Over at The Atlantic, Marc Ambinder explains . . .
In his Farenheit 9/11, filmmaker Michael Moore juxtaposes images and words of a terrorist attack in Israel with President Bush’s first words about the incident, spoken to a press pool on a golf course, with him leaning casually against a tree. Today, as the nation’s law enforcement agencies respond to an attempted terrorist attack on U.S. soil, as the cable news channels and news websites pull in reinforcements to cover the incident from all angles, President Obama has been silent.
In fact, he’s been golfing. He received a counterterrorism briefing early this morning, Hawaii time, and moments later, left for the gym. The president’s vacation activities might have become the subject of a fierce partisan fight — but really, the only carping is coming from the usual suspects on the right.
There is a reason why Obama hasn’t given a public statement. It’s strategy.
So we’re now all in agreement, correct? Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 was a cavalcade of cheap shots, and Bush’s speaking from a golf course in no way indicated a casualness or lack of appropriate focus on the threat of terrorism, correct? Because it might have been nice to hear non-conservatives saying this, oh, five years ago or so.
The fact that President Obama hasn’t spoken to the citizenry in the 48 hours or so since the incident is . . . unexpected. Strange. If the bombing attempt had not occurred on Christmas Day, his silence would be unthinkable, correct? Somebody tries to blow up a plane, and while his effort fell thankfully fell short, it sounds like it could have turned out terribly and tragically different with a little less luck and a bit more chemical reaction.
The president’s silence is not necessarily a serious problem or crisis, and yes, we are getting lots of statements from administration officials about what TSA, FAA, and the rest are doing.
Maybe this guy was a lone wolf, and no follow-on attacks are in the works, and we’ll forget about this in a couple of months, and life will go on without further incident. Or maybe it won’t. In retrospect, it’s rather amazing that President Clinton never visited the Twin Towers after the 1993 bombing, or visited the CIA for almost a year after a January 25, 1993, shooting attack at its entrance; it looks like the new president’s mind was elsewhere and on other matters.
At some point, a strategy insisting that unsuccessful attacks are not worth presidential comment starts looking like whistling past the graveyard, or pretending that the incidents aren’t a big deal when they are.