Commentary Magazine


Topic: Janet Napolitano

Why Is Napolitano Still There?

Mickey Kaus wants to know why the chattering class is being so nice to Janet Napolitano. Maureen Dowd, David Broder, and a bunch of former and current office-holders rallied around her over the weekend. But she is a national punch line, forever tied to her “the system worked” hooey, so what’s the story? Kaus muses: “Does she give great parties? Is it that DHS has a highly effective, overactive P.R. person? Or does America’s bureaucratic capital simply overvalue those whose first instinct is to defend their bureaucracy?” Well, even conservatives who know her say she is pleasant, and that counts for something, I suppose. But when Michael Chertoff damns her with faint praise (“her heart is in the right place”) I get a bit suspicious.

Here’s a theory: it is in everyone’s interest (except that of the American people, but their views don’t count for much on vital national issues such as health care, so why listen to them on this, right?) to keep her around. The Republicans don’t want this to stop with the Secretary of Homeland Security. They place responsibility on the president and his weirdly inappropriate conduct of the war against Islamic fundamentalists (whom he won’t identify as the enemy). And as long as she is around saying dopey things, the Republicans’ case that the Obami are out to lunch on anti-terrorism is strengthened. She is a useful piñata. Meanwhile, the Democrats don’t want any heads to start rolling because then the public might get the idea that this is a really big deal. Dumping her would be inconsistent with their line that they’ve always been on top of things. And then the White House never likes to fire anyone (recall how long it took to get rid of 9/11 “truther” Van Jones) because that might suggest the Obami either have made a specific mistake or, more generally, lack judgment. So she just might be safe in the near term. Which makes everyone happy. Except the public.

Mickey Kaus wants to know why the chattering class is being so nice to Janet Napolitano. Maureen Dowd, David Broder, and a bunch of former and current office-holders rallied around her over the weekend. But she is a national punch line, forever tied to her “the system worked” hooey, so what’s the story? Kaus muses: “Does she give great parties? Is it that DHS has a highly effective, overactive P.R. person? Or does America’s bureaucratic capital simply overvalue those whose first instinct is to defend their bureaucracy?” Well, even conservatives who know her say she is pleasant, and that counts for something, I suppose. But when Michael Chertoff damns her with faint praise (“her heart is in the right place”) I get a bit suspicious.

Here’s a theory: it is in everyone’s interest (except that of the American people, but their views don’t count for much on vital national issues such as health care, so why listen to them on this, right?) to keep her around. The Republicans don’t want this to stop with the Secretary of Homeland Security. They place responsibility on the president and his weirdly inappropriate conduct of the war against Islamic fundamentalists (whom he won’t identify as the enemy). And as long as she is around saying dopey things, the Republicans’ case that the Obami are out to lunch on anti-terrorism is strengthened. She is a useful piñata. Meanwhile, the Democrats don’t want any heads to start rolling because then the public might get the idea that this is a really big deal. Dumping her would be inconsistent with their line that they’ve always been on top of things. And then the White House never likes to fire anyone (recall how long it took to get rid of 9/11 “truther” Van Jones) because that might suggest the Obami either have made a specific mistake or, more generally, lack judgment. So she just might be safe in the near term. Which makes everyone happy. Except the public.

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Sunday Spin on Christmas Day Bombing

Flipping from channel to channel or perusing the transcripts of the Sunday talk shows, it was hard not to cringe. Counterterrorism adviser John Brennan was everywhere. “We get it right most of the time…. We were alert all along… There wasn’t any smoking gun, just lots of clues we missed…. Yemen is really dangerous but we can’t say we’ll stop sending Guantanamo detainees there…. And Dick Cheney is very wrong…. The performance was defensive and otherworldly, alternately. One is tempted to say that, like Janet Napolitano, Brennan is not up to the job. That may well be the case, particularly as we learn about his own role in the missed clues. But we should be clear: this was all vetted in advance. This is the approved Obami version. These lines are the official talking points. So we come back to the fundamental question: why are they so bad at this? One longs for some candor and for some greater sense of urgency, the urgency that comes from realizing that we haven’t been on top of things and that we better get our act together — quickly.

The spin-meisters’ assurances stand in stark contrast to the bits and pieces of information slowly trickling out. We are learning from news accounts, in particular this eye-popping one, that the incompetence was rather breathtaking. A sample:

Collectively, the U.S. government had its head in the sand. The FBI had no representative at the meeting at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, in the center of the country, the FBI maintains an attache only in Lagos, on the southern coast. The CIA did not tell the FBI about Abdulmutallab. Under the so-called Visa Viper program, the State Department received the report about the meeting with Abdulmutallab’s father, but it did not revoke the son’s visa. Rather, it made a note to closely scrutinize any future application to renew the visa. Likewise, the NCTC determined that there was no “reasonable suspicion” to conclude that Abdulmutallab was a terrorist, so he wasn’t put on the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center watch list of some 400,000 names, or counted as one of 13,000 people who require extra screening before getting on a plane, or one of 4,000 names who are on the “no fly” list banned from getting on a plane at all. . .

The NCTC was set up to make sure that the various American agencies and intelligence services better shared information in the wake of 9/11, which might have been averted if the CIA and FBI had been in better communication about the al-Qaeda hijackers entering the country. But for reasons still not adequately explained, no one seems to have noticed other red flags in the intelligence system. The intelligence community had already picked up the intercepts indicating that al-Qaeda was planning to use a Nigerian for an attack on America. Other intercepts suggested a terror attack out of Yemen at Christmas, though officials believed the likely target would be somewhere in the Middle East, not in the United States. Finally, there were the intercepts between Abdulmutallab and the phone (and possibly a computer) used by al-Awlaki, the Yemen-based cleric. Such contact would seem to cry out for attention although an intelligence official said the intercepts did not indicate Abdulmutallab’s full name.

And so it goes. But from watching Brennan, one senses that the Obami are banking on the public not fully grasping this. One has the nagging feeling that they are hoping to get by on flimflam and recycled talking points. The dutiful spokespeople — Napolitano and now Brennan — are striving to keep their own jobs and to hold back the torrent of outrage that they fear will sweep them from office. So they are not informing or reassuring us. They are practicing damage control — limit the facts, label the facts, attack the critics, and minimize the enormity of the screw up.

How this incident is being handled suggests that some real Congressional oversight might be needed, or better yet, an independent commission. (Perhaps the 9/11 commission can be brought back since they’ve already figured out what to look for and what bureaucratic bumbling looks like.) At the very least, one wishes that the malefactors who are at least partially responsible would step aside and let those less invested in spinning the story explain what went wrong.

Flipping from channel to channel or perusing the transcripts of the Sunday talk shows, it was hard not to cringe. Counterterrorism adviser John Brennan was everywhere. “We get it right most of the time…. We were alert all along… There wasn’t any smoking gun, just lots of clues we missed…. Yemen is really dangerous but we can’t say we’ll stop sending Guantanamo detainees there…. And Dick Cheney is very wrong…. The performance was defensive and otherworldly, alternately. One is tempted to say that, like Janet Napolitano, Brennan is not up to the job. That may well be the case, particularly as we learn about his own role in the missed clues. But we should be clear: this was all vetted in advance. This is the approved Obami version. These lines are the official talking points. So we come back to the fundamental question: why are they so bad at this? One longs for some candor and for some greater sense of urgency, the urgency that comes from realizing that we haven’t been on top of things and that we better get our act together — quickly.

The spin-meisters’ assurances stand in stark contrast to the bits and pieces of information slowly trickling out. We are learning from news accounts, in particular this eye-popping one, that the incompetence was rather breathtaking. A sample:

Collectively, the U.S. government had its head in the sand. The FBI had no representative at the meeting at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, in the center of the country, the FBI maintains an attache only in Lagos, on the southern coast. The CIA did not tell the FBI about Abdulmutallab. Under the so-called Visa Viper program, the State Department received the report about the meeting with Abdulmutallab’s father, but it did not revoke the son’s visa. Rather, it made a note to closely scrutinize any future application to renew the visa. Likewise, the NCTC determined that there was no “reasonable suspicion” to conclude that Abdulmutallab was a terrorist, so he wasn’t put on the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center watch list of some 400,000 names, or counted as one of 13,000 people who require extra screening before getting on a plane, or one of 4,000 names who are on the “no fly” list banned from getting on a plane at all. . .

The NCTC was set up to make sure that the various American agencies and intelligence services better shared information in the wake of 9/11, which might have been averted if the CIA and FBI had been in better communication about the al-Qaeda hijackers entering the country. But for reasons still not adequately explained, no one seems to have noticed other red flags in the intelligence system. The intelligence community had already picked up the intercepts indicating that al-Qaeda was planning to use a Nigerian for an attack on America. Other intercepts suggested a terror attack out of Yemen at Christmas, though officials believed the likely target would be somewhere in the Middle East, not in the United States. Finally, there were the intercepts between Abdulmutallab and the phone (and possibly a computer) used by al-Awlaki, the Yemen-based cleric. Such contact would seem to cry out for attention although an intelligence official said the intercepts did not indicate Abdulmutallab’s full name.

And so it goes. But from watching Brennan, one senses that the Obami are banking on the public not fully grasping this. One has the nagging feeling that they are hoping to get by on flimflam and recycled talking points. The dutiful spokespeople — Napolitano and now Brennan — are striving to keep their own jobs and to hold back the torrent of outrage that they fear will sweep them from office. So they are not informing or reassuring us. They are practicing damage control — limit the facts, label the facts, attack the critics, and minimize the enormity of the screw up.

How this incident is being handled suggests that some real Congressional oversight might be needed, or better yet, an independent commission. (Perhaps the 9/11 commission can be brought back since they’ve already figured out what to look for and what bureaucratic bumbling looks like.) At the very least, one wishes that the malefactors who are at least partially responsible would step aside and let those less invested in spinning the story explain what went wrong.

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Face the Voters

On Face the Nation, there was some serious talk as to why the Christmas Day bombing is so perilous for the Obama team. It is not simply that once again Democrats may be perceived as weak on national security. There is a more basic issue now rumbling through not just conservative circles but also in the mainstream media: can these people be trusted to do much of anything? Jan Crawford took up the competency angle:

The reason that’s an issue for Obama is that it goes to the bigger question of the competency of his government and the trust that people have in that government. You look at polls. Polls show that the trust in government is an all time low. Domestically, obviously, stimulus plan hasn’t worked. Unemployment is high. And so now we have a situation where a terrorist can get on an airplane, seemingly could have  been caught if some officials had just done a basic Google search of the database. And the Homeland Security secretary is insisting the system worked.

