised a different, lower-key approach. So after the Ft. Hood incident, he downplayed the by-then obvious possibility that the murders of 13 people were an act of Islamic terrorism, and after the Detroit matter, he said nothing at all and made a point of playing golf after hearing about the botched bombing. Obama's aides even explained to at least one sympathetic reporter that the decision to play golf was a calculated, tough, and wise response to the incident and that the president was "projecting his calm" on the American people.
Then, when Obama got around to making a public statement about the matter, he called suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab an "isolated extremist" — a statement that later proved to be incorrect.
Yeah, this is one of the rightwing lies itself. Obama, in the very same statement, didn't leave at the conclusion that this was an isolated extremist, but rather, he added: “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.” York conveniently omits this.
And then the president had to go into damage control mode, trying to undo the impressions left by the Secretary of Homeland Security, who claimed the system "worked" in the Detroit incident, and by unnamed administration officials who argued that the security system had performed properly by not placing Abdulmuttallab's name on a no-fly list.
Another rightwing lie. The Secretary of Homeland Security said that the response system worked, which (incidentally) it did. When there is an attempted terrorist attack, a number of things happen immediately to make sure that it's not a nationwide thing, like 9/11. It didn't leave any "impressions" on anyone who bothered to listen to what she actually was saying.
So an answer the public's most basic question — is the president serious about this? — was emerging, and the answer did not look good for the administration. That's why Obama and his team have been scrambling.
And they're not scrambling, because they're not buying into the premise of the question (which, by the way, the "public" isn't asking, only the conservative talking heads).
Compare that to the shoe bomber incident. By December 22, 2001, when it happened, George Bush, in response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, had:
** gone to war in Afghanistan
** instituted extensive security measures at airports
** created the office that would later become the Department of Homeland Security
** begun aggressive interrogation of terrorist suspects
** begun the "warrantless wiretap" program targeting international communications of suspected terrorists
** declared his intention to take Osama bin Laden "dead or alive"
You may agree or disagree about the wisdom of effectiveness of any of those actions. But did anyone, on December 22, 2001, doubt that George W. Bush was serious about using all the powers of the U.S. government to strike back at the terrorists who hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon? Did anyone doubt Bush's resolve?
Today, does anyone have such confidence in Barack Obama? That — and not some "double standard" — is why there are so many questions about the president's handling of the Detroit incident.
So apparently, to satisfy York and his ilk that he took the Christmas terrorist attempt "seriously", Obama would have to start a war someplace, engage in tough cowboy talk, and lead the nation in a collective pants-wetting while chipping away at the Constitution. That's what these rightwing yahoos want.
These guys don't get it, even after reading those above-referenced articles in the Huffington Post and the Politico. They seem to think that the ONLY "serious" way to respond to an attempted terrorist attack is to respond just like Bush did, in manner and demeanor and policy. Well, either like Bush, or Bill Pullman in Independence Day. Perhaps Obama needs to strut around an aircraft carrier in a flight suit to show that he's "serious". Like al Qaeda cares?
It just demonstrates what very very very small minds are at work here — these are people who cannot possible understand, say nothing of disagreeing with, alternate viewpoints. Obama is a grown up. He's taking care of business. He's not grandstanding. He's not inviting panic. And he's not in a freaking action movie. Geez.
UPDATE — The White House responds to these attacks from Cheney and other Republicans:
To put it simply: this President is not interested in bellicose rhetoric, he is focused on action. Seven years of bellicose rhetoric failed to reduce the threat from al Qaeda and succeeded in dividing this country. And it seems strangely off-key now, at a time when our country is under attack, for the architect of those policies to be attacking the President.
Second, the former Vice President makes the clearly untrue claim that the President – who is this nation’s Commander-in-Chief – needs to realize we are at War. I don’t think anyone realizes this very hard reality more than President Obama. In his inaugural, the President said “our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred.” In a recent speech, Assistant to the President for Terrorism and Homeland Security John Brennan said “Instead, as the president has made clear, we are at war with al-Qaida, which attacked us on 9/11 and killed 3,000 people. We are at war with its violent extremist allies who seek to carry on al-Qaida’s murderous agenda. These are the terrorists we will destroy; these are the extremists we will defeat.” At West Point, the President told the nation why it was “in our vital national interest” to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to fight the war in Afghanistan, adding that as Commander in Chief, “I see firsthand the terrible wages of war.” And at Oslo, in accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, the President said, “We are at war, and I am responsible for the deployment of thousands of young Americans to battle in a distant land.”
There are numerous other such public statements that explicitly state we are at war. The difference is this: President Obama doesn’t need to beat his chest to prove it, and – unlike the last Administration – we are not at war with a tactic (“terrorism”), we at war with something that is tangible: al Qaeda and its violent extremist allies. And we will prosecute that war as long as the American people are endangered.