The attempt to blow Northwest Flight 253 out of the air was planned as an attack on the United States and very nearly succeeded in accomplishing that horrific goal. The moment demanded inspiring, decisive presidential leadership.
America waited four days for a glimmer.
President Obama’s initial response Monday was too long in coming, too cool in delivery and too removed from the extreme gravity of the plot . . .
Before his first remarks on Monday, Obama had left a vacuum, and into that 76-hour empty space rushed Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, whose ineptitude made a mockery of her position and threw millions of fliers into continuing states of confusion.
What the public was left with was a never-to-be-repeated case study in crisis mismanagement. It’s time to get a grip, Mr. President.
The attempted bombing occurred at 11:30 a.m. Friday, Christmas. When finally Obama spoke after the weekend, he vowed to hunt down “all who were involved” and promised, as has become standard, to “use every element of our national power to disrupt, dismantle and defeat the violent extremists who threaten us.”
Nothing less is required, and there can be no arguing with the stated mission.
Even so, Obama’s description of Abdulmutallab as an “isolated extremist” was remarkable and disturbing. This radicalized young Nigerian is nothing of the sort. He operated, in fact, as an Al Qaeda-recruited, Al Qaeda-supplied, Al Qaeda-directed foot soldier — as, to put it directly, an enemy combatant, and not as the criminal “suspect” of Obama’s description.
It’s not just conservatives. In this area, I want President Obama to succeed; I want him to be rising to the occasion. Every time he looks tentative and disconnected, downplaying the significance of life-and-death matters, I fear all of my worst suspicions about him in 2007 and 2008 are true.