Really, what have the Obami done well? Not the stimulus plan. Not crafting a popular and coherent health-care bill. And not instilling confidence that there are competent people who can, when bombarded with intelligence, put it together to prevent an attack or even craft a policy designed to extract information after an attack. But Bob Schieffer, not exactly a fire-breathing conservative, really laid into the Obami. The problem is not only competence but also trust. The Democrats are consumed with political spin even on national security. He notes that Janet Napolitano was getting hammered but explains that this is a symptom of a bigger issue:

But she was just following the modern bipartisan public relations template in this age of information management. First, play down the problem. Second, emphasize what did not go wrong. Assure us that those in charge are investigating, and most important, emphasize no one in any position of responsibility is at fault. It’s not lying. But it’s not exactly the whole truth, certainly not the whole story. All she left out was that part about asking us to respect the privacy of those involved. Oh, I’m sorry. I got the government spin mixed up with the Tiger spin. Here is the difference. Tiger can hire as many people as he wants to make his excuses. It maydo him no good but it’s his money to spend as he wishes. When government officials insult us with spin they’re doing it on our dime, which is supposed to be used to operate the government, not to hold news conferences to tell us what a fine job people on the public payroll are doing. As we learned during Katrina, self-serving spin at the first sign of crisis does not help the situation. It makes it worse. Because it makes it harder to believe anything the government says. Real security is built on trust in government. That requires truth, which should be the beginning of government presentations, not the fallback position.

Yowser. Now that’s a narrative that should concern the Obami. Unfortunately, one wonders if they know what to do with a problem not solvable by spin and attack-dog tactics. At some point you really have to govern. Sadly, that is not their strong suit.

On Face the Nation, there was some serious talk as to why the Christmas Day bombing is so perilous for the Obama team. It is not simply that once again Democrats may be perceived as weak on national security. There is a more basic issue now rumbling through not just conservative circles but also in the mainstream media: can these people be trusted to do much of anything? Jan Crawford took up the competency angle:

The reason that’s an issue for Obama is that it goes to the bigger question of the competency of his government and the trust that people have in that government. You look at polls. Polls show that the trust in government is an all time low. Domestically, obviously, stimulus plan hasn’t worked. Unemployment is high. And so now we have a situation where a terrorist can get on an airplane, seemingly could have  been caught if some officials had just done a basic Google search of the database. And the Homeland Security secretary is insisting the system worked.

Really, what have the Obami done well? Not the stimulus plan. Not crafting a popular and coherent health-care bill. And not instilling confidence that there are competent people who can, when bombarded with intelligence, put it together to prevent an attack or even craft a policy designed to extract information after an attack. But Bob Schieffer, not exactly a fire-breathing conservative, really laid into the Obami. The problem is not only competence but also trust. The Democrats are consumed with political spin even on national security. He notes that Janet Napolitano was getting hammered but explains that this is a symptom of a bigger issue:

But she was just following the modern bipartisan public relations template in this age of information management. First, play down the problem. Second, emphasize what did not go wrong. Assure us that those in charge are investigating, and most important, emphasize no one in any position of responsibility is at fault. It’s not lying. But it’s not exactly the whole truth, certainly not the whole story. All she left out was that part about asking us to respect the privacy of those involved. Oh, I’m sorry. I got the government spin mixed up with the Tiger spin. Here is the difference. Tiger can hire as many people as he wants to make his excuses. It maydo him no good but it’s his money to spend as he wishes. When government officials insult us with spin they’re doing it on our dime, which is supposed to be used to operate the government, not to hold news conferences to tell us what a fine job people on the public payroll are doing. As we learned during Katrina, self-serving spin at the first sign of crisis does not help the situation. It makes it worse. Because it makes it harder to believe anything the government says. Real security is built on trust in government. That requires truth, which should be the beginning of government presentations, not the fallback position.

Yowser. Now that’s a narrative that should concern the Obami. Unfortunately, one wonders if they know what to do with a problem not solvable by spin and attack-dog tactics. At some point you really have to govern. Sadly, that is not their strong suit.

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Got Your Seat Assignment?

In her pull-in-as-many-favors-with-media-elites-to-save-her-skin campaign, Janet Napolitano tells Maureen Dowd that you need to do your job:

“I think we do a disservice if we tell people there are 100 percent guarantees. I think we tell them we’re doing everything we can to reduce risk. I think we tell people that they are also part of the system. I mean, the passengers on this plane were a line of defense, the flight crew were a line of defense. So everybody has a shared responsibility here. You can’t just say, well, this government department or that government department’s got the whole shebang.”

Okay, does no one tell her to just stop talking?  Really, none of this is helping. For starters, I think after last week the majority of Americans don’t believe that the Obami are doing everything they can to keep us safe. John Brennan seems to have moved up to the pole position with Dennis Blair in the race for forced retirement with the revelation that he was briefed on underwear bombing. Somehow that information didn’t get circulated. The new Newsweek observes: “The briefing for Brennan is among a series of pre-Christmas warnings suggesting that the breakdown in the U.S. intelligence system prior to the Northwest attack may have been worse than has been publicly acknowledged.” So it seems they really weren’t doing everything to keep us safe.

And Napolitano gives the game away when she confesses that “one of the things that may come out of this awful day is perhaps a renewed sense of urgency.” But didn’t she just tell us that they were doing everything they.  . . Oh never mind. And she really doesn’t know how all this happened: “I want to know how this individual got on this plane with this material. I want to know so we can figure out what we should be doing to defeat that.” It might have something to do with the fact that the Obami weren’t doing everything to keep us safe.

But you really do have to marvel at Napolitano‘s not very subtle shifting of responsibility for travel security from the government to the public. One supposes that when you check in you’ll be getting a seat assignment and terrorist look-out shift. (No sleeping between noon and 2pm in Row 26!) Now, on one hand, this is at least a candid recognition that the passengers are the only participants of our security system who seem to be on the ball. But how exactly does this jibe with the unending series of petty, annoying, and downright stupid rules that serve to frustrate only innocent passengers doing their best to patrol the skies? Nothing in your lap for the last hour of flights? No one in their right mind can believe this poses some “defense” against terrorists. (Suffice it to say that even the dimmest terrorist can explode his underwear with 62 minutes to go on the flight.) Do they want to empower us, give us responsibility for our own defense, and restore confidence in our air security? Then stop frisking toddlers and help the public keep an eye on those individuals most likely to set their drawers on fire. And most of all, please just tell Napolitano to be quiet.

In her pull-in-as-many-favors-with-media-elites-to-save-her-skin campaign, Janet Napolitano tells Maureen Dowd that you need to do your job:

“I think we do a disservice if we tell people there are 100 percent guarantees. I think we tell them we’re doing everything we can to reduce risk. I think we tell people that they are also part of the system. I mean, the passengers on this plane were a line of defense, the flight crew were a line of defense. So everybody has a shared responsibility here. You can’t just say, well, this government department or that government department’s got the whole shebang.”

Okay, does no one tell her to just stop talking?  Really, none of this is helping. For starters, I think after last week the majority of Americans don’t believe that the Obami are doing everything they can to keep us safe. John Brennan seems to have moved up to the pole position with Dennis Blair in the race for forced retirement with the revelation that he was briefed on underwear bombing. Somehow that information didn’t get circulated. The new Newsweek observes: “The briefing for Brennan is among a series of pre-Christmas warnings suggesting that the breakdown in the U.S. intelligence system prior to the Northwest attack may have been worse than has been publicly acknowledged.” So it seems they really weren’t doing everything to keep us safe.

And Napolitano gives the game away when she confesses that “one of the things that may come out of this awful day is perhaps a renewed sense of urgency.” But didn’t she just tell us that they were doing everything they.  . . Oh never mind. And she really doesn’t know how all this happened: “I want to know how this individual got on this plane with this material. I want to know so we can figure out what we should be doing to defeat that.” It might have something to do with the fact that the Obami weren’t doing everything to keep us safe.

But you really do have to marvel at Napolitano‘s not very subtle shifting of responsibility for travel security from the government to the public. One supposes that when you check in you’ll be getting a seat assignment and terrorist look-out shift. (No sleeping between noon and 2pm in Row 26!) Now, on one hand, this is at least a candid recognition that the passengers are the only participants of our security system who seem to be on the ball. But how exactly does this jibe with the unending series of petty, annoying, and downright stupid rules that serve to frustrate only innocent passengers doing their best to patrol the skies? Nothing in your lap for the last hour of flights? No one in their right mind can believe this poses some “defense” against terrorists. (Suffice it to say that even the dimmest terrorist can explode his underwear with 62 minutes to go on the flight.) Do they want to empower us, give us responsibility for our own defense, and restore confidence in our air security? Then stop frisking toddlers and help the public keep an eye on those individuals most likely to set their drawers on fire. And most of all, please just tell Napolitano to be quiet.

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The Supreme Court Watch

There is good reason to believe that one or more Supreme Court justices will step down in 2010. The rumors have swirled for some time that Justice Stevens will retire. Moreover, it seems increasingly likely that the Democrats may lose Senate seats, dropping their ranks below the filibuster-proof 60. That makes post-2010 Supreme Court confirmation fights a bit trickier and reduces the chances of a hard-core liberal activist making it to the Court after the 2010 elections. So if the liberal/activist justices are thinking of retirement in the next few years, 2010 is the time to do it.

Obama made a political calculation with Sonia Sotomayor that the benefits of a “wise Latina” outweighed the long term benefits of having a top-flight liberal intellectual on the Court, who might go toe-to-toe with the conservative heavyweights (and have the ability from time to time to corral the mercurial Justice Anthony Kennedy). That calculation made some sense if one supposes Sotomayor would not be Obama’s only appointment.

In some respects the Sotomayor confirmation hearing was a boon to conservative jurists and scholars. As Ed Whelan notes, despite Obama’s attempt to elevate “empathy,” and a filibuster-proof Democratic majority, judicial activists came away disappointed “as Sotomayor, in close consultation with the White House, tried to disguise herself as a judicial conservative. ‘The task of a judge is not to make law, it is to apply the law,’ she averred. Judges are ‘like umpires,’ she said. She pretended to walk away from her support for freewheeling resort to foreign and international legal materials. And, perhaps most strikingly, she emphatically repudiated Obama’s own empathy standard.” What’s more, liberals grudgingly figured out that Jeffrey Rosen was right — they could have come up with a better nominee.

