The WSJ headlines that Homeland Security director Janet Napolitano “has become “a target” for the GOP in the wake of the attempted Christmas day bombing of a Northwest Airliner. And I expect Ms. Napolitano, an extremely competent civil servant, to take a drubbing on the Sunday talk shows today.
So let us look more closely at what precisely the GOP leadership said about the similar shoe bombing of 2001. It is no different from what Napolitano said at its best, and at its worse it was criminal.
On December 22, 2001, Richard Reid, the ‘shoe-bomber,’ attempted to detonate explosives on an American airliner. On December 27, Usama Bin Laden issued a new, menacing videotape. How did the Bush administration respond to these dramatic events? How did CNN cover the response?
Bush’s response was to plant a live oak tree and go for a jog, and follow ‘through on his promise to get a little bit of rest and relaxation on this trip down here to Crawford.’ CNN reported this as a good thing. Bush also declined to comment on the Bin Laden tape, and CNN helpfully explained this silence as a wise decision not to respond to someone who ‘might be dead.’ (???)
The next day, on Dec. 28, Bush affirmed of Bin Laden, “He is not escaping us.” He explained that this was because Bin Laden was no longer ‘in control’ of Afghanistan. But he never had been, and anyway his supposed loss of influence there (not clear even in 2010) would not constitute ‘not escaping us.’
Then Bush went on to talk about the shoe bomber: “The shoe bomber was a case in point where the country has been on alert. A stewardess on American Airlines flight… A flight attendant on American Airlines flight was vigilant, saw something amiss and responded. It’s an indication that the culture of America has shifted to one of alertness. I’m grateful for the flight attendant’s response as I’m sure the passengers are from the airplane. We’ve got to be aware that there are still enemies to the country and our government is responding accordingly.”
Isn’t that a way of saying that the system was working? What else could “our government is responding accordingly” have meant?
Compare what Bush said to Janet Napolitano’s statement after the crotch bomber attack: “and one thing I’d to point out is … is that the system worked. Everybody played an important role here … the passengers and crew of the flight took appropriate action within literally an hour to 90 minutes of the incident occurring all 128 flights in the air had been notified to take some special measures in light of what had occurred on the Northwest Airlines flight. Uh, we instituted new measures on the ground and at screening areas both here in the United States and in Europe … uh … where this flight originated, so … ah … th … the whole process of making sure that we respond properly, directly and effectively went very smoothly.”
Both talked about the process of government response after a near-atrocity. Yet Bush was never attacked for having nothing really to offer other than praise for the flight attendants.
As for the then Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, his response to the airliner attack and Bin Laden’s videotape was to announce that with regard to intelligence reports on Bin Laden’s whereabouts, “I’ve stopped chasing them.”
Rumsfeld helpfully explained, “We do know of certain knowledge that he is either in Afghanistan or in some other country or dead. And we know of certain knowledge that we don’t know which of those happens to be the case.”
He had ‘stopped chasing’ intelligence on Bin Laden’s location? On December 27, 2001? Really, GOP? That’s what you’ve got?
Wouldn’t that be, like, worse than saying that after the attack on the airliner over Detroit, the system had subsequently worked as it should have?
Obama’s response to a similar incident? He is “dramatically increasing our resources in the region where al Qaeda is actually based, in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It’s why I’ve set a clear and achievable mission-to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda and its extremist allies and prevent their return to either country.”
Sounds to me like he’s chasing the intelligence pretty hard, in contrast to his GOP predecessors who ran off to a quagmire in Iraq instead.
Here is the CNN transcript from December 27:
December 27, 2001 Thursday
SHOW: CNN NEWSNIGHT AARON BROWN 22:0
. . . The administration though appears to be in no mood for reading too much into this videotape, at least not in public. Let’s go back to CNN’s Major Garrett with the president in Crawford, Texas. Major.
GARRETT: Wolf, on the tape Osama bin Laden says if he dies, al Qaeda and its terrorist activities will continue. On this and not much else, the White House and bin Laden are in agreement.
Well the White House is very much aware of these conflicting reports about Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts. The White House doesn’t even know if he’s still alive, and did not want to find itself in the position of responding in real time to someone who may in fact be dead. . .
GARRETT (voice over): A quiet day at the Western White House, and after considerable internal debate, the president decided to keep quiet too about the latest bin Laden tape.
The Defense Secretary said bin Laden no longer merits the attention he once commanded.
DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: He has lied repeatedly over and over again. He has hijacked a religion. He has hidden and cowered in caves and tunnels, while sending people off to die.
GARRETT: But the tape, no one knows where or when it was recorded, is revealing. Bin Laden looks pale, gaunt, weary and he comes closer than ever before in a pre-taped message to claiming credit for the September 11th attacks, and he heaps praise on the hijackers.
OSAMA BIN LADEN (through translator): We have shaken the throne of America and hit hard the American economy in its heart, in its core.
GARRETT: Bin Laden also listed a wrath of grievances against U.S. international policy.
BIN LADEN (through translator): The events of the 11th of September are just a reaction to the continuous injustice against our children, our sons in Palestine, in Iraq, in Somalia, in southern Sudan, in Kashmir. . .
But with any new bin Laden tape come questions of his whereabouts, questions the Defense Secretary brushed aside.
RUMSFELD: We hear six, seven, eight, ten, twelve conflicting reports every day. I’ve stopped chasing them. We do know of certain knowledge that he is either in Afghanistan or in some other country or dead. And we know of certain knowledge that we don’t know which of those happens to be the case.
GARRETT (on camera): The White House sees bin Laden and his rhetoric as less menacing and less persuasive than it once was. Coalition partners and most analysts agree, and this the White House considers yet another victory in the War on Terror. Wolf.
BLITZER: Major, do you have any sense how much time the president, while he’s out in Crawford, is spending on substantive issues, like the War in Afghanistan, the search for Osama bin Laden, and how much time he’s simply relaxing?
GARRETT: Well, I wouldn’t want to put a proportional ratio on it, Wolf. I mean White House advisors for example today, the president spent a good deal of time working on the ranch. He actually planted a live oak tree right next to the main house, given to him by White House staffers, went for a jog.
So we’re led to believe the president is following through on his promise to get a little bit of rest and relaxation on this trip down here to Crawford.
End/ (Not Continued)