In 2010 Obama might go for a top-flight nominee with impeccable credentials and a willingness to be candid about his or her judicial philosophy. But the temptation is great, especially as Obama’s ratings are sinking and his Democratic colleagues are floundering in the polls, to once again play the political angle. Recall that with this crowd everything is political — the Afghanistan war strategy, the census, and especially the Justice Department. So the political consiglieres may well be pushing for a minority-group nominee (haven’t Asians been drifting toward the Republican camp?) or a charismatic figure around whom to rally as they seek to paint the Republicans as the grouchy, bad guys. Find someone who will be good on TV! Play the gender/ethnicity/race card! (Besides, if the Obami are confident in securing a second term, what’s the rush? They’ll have many more years to put boringly competent and intellectually precise people on the Court.)

So it may well be that once again an unexceptional but dependable liberal will get the nod.  But we can, I think, be assured of one thing: David Broder notwithstanding, Janet Napolitano will be off the short list.

There is good reason to believe that one or more Supreme Court justices will step down in 2010. The rumors have swirled for some time that Justice Stevens will retire. Moreover, it seems increasingly likely that the Democrats may lose Senate seats, dropping their ranks below the filibuster-proof 60. That makes post-2010 Supreme Court confirmation fights a bit trickier and reduces the chances of a hard-core liberal activist making it to the Court after the 2010 elections. So if the liberal/activist justices are thinking of retirement in the next few years, 2010 is the time to do it.

Obama made a political calculation with Sonia Sotomayor that the benefits of a “wise Latina” outweighed the long term benefits of having a top-flight liberal intellectual on the Court, who might go toe-to-toe with the conservative heavyweights (and have the ability from time to time to corral the mercurial Justice Anthony Kennedy). That calculation made some sense if one supposes Sotomayor would not be Obama’s only appointment.

In some respects the Sotomayor confirmation hearing was a boon to conservative jurists and scholars. As Ed Whelan notes, despite Obama’s attempt to elevate “empathy,” and a filibuster-proof Democratic majority, judicial activists came away disappointed “as Sotomayor, in close consultation with the White House, tried to disguise herself as a judicial conservative. ‘The task of a judge is not to make law, it is to apply the law,’ she averred. Judges are ‘like umpires,’ she said. She pretended to walk away from her support for freewheeling resort to foreign and international legal materials. And, perhaps most strikingly, she emphatically repudiated Obama’s own empathy standard.” What’s more, liberals grudgingly figured out that Jeffrey Rosen was right — they could have come up with a better nominee.

In 2010 Obama might go for a top-flight nominee with impeccable credentials and a willingness to be candid about his or her judicial philosophy. But the temptation is great, especially as Obama’s ratings are sinking and his Democratic colleagues are floundering in the polls, to once again play the political angle. Recall that with this crowd everything is political — the Afghanistan war strategy, the census, and especially the Justice Department. So the political consiglieres may well be pushing for a minority-group nominee (haven’t Asians been drifting toward the Republican camp?) or a charismatic figure around whom to rally as they seek to paint the Republicans as the grouchy, bad guys. Find someone who will be good on TV! Play the gender/ethnicity/race card! (Besides, if the Obami are confident in securing a second term, what’s the rush? They’ll have many more years to put boringly competent and intellectually precise people on the Court.)

So it may well be that once again an unexceptional but dependable liberal will get the nod.  But we can, I think, be assured of one thing: David Broder notwithstanding, Janet Napolitano will be off the short list.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Looks like there was good reason to hold up the TSA nominee: “The White House nominee to lead the Transportation Security Administration gave Congress misleading information about incidents in which he inappropriately accessed a federal database, possibly in violation of privacy laws, documents obtained by the Washington Post show.”

Another good reason to dump Dennis Blair: “A U.S. counter-terrorism official is sharply challenging the assertion Thursday by Dennis C. Blair, the Director of National Intelligence, that the al-Qaeda terrorist network is ‘diminished.’  .  .  . The U.S. counter-terrorism official told Politico: ‘Blair should, at a minimum, take a mulligan on this. He seems to be suggesting here that al-Qaeda is somehow less of a threat these days. That just ain’t so. And someone should remind him that inexperienced individuals have been responsible for carrying out major attacks. That includes the muscle men on 9/11 and a number of other terrorist attacks since then.'”

A taste of ObamaCare: “The Mayo Clinic, praised by President Barack Obama as a national model for efficient health care, will stop accepting Medicare patients as of tomorrow at one of its primary-care clinics in Arizona, saying the U.S. government pays too little. . . Mayo’s move to drop Medicare patients may be copied by family doctors, some of whom have stopped accepting new patients from the program, said Lori Heim, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians.”

Déjà vu all over again: “The former chairman of the 9/11 commission said that communications lapses that allowed a suspected terrorist to board a Detroit jetliner echoed the mistakes leading up to the 9/11 attacks. ‘It’s like reading the same script over again,’ said Thomas H. Kean, the 9/11 investigation’s top Republican and a former governor of New Jersey.”

A revolt is brewing against Gov.Charlie Crist’s state GOP chairman. Sure does seem as though “Charlie Crist is off his game. Way off his game, which was spectacular when it was good. . .Nowadays, Democrats have pretty much abandoned him, and hard-core GOP conservatives are flocking to Marco Rubio. Charlie’s not only lost his mo, he’s lost his mojo.”

Is David Broder kidding? “If there is anyone in the administration who embodies President Obama’s preference for quiet competence with ‘no drama,’ it is Janet Napolitano.” Well, she does seem to embody the essence of the Obama administration, but this is hardly reason for praise.

I suspect most Americans agree with Charles Krauthammer on this one: “The reason the country is uneasy about the Obama administration’s response to this attack is a distinct sense of not just incompetence but incomprehension. From the very beginning, President Obama has relentlessly tried to play down and deny the nature of the terrorist threat we continue to face. . . Any government can through laxity let someone slip through the cracks. But a government that refuses to admit that we are at war, indeed, refuses even to name the enemy — jihadist is a word banished from the Obama lexicon — turns laxity into a governing philosophy.”

The media elites didn’t make too much of this in the aftermath of the Fort Hood massacre, but now they have perked up: “The apparent ties between the Nigerian man charged with plotting to blow up an airliner on Christmas Day and a radical American-born Yemeni imam have cast a spotlight on a world of charismatic clerics who wield their Internet celebrity to indoctrinate young Muslims with extremist ideology and recruit them for al-Qaeda, American officials and counterterrorism specialists said.” But remember that the Obami are nevertheless going to give KSM a  public trial so he can use his “celebrity to indoctrinate young Muslims with extremist ideology and recruit them for al-Qaeda.”

Andy McCarthy on the Obami’s priorities: “Sure, this government can’t figure out how to move someone from the terrorist database to the no-fly list, but you can rest assured they’re fixated on the real problem:  bloggers who report that TSA issued a directive to increase security after the Christmas bombing attempt.”

This is how the housing crisis seems to have started: “The Obama administration’s $75 billion program to protect homeowners from foreclosure has been widely pronounced a disappointment, and some economists and real estate experts now contend it has done more harm than good.Since President Obama announced the program in February, it has lowered mortgage payments on a trial basis for hundreds of thousands of people but has largely failed to provide permanent relief. Critics increasingly argue that the program, Making Home Affordable, has raised false hopes among people who simply cannot afford their homes.”

Looks like there was good reason to hold up the TSA nominee: “The White House nominee to lead the Transportation Security Administration gave Congress misleading information about incidents in which he inappropriately accessed a federal database, possibly in violation of privacy laws, documents obtained by the Washington Post show.”

Another good reason to dump Dennis Blair: “A U.S. counter-terrorism official is sharply challenging the assertion Thursday by Dennis C. Blair, the Director of National Intelligence, that the al-Qaeda terrorist network is ‘diminished.’  .  .  . The U.S. counter-terrorism official told Politico: ‘Blair should, at a minimum, take a mulligan on this. He seems to be suggesting here that al-Qaeda is somehow less of a threat these days. That just ain’t so. And someone should remind him that inexperienced individuals have been responsible for carrying out major attacks. That includes the muscle men on 9/11 and a number of other terrorist attacks since then.'”

A taste of ObamaCare: “The Mayo Clinic, praised by President Barack Obama as a national model for efficient health care, will stop accepting Medicare patients as of tomorrow at one of its primary-care clinics in Arizona, saying the U.S. government pays too little. . . Mayo’s move to drop Medicare patients may be copied by family doctors, some of whom have stopped accepting new patients from the program, said Lori Heim, president of the American Academy of Family Physicians.”

Déjà vu all over again: “The former chairman of the 9/11 commission said that communications lapses that allowed a suspected terrorist to board a Detroit jetliner echoed the mistakes leading up to the 9/11 attacks. ‘It’s like reading the same script over again,’ said Thomas H. Kean, the 9/11 investigation’s top Republican and a former governor of New Jersey.”

A revolt is brewing against Gov.Charlie Crist’s state GOP chairman. Sure does seem as though “Charlie Crist is off his game. Way off his game, which was spectacular when it was good. . .Nowadays, Democrats have pretty much abandoned him, and hard-core GOP conservatives are flocking to Marco Rubio. Charlie’s not only lost his mo, he’s lost his mojo.”

Is David Broder kidding? “If there is anyone in the administration who embodies President Obama’s preference for quiet competence with ‘no drama,’ it is Janet Napolitano.” Well, she does seem to embody the essence of the Obama administration, but this is hardly reason for praise.

I suspect most Americans agree with Charles Krauthammer on this one: “The reason the country is uneasy about the Obama administration’s response to this attack is a distinct sense of not just incompetence but incomprehension. From the very beginning, President Obama has relentlessly tried to play down and deny the nature of the terrorist threat we continue to face. . . Any government can through laxity let someone slip through the cracks. But a government that refuses to admit that we are at war, indeed, refuses even to name the enemy — jihadist is a word banished from the Obama lexicon — turns laxity into a governing philosophy.”

The media elites didn’t make too much of this in the aftermath of the Fort Hood massacre, but now they have perked up: “The apparent ties between the Nigerian man charged with plotting to blow up an airliner on Christmas Day and a radical American-born Yemeni imam have cast a spotlight on a world of charismatic clerics who wield their Internet celebrity to indoctrinate young Muslims with extremist ideology and recruit them for al-Qaeda, American officials and counterterrorism specialists said.” But remember that the Obami are nevertheless going to give KSM a  public trial so he can use his “celebrity to indoctrinate young Muslims with extremist ideology and recruit them for al-Qaeda.”

Andy McCarthy on the Obami’s priorities: “Sure, this government can’t figure out how to move someone from the terrorist database to the no-fly list, but you can rest assured they’re fixated on the real problem:  bloggers who report that TSA issued a directive to increase security after the Christmas bombing attempt.”

This is how the housing crisis seems to have started: “The Obama administration’s $75 billion program to protect homeowners from foreclosure has been widely pronounced a disappointment, and some economists and real estate experts now contend it has done more harm than good.Since President Obama announced the program in February, it has lowered mortgage payments on a trial basis for hundreds of thousands of people but has largely failed to provide permanent relief. Critics increasingly argue that the program, Making Home Affordable, has raised false hopes among people who simply cannot afford their homes.”

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Punt!

Obama was going to get a full update today, showing he was on top of the terrorist plot and the efforts to get to the bottom of things. But alas, he is just talking on the phone to John Brennan and Janet Napolitano. And he’s going to get some more reports. It is all, once again, spin zone: make it seem as if the president is urgently engaged, continue the endless churning of behind-closed-door reviews, and promise more of the same. (“I anticipate receiving assessments from several agencies this evening and will review those tonight and over the course of the weekend. On Tuesday, in Washington, I will meet personally with relevant agency heads to discuss our ongoing reviews as well as security enhancements and intelligence-sharing improvements in our homeland security and counterterrorism operations.”) And no, Hillary Clinton was not one of those the president said he had consulted. (The mystery continues!)

As I expected, there is nothing even remotely suggesting a systemic review of the administration’s approach to terror. They are focusing on relatively discrete matters, it seems (e.g., watch lists and the proverbial connecting of dots). And no comment, of course, on the release today of Iranian terrorists who killed Americans. Because that’s totally different, you see. The capture and release of terrorists, the criminal-justice model, and the willful indifference to the ideological underpinnings of our enemies are not, I think, on the agenda. This is about containing the “failure” and doing just enough to assure the public, though nothing to disrupt the ideological fixation of the administration.

UPDATE: For starters if the adminstration was interested in getting to the bottom of its security debacle it might answer the five letters Rep. Frank Wolf has sent requesting information of release of Guantanamo detainees to Yemen, Afghanistan and Somalia.

Obama was going to get a full update today, showing he was on top of the terrorist plot and the efforts to get to the bottom of things. But alas, he is just talking on the phone to John Brennan and Janet Napolitano. And he’s going to get some more reports. It is all, once again, spin zone: make it seem as if the president is urgently engaged, continue the endless churning of behind-closed-door reviews, and promise more of the same. (“I anticipate receiving assessments from several agencies this evening and will review those tonight and over the course of the weekend. On Tuesday, in Washington, I will meet personally with relevant agency heads to discuss our ongoing reviews as well as security enhancements and intelligence-sharing improvements in our homeland security and counterterrorism operations.”) And no, Hillary Clinton was not one of those the president said he had consulted. (The mystery continues!)

As I expected, there is nothing even remotely suggesting a systemic review of the administration’s approach to terror. They are focusing on relatively discrete matters, it seems (e.g., watch lists and the proverbial connecting of dots). And no comment, of course, on the release today of Iranian terrorists who killed Americans. Because that’s totally different, you see. The capture and release of terrorists, the criminal-justice model, and the willful indifference to the ideological underpinnings of our enemies are not, I think, on the agenda. This is about containing the “failure” and doing just enough to assure the public, though nothing to disrupt the ideological fixation of the administration.

UPDATE: For starters if the adminstration was interested in getting to the bottom of its security debacle it might answer the five letters Rep. Frank Wolf has sent requesting information of release of Guantanamo detainees to Yemen, Afghanistan and Somalia.

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Where Oh Where Is Hillary?

Nile Gardiner at the Daily Telegraph writes: “The White House should send a search party to track down Hillary Clinton. America’s foreign policy chief has been missing from the world stage for several days, and has become as elusive as the Scarlet Pimpernel at the height of the French Revolution.”

Come to think of it, we haven’t seen or heard from her since the Flight 253 bombing attack. Nada on the issue of the State Department’s own role in the security debacle that allowed the Christmas Day bomber to get onto the plane. (As Elliott Abrams noted, “His multiple-entry visa to the U.S. was not canceled by State, not even after his own father alerted U.S. Embassy officials in Nigeria of the danger he might present.”) And not a peep on Iran. The “Where in the World is the Secretary” locator (I am not making this up) on the State Department website puts her in the environs of Washington D.C.

Maybe she is hiding at home, assuming, correctly, that anyone who shows up on camera (e.g., Janet Napolitano, the president) gets savaged. Maybe she is the fall-gal when we get the “how we messed up” report. (Prediction: It won’t say that treating terrorists like criminal defendants or releasing terrorists to Yemen is a problem.) Or perhaps she is studying up on the 2010 senate and gubernatorial races. There must be a race in some state she could run in and win, right? After all, she is the most admired woman in America (well, she’s in a statistical tie with Sarah Palin). She might not stay that way if she hangs out with the Obami much longer.

Nile Gardiner at the Daily Telegraph writes: “The White House should send a search party to track down Hillary Clinton. America’s foreign policy chief has been missing from the world stage for several days, and has become as elusive as the Scarlet Pimpernel at the height of the French Revolution.”

Come to think of it, we haven’t seen or heard from her since the Flight 253 bombing attack. Nada on the issue of the State Department’s own role in the security debacle that allowed the Christmas Day bomber to get onto the plane. (As Elliott Abrams noted, “His multiple-entry visa to the U.S. was not canceled by State, not even after his own father alerted U.S. Embassy officials in Nigeria of the danger he might present.”) And not a peep on Iran. The “Where in the World is the Secretary” locator (I am not making this up) on the State Department website puts her in the environs of Washington D.C.

Maybe she is hiding at home, assuming, correctly, that anyone who shows up on camera (e.g., Janet Napolitano, the president) gets savaged. Maybe she is the fall-gal when we get the “how we messed up” report. (Prediction: It won’t say that treating terrorists like criminal defendants or releasing terrorists to Yemen is a problem.) Or perhaps she is studying up on the 2010 senate and gubernatorial races. There must be a race in some state she could run in and win, right? After all, she is the most admired woman in America (well, she’s in a statistical tie with Sarah Palin). She might not stay that way if she hangs out with the Obami much longer.

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Re: Obama’s Missed Moment

When once pundits squabbled over how great  Obama was (Lincoln, or just FDR?) and what made him so wonderful, the debate now has turned to why he is so lacking in presidential qualities at key moments. It is not only conservatives who are aghast at Obama’s listless performance. From the Left, Maureen Dowd, sounding like she’s given up on the Gray Lady’s dreamboat, seethes:

Before he left for vacation, Obama tried to shed his Spock mien and juice up the empathy quotient on jobs. But in his usual inspiring/listless cycle, he once more appeared chilly in his response to the chilling episode on Flight 253, issuing bulletins through his press secretary and hitting the links. At least you have to seem concerned. On Tuesday, Obama stepped up to the microphone to admit what Janet Napolitano (who learned nothing from an earlier Janet named Reno) had first tried to deny: that there had been “a systemic failure” and a “catastrophic breach of security.” But in a mystifying moment that was not technically or emotionally reassuring, there was no live video and it looked as though the Obama operation was flying by the seat of its pants.

It didn’t just look that way. The Obama operation — that would be he — is obviously flying by the seat of its pants. The system worked. No it didn’t. The bomber was an isolated extremist. No he wasn’t. Part of the answer to “what is wrong” with Obama and why he is lacking in commander in chief-ness is that he frankly doesn’t seem to know what he is doing. As Dowd puts it: “In his detached way, Spock was letting us know that our besieged starship was not speeding into a safer new future, and that we still have to be scared. Heck of a job, Barry.”

Then from the Right, in a devastating column, Shelby Steele posits why Obama seems so lacking in substance and oomph:

I think that Mr. Obama is not just inexperienced; he is also hampered by a distinct inner emptiness—not an emptiness that comes from stupidity or a lack of ability but an emptiness that has been actually nurtured and developed as an adaptation to the political world.

The nature of this emptiness becomes clear in the contrast between him and Ronald Reagan. Reagan reached the White House through a great deal of what is called “individuating”—that is he took principled positions throughout his long career that jeopardized his popularity, and in so doing he came to know who he was as a man and what he truly believed.

Skating through on his appeal as a “benign — and therefore desirable” racial symbol, Obama, in Steele’s estimation, is therefore lacking a key ingredient of leadership: “He has not had to gamble his popularity on his principles, and it is impossible to know one’s true beliefs without this. In the future he may stumble now and then into a right action, but there is no hard-earned center to the man out of which he might truly lead.”

Whatever the reason, the consensus is building: Obama is not leading. In a post 9/11 world with two wars and an Iranian nuclear threat looming, this is not a comforting conclusion. Worse yet, if everyone from Dowd to Steele can figure that out, so can our enemies.

When once pundits squabbled over how great  Obama was (Lincoln, or just FDR?) and what made him so wonderful, the debate now has turned to why he is so lacking in presidential qualities at key moments. It is not only conservatives who are aghast at Obama’s listless performance. From the Left, Maureen Dowd, sounding like she’s given up on the Gray Lady’s dreamboat, seethes:

Before he left for vacation, Obama tried to shed his Spock mien and juice up the empathy quotient on jobs. But in his usual inspiring/listless cycle, he once more appeared chilly in his response to the chilling episode on Flight 253, issuing bulletins through his press secretary and hitting the links. At least you have to seem concerned. On Tuesday, Obama stepped up to the microphone to admit what Janet Napolitano (who learned nothing from an earlier Janet named Reno) had first tried to deny: that there had been “a systemic failure” and a “catastrophic breach of security.” But in a mystifying moment that was not technically or emotionally reassuring, there was no live video and it looked as though the Obama operation was flying by the seat of its pants.

It didn’t just look that way. The Obama operation — that would be he — is obviously flying by the seat of its pants. The system worked. No it didn’t. The bomber was an isolated extremist. No he wasn’t. Part of the answer to “what is wrong” with Obama and why he is lacking in commander in chief-ness is that he frankly doesn’t seem to know what he is doing. As Dowd puts it: “In his detached way, Spock was letting us know that our besieged starship was not speeding into a safer new future, and that we still have to be scared. Heck of a job, Barry.”

Then from the Right, in a devastating column, Shelby Steele posits why Obama seems so lacking in substance and oomph:

I think that Mr. Obama is not just inexperienced; he is also hampered by a distinct inner emptiness—not an emptiness that comes from stupidity or a lack of ability but an emptiness that has been actually nurtured and developed as an adaptation to the political world.

The nature of this emptiness becomes clear in the contrast between him and Ronald Reagan. Reagan reached the White House through a great deal of what is called “individuating”—that is he took principled positions throughout his long career that jeopardized his popularity, and in so doing he came to know who he was as a man and what he truly believed.

Skating through on his appeal as a “benign — and therefore desirable” racial symbol, Obama, in Steele’s estimation, is therefore lacking a key ingredient of leadership: “He has not had to gamble his popularity on his principles, and it is impossible to know one’s true beliefs without this. In the future he may stumble now and then into a right action, but there is no hard-earned center to the man out of which he might truly lead.”

Whatever the reason, the consensus is building: Obama is not leading. In a post 9/11 world with two wars and an Iranian nuclear threat looming, this is not a comforting conclusion. Worse yet, if everyone from Dowd to Steele can figure that out, so can our enemies.

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A Systematic Failure, Certainly

Four days after an al-Qaeda-supported Islamic terrorist nearly butchered 278 people, two days after Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said “the system worked,” and a day after a slovenly and disengaged performance in which Obama told us that the Christmas Day bomber was really an “isolated extremist,” Obama emerged once again to assure us that, well, okay, we had a “catastrophic breach” of security and a “systematic failure.”

As more details trickle out, we learn that the bomber was likely aided by al-Qaeda and inspired by the same imam who was Major Nadal Hassan’s e-mail pal. Not isolated at all, was he. And now we learn just how catastrophic was the failure:

The father of terror suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab met with the Central Intelligence Agency at the U.S. embassy in Abuja, Nigeria, and told of his son’s likely radicalization, according to the CIA.The initial meeting Nov. 19 led to a broader gathering of multiple U.S. agencies the next day, including representatives of the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the State Department and the CIA, in which the information was shared, a U.S. official said.

With no hint of irony, some hapless official tells us (on background, of course) that “it is unclear whether intelligence officials in Washington effectively collected and analyzed all the relevant information gathered in Nigeria, pointing toward a possible lapse that could have helped prevent Mr. Abdulmutallab getting on the plane he attempted to bomb.” Let me take a stab at that one: they didn’t effectively collect and analyze all the relevant information because Abdulmutallab got on the plane and almost incinerated hundreds of people. So what were Napolitano and the president talking about up until now? Were they trying to flim-flam us or were they grossly and inexcusably unprepared and ill-informed?

This is a scandal of the first order. On this one there is no George W. Bush to blame. There is only the president and his tragically clueless administration. Unlike the  pre-9/11 bits of data, which never wound up in the right hands, in this case we had a specific bomber, a specific tip, and the imam was literally in our gun-sights (reports say he escaped the predator attack). And the intelligence community was given it all on a silver platter. This is the quintessential failure to connect dots. Had the detonator not failed or an alert passenger not intervened, we would have had not a catastrophic failure but a catastrophe.

Two suggestions for the president: end the vacation and fire some people. And if he wants to show that he isn’t cowering from an increasingly infuriated public, he would do well to hold a press conference and answer each and every question put to him. If he chooses not to, the scandal may turn into Obama’s political hurricane, akin to Katrina. Perhaps it already has.

Four days after an al-Qaeda-supported Islamic terrorist nearly butchered 278 people, two days after Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said “the system worked,” and a day after a slovenly and disengaged performance in which Obama told us that the Christmas Day bomber was really an “isolated extremist,” Obama emerged once again to assure us that, well, okay, we had a “catastrophic breach” of security and a “systematic failure.”

As more details trickle out, we learn that the bomber was likely aided by al-Qaeda and inspired by the same imam who was Major Nadal Hassan’s e-mail pal. Not isolated at all, was he. And now we learn just how catastrophic was the failure:

The father of terror suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab met with the Central Intelligence Agency at the U.S. embassy in Abuja, Nigeria, and told of his son’s likely radicalization, according to the CIA.The initial meeting Nov. 19 led to a broader gathering of multiple U.S. agencies the next day, including representatives of the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the State Department and the CIA, in which the information was shared, a U.S. official said.

With no hint of irony, some hapless official tells us (on background, of course) that “it is unclear whether intelligence officials in Washington effectively collected and analyzed all the relevant information gathered in Nigeria, pointing toward a possible lapse that could have helped prevent Mr. Abdulmutallab getting on the plane he attempted to bomb.” Let me take a stab at that one: they didn’t effectively collect and analyze all the relevant information because Abdulmutallab got on the plane and almost incinerated hundreds of people. So what were Napolitano and the president talking about up until now? Were they trying to flim-flam us or were they grossly and inexcusably unprepared and ill-informed?

This is a scandal of the first order. On this one there is no George W. Bush to blame. There is only the president and his tragically clueless administration. Unlike the  pre-9/11 bits of data, which never wound up in the right hands, in this case we had a specific bomber, a specific tip, and the imam was literally in our gun-sights (reports say he escaped the predator attack). And the intelligence community was given it all on a silver platter. This is the quintessential failure to connect dots. Had the detonator not failed or an alert passenger not intervened, we would have had not a catastrophic failure but a catastrophe.

Two suggestions for the president: end the vacation and fire some people. And if he wants to show that he isn’t cowering from an increasingly infuriated public, he would do well to hold a press conference and answer each and every question put to him. If he chooses not to, the scandal may turn into Obama’s political hurricane, akin to Katrina. Perhaps it already has.

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Time to Distance From the White House?

One would think that responding to a terror attack with less moral clarity and forcefulness than that displayed after the Fort Hood attack would have taken some doing. But the Obami have managed to pull it off. Between Janet Napolitano and the president, they’ve managed to convey confusion, denial, and willful indifference to the nature of our enemies. So the trick then for Obama supporters is to make criticism of that dismal performance seem unseemly or “partisan.” The ever-helpful media isn’t wasting time on that front. A case in point is this gasping Politico account:

Republicans have wasted no time in attacking Democrats on intelligence and screening failures leading up to the failed Christmas Day bombing of Flight 253 — a significant departure from the calibrated, less partisan responses that have followed other recent terrorist activity. The strategy — coming as the Republican leadership seeks to exploit Democratic weaknesses heading into the 2010 midterms — is in many ways a natural for a party that views protecting the U.S. homeland as its ideological raison d’etre and electoral franchise.

Well, I suppose we should be thankful that at least one party has as its “ideological raison d’etre” keeping Americans from being slaughtered by Islamic fanatics. The implication is that there is something nefarious about pointing out how badly the administration is responding to serious threats to Americans. Heaven forbid that elected officials should be concerned that the administration is (once again) not getting it when it comes to the war against Islamic fanatics.

But I would think that Democrats must be awfully nervous. They’ve spent years and years trying to live down the reputation as being “weak on defense” and then along comes a president who seems at best a reluctant commander in chief and at worst devoted to returning to a pre-9/11 mentality — which, after all, left us vulnerable on 9/11 in the first place. Nevertheless, it is up to a not-really Democrat, Sen. Joe Lieberman, to sound serious:

“We were very lucky this time, but we may not be so lucky next time, which is why our defenses must be strengthened,” said committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) in a statement. “I view Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab as a terrorist who evaded our homeland security defenses and who would have killed hundreds of people if the explosives he tried to detonate had worked.”

Where is the Democratic congressional leadership? Largely silent. Perhaps the reason why the criticism of the White House’s bungling seems to be coming almost entirely from one side of the political aisle is that the Democrats are largely mute, hoping (and no doubt praying) that the White House will get its act together. But that might not be wise. Many of them, after all, are going to be on the ballot and they might not want to concede that there is only one political party fully dedicated to preventing the murder of their fellow citizens.

They might start by re-examining and then putting a halt to some of the more egregiously irresponsible actions of the Obama administration, including the decision to proceed with a civilian trial for KSM. Certainly they don’t want to have to explain to the American people that they enabled an administration engaged in a deeply misguided effort to reject the policies that kept us safe for seven and a half years.

One would think that responding to a terror attack with less moral clarity and forcefulness than that displayed after the Fort Hood attack would have taken some doing. But the Obami have managed to pull it off. Between Janet Napolitano and the president, they’ve managed to convey confusion, denial, and willful indifference to the nature of our enemies. So the trick then for Obama supporters is to make criticism of that dismal performance seem unseemly or “partisan.” The ever-helpful media isn’t wasting time on that front. A case in point is this gasping Politico account:

Republicans have wasted no time in attacking Democrats on intelligence and screening failures leading up to the failed Christmas Day bombing of Flight 253 — a significant departure from the calibrated, less partisan responses that have followed other recent terrorist activity. The strategy — coming as the Republican leadership seeks to exploit Democratic weaknesses heading into the 2010 midterms — is in many ways a natural for a party that views protecting the U.S. homeland as its ideological raison d’etre and electoral franchise.

Well, I suppose we should be thankful that at least one party has as its “ideological raison d’etre” keeping Americans from being slaughtered by Islamic fanatics. The implication is that there is something nefarious about pointing out how badly the administration is responding to serious threats to Americans. Heaven forbid that elected officials should be concerned that the administration is (once again) not getting it when it comes to the war against Islamic fanatics.

But I would think that Democrats must be awfully nervous. They’ve spent years and years trying to live down the reputation as being “weak on defense” and then along comes a president who seems at best a reluctant commander in chief and at worst devoted to returning to a pre-9/11 mentality — which, after all, left us vulnerable on 9/11 in the first place. Nevertheless, it is up to a not-really Democrat, Sen. Joe Lieberman, to sound serious:

“We were very lucky this time, but we may not be so lucky next time, which is why our defenses must be strengthened,” said committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) in a statement. “I view Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab as a terrorist who evaded our homeland security defenses and who would have killed hundreds of people if the explosives he tried to detonate had worked.”

Where is the Democratic congressional leadership? Largely silent. Perhaps the reason why the criticism of the White House’s bungling seems to be coming almost entirely from one side of the political aisle is that the Democrats are largely mute, hoping (and no doubt praying) that the White House will get its act together. But that might not be wise. Many of them, after all, are going to be on the ballot and they might not want to concede that there is only one political party fully dedicated to preventing the murder of their fellow citizens.

They might start by re-examining and then putting a halt to some of the more egregiously irresponsible actions of the Obama administration, including the decision to proceed with a civilian trial for KSM. Certainly they don’t want to have to explain to the American people that they enabled an administration engaged in a deeply misguided effort to reject the policies that kept us safe for seven and a half years.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Jamie Fly on Obama’s new expression of “deep admiration” for the Iranian protesters: “Now that the President seems so concerned about the events unfolding on Iran’s streets, perhaps someone should ask the White House whether the President believes that Sen. Kerry should even contemplate a visit to Tehran to meet with the very officials that are ordering the beatings and killings he has just condemned.  The answer might tell us how far he is really willing to go to ‘bear witness.'”

Stephen Hayes observes that Obama’s comments “fell so flat,” given the lack of any “action item” other than calling for the Iranian regime to meet its international obligations. It was a “silly statement,” he says. Charles Krauthammer adds: “Meaningless words. . . This is a hinge of history. . . This is a moment in history and he is missing it.”

It isn’t easy being a Democratic incumbent in the Obama era: “Political observers should expect more retirement announcements from centrist Democrats, according to Rep. Dan Boren (Okla.), himself a centrist Democrat.”

Rep. Pete Hoekstra blasts Obama: “After eleven months in office, the president is still sending contradictory messages on national security. . . He says he wants to address the threats yet look at how he has responded to this, how he responded to Fort Hood, how he’s open to prosecuting folks in the CIA, how he’s closing Guantanamo Bay, and how he’s bringing terror suspects to New York City.”

Rory Cooper of Heritage on Obama’s reaction to the Christmas Day bombing attack: “The overwhelming negative opinion of the President’s reaction is a result of Obama’s reckless complacency over the past year. President Obama spent the past 12 months beating up on the men and women of the CIA, on the soldiers who ably run Gitmo, campaigning against the Patriot Act (even though he now recognizes its importance), making terrorism a law enforcement issue, announcing a show trial for KSM in NYC, and cutting defense appropriations in favor of sweetheart stimulus deals. The first thing he did with Abdulmutallab was to read him his rights.”

Only a day before Obama spinmeister Marc Ambinder was praising the “strategy” of having Obama hide after a terrorist attack. Now he muses: “Did Obama, attempting to make a clean break from the Bush years vis-a-vis communicating to the public about terrorism, put too much faith in DHS Secretary Napolitano to serve as the front-line communicator?” Really, the obsession with being “not Bush” is getting to be pathological — Bush talked to the public directly about terrorism so Obama shouldn’t? Good grief.

You want horrifying? Ann Althouse takes us through the entire Janet Napolitano interview. The full interview is actually worse than the “system worked” snippet. Okay, she’s not the real problem but she’s a horrid Homeland Security Secretary and really should go.

Marc Thiessen warns us: “Instead of looking for ways to release these dangerous men, we should be capturing and interrogating more of them for information on planned attacks. But that is something the U.S. no longer does. President Obama has shut down the CIA interrogation program that helped stop a series of planned attacks — and in the year since he took office, not one high-value terrorist has been interrogated by the CIA. . . The problem with this approach is that dead terrorists cannot tell their plans. According to ABC News, Abdulmutallab has told investigators there are ‘more just like him in Yemen who would strike soon.’ Who are these terrorists? Where have they been deployed? We may not find out until it is too late because we launched a strike intended to kill the al-Qaeda leaders who could give us vital intelligence.”

Sobering: “A dangerous explosive allegedly concealed by Nigerian student Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in his underwear could have blown a hole in the side of his Detroit-bound aircraft if it had been detonated, according to two federal sources briefed on the investigation.”

Jamie Fly on Obama’s new expression of “deep admiration” for the Iranian protesters: “Now that the President seems so concerned about the events unfolding on Iran’s streets, perhaps someone should ask the White House whether the President believes that Sen. Kerry should even contemplate a visit to Tehran to meet with the very officials that are ordering the beatings and killings he has just condemned.  The answer might tell us how far he is really willing to go to ‘bear witness.'”

Stephen Hayes observes that Obama’s comments “fell so flat,” given the lack of any “action item” other than calling for the Iranian regime to meet its international obligations. It was a “silly statement,” he says. Charles Krauthammer adds: “Meaningless words. . . This is a hinge of history. . . This is a moment in history and he is missing it.”

It isn’t easy being a Democratic incumbent in the Obama era: “Political observers should expect more retirement announcements from centrist Democrats, according to Rep. Dan Boren (Okla.), himself a centrist Democrat.”

Rep. Pete Hoekstra blasts Obama: “After eleven months in office, the president is still sending contradictory messages on national security. . . He says he wants to address the threats yet look at how he has responded to this, how he responded to Fort Hood, how he’s open to prosecuting folks in the CIA, how he’s closing Guantanamo Bay, and how he’s bringing terror suspects to New York City.”

Rory Cooper of Heritage on Obama’s reaction to the Christmas Day bombing attack: “The overwhelming negative opinion of the President’s reaction is a result of Obama’s reckless complacency over the past year. President Obama spent the past 12 months beating up on the men and women of the CIA, on the soldiers who ably run Gitmo, campaigning against the Patriot Act (even though he now recognizes its importance), making terrorism a law enforcement issue, announcing a show trial for KSM in NYC, and cutting defense appropriations in favor of sweetheart stimulus deals. The first thing he did with Abdulmutallab was to read him his rights.”

Only a day before Obama spinmeister Marc Ambinder was praising the “strategy” of having Obama hide after a terrorist attack. Now he muses: “Did Obama, attempting to make a clean break from the Bush years vis-a-vis communicating to the public about terrorism, put too much faith in DHS Secretary Napolitano to serve as the front-line communicator?” Really, the obsession with being “not Bush” is getting to be pathological — Bush talked to the public directly about terrorism so Obama shouldn’t? Good grief.

You want horrifying? Ann Althouse takes us through the entire Janet Napolitano interview. The full interview is actually worse than the “system worked” snippet. Okay, she’s not the real problem but she’s a horrid Homeland Security Secretary and really should go.

Marc Thiessen warns us: “Instead of looking for ways to release these dangerous men, we should be capturing and interrogating more of them for information on planned attacks. But that is something the U.S. no longer does. President Obama has shut down the CIA interrogation program that helped stop a series of planned attacks — and in the year since he took office, not one high-value terrorist has been interrogated by the CIA. . . The problem with this approach is that dead terrorists cannot tell their plans. According to ABC News, Abdulmutallab has told investigators there are ‘more just like him in Yemen who would strike soon.’ Who are these terrorists? Where have they been deployed? We may not find out until it is too late because we launched a strike intended to kill the al-Qaeda leaders who could give us vital intelligence.”

Sobering: “A dangerous explosive allegedly concealed by Nigerian student Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab in his underwear could have blown a hole in the side of his Detroit-bound aircraft if it had been detonated, according to two federal sources briefed on the investigation.”

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Do You Feel Safer?

Americans aren’t feeling safer these days:

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 79% of U.S. voters now think it is likely there will be another terrorist attack in the United States in the next year. That’s a 30-point jump from the end of August when just 49% of Americans felt that way.

Didn’t they hear? We’re closing Guantanamo, giving KSM a civil trial, stopping enhanced interrogation techniques and re-investigating the CIA. All that and yet 70 percent think we’re going to be hit again.

Meanwhile, three days after the Christmas Day bombing was thwarted by a combination of luck and alert passengers, the Saudi arm of al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attack. And Obama? Oh, yes, he, as the New York Times indelicately put it, “emerged from seclusion” to tell us he’s being briefed, everyone should be “vigilant but confident” (Who comes up with this stuff?) and that he really gets it that there are terrorists in a bunch of places who want to kill us. Sounding oddly like OJ Simpson, he vowed, “We will not rest until we find all who were involved and hold them accountable.” (Yes, it’s apparently just a giant manhunt for the culprits, in the parlance of the criminal-justice perspective to which the administration clings so dearly.) He took no questions. After all, someone might ask a sticky one, such as “Why Janet Napolitano is still working for you?” or “Why did you think it advisable to release Guantanamo detainees to Yemen?”

Even the Times reporter could not conceal his disdain for the president’s shabby handing of the terror attack:

Pictures of passengers enduring tougher security screening at the airport were juxtaposed against images of the president soaking in the sun and surf of this tropical getaway. Mr. Obama, who put on a suit though no tie for his statement Monday, has ordered a review of the two major planks of the aviation security system — watch lists and detection equipment at air — port checkpoints. Some members of Congress urgently questioned why, more than eight years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, security measures could not keep makeshift bombs off airliners.

This eerily brings to mind Obama’s campaign hideout when Russia invaded Georgia. For days he remained secluded then too, only to emerge from the palm trees when his then-opponent John McCain had issued multiple statements. But Obama is president now and the public is increasingly concerned about his ability to protect them. We really could use a commander in chief who understands the nature of the enemy and who can do better than a belated statement days after the third domestic terror attack of his presidency.

Americans aren’t feeling safer these days:

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 79% of U.S. voters now think it is likely there will be another terrorist attack in the United States in the next year. That’s a 30-point jump from the end of August when just 49% of Americans felt that way.

Didn’t they hear? We’re closing Guantanamo, giving KSM a civil trial, stopping enhanced interrogation techniques and re-investigating the CIA. All that and yet 70 percent think we’re going to be hit again.

Meanwhile, three days after the Christmas Day bombing was thwarted by a combination of luck and alert passengers, the Saudi arm of al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attack. And Obama? Oh, yes, he, as the New York Times indelicately put it, “emerged from seclusion” to tell us he’s being briefed, everyone should be “vigilant but confident” (Who comes up with this stuff?) and that he really gets it that there are terrorists in a bunch of places who want to kill us. Sounding oddly like OJ Simpson, he vowed, “We will not rest until we find all who were involved and hold them accountable.” (Yes, it’s apparently just a giant manhunt for the culprits, in the parlance of the criminal-justice perspective to which the administration clings so dearly.) He took no questions. After all, someone might ask a sticky one, such as “Why Janet Napolitano is still working for you?” or “Why did you think it advisable to release Guantanamo detainees to Yemen?”

Even the Times reporter could not conceal his disdain for the president’s shabby handing of the terror attack:

Pictures of passengers enduring tougher security screening at the airport were juxtaposed against images of the president soaking in the sun and surf of this tropical getaway. Mr. Obama, who put on a suit though no tie for his statement Monday, has ordered a review of the two major planks of the aviation security system — watch lists and detection equipment at air — port checkpoints. Some members of Congress urgently questioned why, more than eight years after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, security measures could not keep makeshift bombs off airliners.

This eerily brings to mind Obama’s campaign hideout when Russia invaded Georgia. For days he remained secluded then too, only to emerge from the palm trees when his then-opponent John McCain had issued multiple statements. But Obama is president now and the public is increasingly concerned about his ability to protect them. We really could use a commander in chief who understands the nature of the enemy and who can do better than a belated statement days after the third domestic terror attack of his presidency.

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She’s Not the Real Problem

Janet Napolitano’s the “system worked” remark is going to go down as one of those memorably idiotic statements that for better or worse become forever associated with an official’s name. It will be up there with Dan Quayle’s spelling “potatoe” and Al Haig’s assertion that “I am in control here” (following the shooting of President Ronald Reagan). But of course, hers is worse, because it is more than a personal gaffe. It reveals a fundamental policy cluelessness and sense of denial that we have learned, unfortunately, permeates the entire Obama administration. (She subsequently has tried to say that her words were taken out of context and that, of course, the administration isn’t pleased with how the system worked, but as Tom Bevan rightly points out “Again, the DHS Secretary appears to believe the American public are a bunch of morons.”)

The notion that the “system worked” is being widely ridiculed. This report provides a sample:

“Security failed,” said Doron Bergerbest-Eilon, Israel’s senior-ranking counterterrorism officer from 1997 to 2000 and a former national regulator for aviation security. It is of little comfort that Abdulmutallab was stopped only after he allegedly failed to properly detonate the bomb, instead igniting a fire that alerted fellow passengers, Bergerbest-Eilon said.”The system repeatedly fails to prevent attacks and protect passengers when challenged,” he said, adding that, in the minds of security experts, “for all intents and purposes, Northwest Flight 253 exploded in midair.”

A Georgetown University terrorism  expert added, “This incident was a compound failure of both intelligence and physical security, leaving prevention to the last line of defense — the passengers themselves.” But the smartest observation comes from Ken Dunlap, security director of the International Air Transport Association: “We’ve spent eight years looking for little scissors and toenail clippers. . . Perhaps the emphasis should be looking for bad people.” But that would entail being candid about who the “bad people” are. I would venture a guess that 90 percent of the public would agree with this sentiment:

Jacques Duchesneau, head of Canada’s Air Transport Security Authority from 2002 to 2008, and Bergerbest-Eilon said that instead of trying to push virtually all travelers through similar screening processes, authorities should improve and expand the use of intelligence and behavioral assessments to cull out those deemed to pose the greatest risk, and target improved technology to find them.

While such methods have been “wrongly perceived as racial profiling,” Bergerbest-Eilon said, “past events have taught us that we cannot rely on intelligence alone to thwart major terror attacks.”

Some are calling for Napolitano to resign. Granted that a randomly picked name from the phone book would probably be an improvement, but she is not the problem. The problem comes from the president and the perspective he has instilled in his entire administration. The Obami refuse to adopt a war mentality in the midst of a war on western civilization, and they eschew common-sense efforts to raise the alert on “bad people.” They insist that we treat those we catch after the fact as common criminals and that intelligence operatives behave like cops on the beat, ever-conscious of the legal peril they face if they ruffle the feathers of terrorists who may possess life-saving information. Unless Obama changes his perception and approach to terrorism, the American people may well demand, as Max points out, a more capable commander in chief to conduct the war against Islamic fanatics.

Janet Napolitano’s the “system worked” remark is going to go down as one of those memorably idiotic statements that for better or worse become forever associated with an official’s name. It will be up there with Dan Quayle’s spelling “potatoe” and Al Haig’s assertion that “I am in control here” (following the shooting of President Ronald Reagan). But of course, hers is worse, because it is more than a personal gaffe. It reveals a fundamental policy cluelessness and sense of denial that we have learned, unfortunately, permeates the entire Obama administration. (She subsequently has tried to say that her words were taken out of context and that, of course, the administration isn’t pleased with how the system worked, but as Tom Bevan rightly points out “Again, the DHS Secretary appears to believe the American public are a bunch of morons.”)

The notion that the “system worked” is being widely ridiculed. This report provides a sample:

“Security failed,” said Doron Bergerbest-Eilon, Israel’s senior-ranking counterterrorism officer from 1997 to 2000 and a former national regulator for aviation security. It is of little comfort that Abdulmutallab was stopped only after he allegedly failed to properly detonate the bomb, instead igniting a fire that alerted fellow passengers, Bergerbest-Eilon said.”The system repeatedly fails to prevent attacks and protect passengers when challenged,” he said, adding that, in the minds of security experts, “for all intents and purposes, Northwest Flight 253 exploded in midair.”

A Georgetown University terrorism  expert added, “This incident was a compound failure of both intelligence and physical security, leaving prevention to the last line of defense — the passengers themselves.” But the smartest observation comes from Ken Dunlap, security director of the International Air Transport Association: “We’ve spent eight years looking for little scissors and toenail clippers. . . Perhaps the emphasis should be looking for bad people.” But that would entail being candid about who the “bad people” are. I would venture a guess that 90 percent of the public would agree with this sentiment:

Jacques Duchesneau, head of Canada’s Air Transport Security Authority from 2002 to 2008, and Bergerbest-Eilon said that instead of trying to push virtually all travelers through similar screening processes, authorities should improve and expand the use of intelligence and behavioral assessments to cull out those deemed to pose the greatest risk, and target improved technology to find them.

While such methods have been “wrongly perceived as racial profiling,” Bergerbest-Eilon said, “past events have taught us that we cannot rely on intelligence alone to thwart major terror attacks.”

Some are calling for Napolitano to resign. Granted that a randomly picked name from the phone book would probably be an improvement, but she is not the problem. The problem comes from the president and the perspective he has instilled in his entire administration. The Obami refuse to adopt a war mentality in the midst of a war on western civilization, and they eschew common-sense efforts to raise the alert on “bad people.” They insist that we treat those we catch after the fact as common criminals and that intelligence operatives behave like cops on the beat, ever-conscious of the legal peril they face if they ruffle the feathers of terrorists who may possess life-saving information. Unless Obama changes his perception and approach to terrorism, the American people may well demand, as Max points out, a more capable commander in chief to conduct the war against Islamic fanatics.

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“Islamic Terrorism” Returns

The Los Angeles Times has a report detailing “a rising threat from homegrown extremism.” It seems that even the Obama administration can’t ignore the obvious:

Anti-terrorism officials and experts see signs of accelerated radicalization among American Muslims, driven by a wave of English-language online propaganda and reflected in aspiring fighters’ trips to hot spots such as Pakistan and Somalia.

The Department of Homeland Security saw fit earlier this year to warn about “right-wing extremism” (all those Second and Tenth Amendment nuts), although strangely it has yet to produce a comprehensive report on the pattern of extreme Islamic terrorist activity. But perhaps Janet Napolitano is waking from her slumber:

Last week, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano issued her strongest public comments yet on the homegrown threat.

“We’ve seen an increased number of arrests here in the U.S. of individuals suspected of plotting terrorist attacks, or supporting terror groups abroad such as Al Qaeda,” Napolitano said in a speech in New York. “Home-based terrorism is here. And, like violent extremism abroad, it will be part of the threat picture that we must now confront.”

Officials acknowledged that her tone had changed, though they said terrorism has been her focus since becoming Homeland Security chief.

For an administration that had excised “Islamic fundamentalism” and “Islamic extremism” from its vocabulary and referred to the war on terror as “overseas contingent operations,” this is a pleasing turn of events if it does, in fact, mark a change. One by one the excuses for averting our eyes about the nature of the threat we face seem to be losing credibility. Turns out poverty doesn’t breed Islamic radicalism. As the report notes:

Some feel radicalization in the United States has been worse than authorities thought for some time.

“People focused on the idea that we’re different, we’re better at integrating Muslims than Europe is,” said Zeyno Baran, a scholar at the Hudson Institute, a think tank in Washington. “But there’s radicalization — especially among converts [and] newcomers, such as the Somali case shows. I think young U.S. Muslims today are as prone to radicalization as Muslims in Europe.” …

“The profile in Europe is in general quite different [from U.S. extremists]: more working-class or even underclass,” said a European intelligence official who requested anonymity for security reasons. “But it’s a bit simplistic to make assumptions. We have seen everything in Europe — educated people, doctors involved in terrorism. The underclass argument is not enough.”

And the notion, embraced most specifically by the president, that we can defang Islamic terrorism by humbling ourselves, hobbling our own legitimate security needs, and reaching out to the “Muslim World” by parroting back their victimology seems increasingly dubious. Yet the Times seems mystified that these gambits haven’t really helped: “The Obama administration began the year with gestures to the Muslim world. President Obama promised to shut down the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and made a historic speech in Cairo. ” Wow, and with all that, still we have an uptick in homegrown terror.

What’s missing here is any indication that the president himself is willing to drop the pretense of political correctness, address the reality of Islamic radicalism, and revise his approach to national security accordingly. In fact, he and his attorney general seem to be going in the opposite direction, returning to a criminal-justice model for terrorism, blissfully unaware of the danger of providing KSM with a civilian trial to preach and convert to the cause of Islamic radicalism even more potential terrorists. When Obama is willing to call Fort Hood an act of Islamic terror and shut down the KSM circus, we’ll know we’re finally making progress.

The Los Angeles Times has a report detailing “a rising threat from homegrown extremism.” It seems that even the Obama administration can’t ignore the obvious:

Anti-terrorism officials and experts see signs of accelerated radicalization among American Muslims, driven by a wave of English-language online propaganda and reflected in aspiring fighters’ trips to hot spots such as Pakistan and Somalia.

The Department of Homeland Security saw fit earlier this year to warn about “right-wing extremism” (all those Second and Tenth Amendment nuts), although strangely it has yet to produce a comprehensive report on the pattern of extreme Islamic terrorist activity. But perhaps Janet Napolitano is waking from her slumber:

Last week, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano issued her strongest public comments yet on the homegrown threat.

“We’ve seen an increased number of arrests here in the U.S. of individuals suspected of plotting terrorist attacks, or supporting terror groups abroad such as Al Qaeda,” Napolitano said in a speech in New York. “Home-based terrorism is here. And, like violent extremism abroad, it will be part of the threat picture that we must now confront.”

Officials acknowledged that her tone had changed, though they said terrorism has been her focus since becoming Homeland Security chief.

For an administration that had excised “Islamic fundamentalism” and “Islamic extremism” from its vocabulary and referred to the war on terror as “overseas contingent operations,” this is a pleasing turn of events if it does, in fact, mark a change. One by one the excuses for averting our eyes about the nature of the threat we face seem to be losing credibility. Turns out poverty doesn’t breed Islamic radicalism. As the report notes:

Some feel radicalization in the United States has been worse than authorities thought for some time.

“People focused on the idea that we’re different, we’re better at integrating Muslims than Europe is,” said Zeyno Baran, a scholar at the Hudson Institute, a think tank in Washington. “But there’s radicalization — especially among converts [and] newcomers, such as the Somali case shows. I think young U.S. Muslims today are as prone to radicalization as Muslims in Europe.” …

“The profile in Europe is in general quite different [from U.S. extremists]: more working-class or even underclass,” said a European intelligence official who requested anonymity for security reasons. “But it’s a bit simplistic to make assumptions. We have seen everything in Europe — educated people, doctors involved in terrorism. The underclass argument is not enough.”

And the notion, embraced most specifically by the president, that we can defang Islamic terrorism by humbling ourselves, hobbling our own legitimate security needs, and reaching out to the “Muslim World” by parroting back their victimology seems increasingly dubious. Yet the Times seems mystified that these gambits haven’t really helped: “The Obama administration began the year with gestures to the Muslim world. President Obama promised to shut down the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and made a historic speech in Cairo. ” Wow, and with all that, still we have an uptick in homegrown terror.

What’s missing here is any indication that the president himself is willing to drop the pretense of political correctness, address the reality of Islamic radicalism, and revise his approach to national security accordingly. In fact, he and his attorney general seem to be going in the opposite direction, returning to a criminal-justice model for terrorism, blissfully unaware of the danger of providing KSM with a civilian trial to preach and convert to the cause of Islamic radicalism even more potential terrorists. When Obama is willing to call Fort Hood an act of Islamic terror and shut down the KSM circus, we’ll know we’re finally making progress.

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Super Fight

If the deadlock between lunch-box Democrats and Bill Bradley Democrats (the former Hillary Clinton’s base and the latter Barack Obama’s) cannot be broken with a new flood of money or by an influx of independent voters freed up from a decided Republican race, will the super-delegates–796 quintessential Washington insiders–decide who the Democratic nominee will be? Figures as diverse as David Brooks and Nancy Pelosi have suggested they will. This raises two questions: who will this favor and is this a good way to pick a President.

You might imagine at first blush that Clinton (who to date has secured a lead of 211-128 among the super-delegates) would like nothing better than a smoke-filled room to settle the matter. However, Washington insiders can read polls. And it is clear that Obama, at least now, stacks up better against John McCain than does Clinton. Moreover, the number of Obama’s red-state backers (from Tom Daschle to Claire McCaskill to Janet Napolitano) have made clear that they view him as the one capable of creating a governing majority. So, counterintuitive as it may be, if the nomination is really at stake I think Obama may have the upper hand.

As to the second issue, the smoke-filled rooms were what years of political party rule “reform” was supposed to banish. Like most campaign reform, the law of unintended consequences looms large here. Years of fiddling by legions of rule committees and the more recent effort by Terry McAuliffe, longtime Clinton confidant and now campaign chairman, to create the perfect system (to benefit a supposedly strong front-runner like Clinton) may result in the perfect mess. It is hard to imagine that the loser and his/her backers would not go away very, very mad if a gang of Washington pols decided the nomination. The bitterness and recriminations, not to imagine the back-room deals needed to cobble together a victory, would consume the media and the party. The prospect is an inviting one for the GOP (which explains all the e-mails I receive from GOP types gloating at the possibility of just such an outcome): it would make the GOP’s current intra-party squabbles look like a Zen encounter group.

If the deadlock between lunch-box Democrats and Bill Bradley Democrats (the former Hillary Clinton’s base and the latter Barack Obama’s) cannot be broken with a new flood of money or by an influx of independent voters freed up from a decided Republican race, will the super-delegates–796 quintessential Washington insiders–decide who the Democratic nominee will be? Figures as diverse as David Brooks and Nancy Pelosi have suggested they will. This raises two questions: who will this favor and is this a good way to pick a President.

You might imagine at first blush that Clinton (who to date has secured a lead of 211-128 among the super-delegates) would like nothing better than a smoke-filled room to settle the matter. However, Washington insiders can read polls. And it is clear that Obama, at least now, stacks up better against John McCain than does Clinton. Moreover, the number of Obama’s red-state backers (from Tom Daschle to Claire McCaskill to Janet Napolitano) have made clear that they view him as the one capable of creating a governing majority. So, counterintuitive as it may be, if the nomination is really at stake I think Obama may have the upper hand.

As to the second issue, the smoke-filled rooms were what years of political party rule “reform” was supposed to banish. Like most campaign reform, the law of unintended consequences looms large here. Years of fiddling by legions of rule committees and the more recent effort by Terry McAuliffe, longtime Clinton confidant and now campaign chairman, to create the perfect system (to benefit a supposedly strong front-runner like Clinton) may result in the perfect mess. It is hard to imagine that the loser and his/her backers would not go away very, very mad if a gang of Washington pols decided the nomination. The bitterness and recriminations, not to imagine the back-room deals needed to cobble together a victory, would consume the media and the party. The prospect is an inviting one for the GOP (which explains all the e-mails I receive from GOP types gloating at the possibility of just such an outcome): it would make the GOP’s current intra-party squabbles look like a Zen encounter group.

Read Less

Two Different Candidates

The side-by-side opinion pieces in the Wall Street Journal, one by Hillary Clinton and the other by a trio of Barack Obama supporters (Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, and Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill) are revealing.

Clinton’s purpose is to describe her plan for “shared prosperity.” On health care she declares, “Unless we cover all Americans, we will never end the hidden tax that the uninsured pass on to the rest of us when they end up in the emergency room and we wind up footing the bill. ” Her solution–which she cleverly avoids describing in any particularity–is to pass a massive unhidden tax, mandate healthcare coverage, and do such amorphous and unattainable things as “cut unnecessary spending.” She has lots and lots of other ideas, from matching IRA’s to encouraging women and minorities to pursue science careers (white men can apparently stick to sociology) to “ending the unfunded mandate known as No Child Left Behind” (otherwise known as spending gobs of federal money on education), all the while “making government more efficient and restoring fiscal responsibility.” You can argue there is plenty of “sharing” but not much “prosperity” in her agenda, or that her approach is not intellectually honest or coherent, but give her credit: she has lots she wants to do.

In stark contrast, Obama’s supporters focus almost entirely on his campaign, his “new majority for change,” and these Red state officials’ hope that he will deliver broad electoral success to the Democratic Party. They tout his fundraising prowess and describe in detail his biography. It is eight paragraphs into the column before they address any substance and only then is in the broadest strokes–“make healthcare affordable for every American,” “give all of our children a world class education” and develop “new sources of energy.” (My goodness, had the rest of us only thought of these!) Foreign policy gets a single paragraph which consists of the reminder that he opposed the Iraq war, wants to take care of veterans( the favorite non-foreign policy part of every Democrat’s foreign policy), and “conduct diplomacy with our adversaries as well as our friends.” That’s about it.

One does sympathize at some level with Clinton that she must confront, and indeed may lose, to a man offering a “program” of so little substance. But that may indeed be altogether acceptable to Democratic primary voters. They simply want her and her husband to be gone, they want to feel good about their unbridled liberal sentiments and they will worry about the rest later. The appeal of a confrontation free style of politics and the lure of a new majority may just be too tempting to resist.

The side-by-side opinion pieces in the Wall Street Journal, one by Hillary Clinton and the other by a trio of Barack Obama supporters (Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, and Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill) are revealing.

Clinton’s purpose is to describe her plan for “shared prosperity.” On health care she declares, “Unless we cover all Americans, we will never end the hidden tax that the uninsured pass on to the rest of us when they end up in the emergency room and we wind up footing the bill. ” Her solution–which she cleverly avoids describing in any particularity–is to pass a massive unhidden tax, mandate healthcare coverage, and do such amorphous and unattainable things as “cut unnecessary spending.” She has lots and lots of other ideas, from matching IRA’s to encouraging women and minorities to pursue science careers (white men can apparently stick to sociology) to “ending the unfunded mandate known as No Child Left Behind” (otherwise known as spending gobs of federal money on education), all the while “making government more efficient and restoring fiscal responsibility.” You can argue there is plenty of “sharing” but not much “prosperity” in her agenda, or that her approach is not intellectually honest or coherent, but give her credit: she has lots she wants to do.

In stark contrast, Obama’s supporters focus almost entirely on his campaign, his “new majority for change,” and these Red state officials’ hope that he will deliver broad electoral success to the Democratic Party. They tout his fundraising prowess and describe in detail his biography. It is eight paragraphs into the column before they address any substance and only then is in the broadest strokes–“make healthcare affordable for every American,” “give all of our children a world class education” and develop “new sources of energy.” (My goodness, had the rest of us only thought of these!) Foreign policy gets a single paragraph which consists of the reminder that he opposed the Iraq war, wants to take care of veterans( the favorite non-foreign policy part of every Democrat’s foreign policy), and “conduct diplomacy with our adversaries as well as our friends.” That’s about it.

One does sympathize at some level with Clinton that she must confront, and indeed may lose, to a man offering a “program” of so little substance. But that may indeed be altogether acceptable to Democratic primary voters. They simply want her and her husband to be gone, they want to feel good about their unbridled liberal sentiments and they will worry about the rest later. The appeal of a confrontation free style of politics and the lure of a new majority may just be too tempting to resist.

Read Less




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