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Of Terror and Golf



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Much has been made of President Obama pitching and putting his way around Hawaii for nearly three days before commenting publicly on the Flight 253 terrorist attack. No doubt the president’s time on the links made for bad optics (an observation that predates the Christmas Day plot, by the way; last month, no less august a chronicler of liberal miserabilism than Harper’s Index noted that in the first year of his presidency, Obama had already exceeded the number of holes played by George W. Bush during his two terms in office). And no doubt the president’s long silence and subsequent nonchalance only exacerbated the bungle DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano made of the administration’s response in his absence.

But it shouldn’t be thought that a president can’t respond effectively to a national security threat while playing the occasional round of golf. To reappropriate a phrase still mind-numbingly in vogue on the left: Bush did it. In fact, the criticism leveled at Obama put me in mind of one of my favorite moments of the Bush presidency, in those resolute days between September 11 and the Iraq War when the country felt, more or less by consensus, safe under its commander-in-chief.

While teeing off on a Maine golf course in August of 2002, Bush took a question from the press about a rash of suicide bombings in Israel.

“There are a few killers who want to stop the peace process that we have started, and we must not let them,” he told the reporter. “I call upon all nations to do everything they can to stop these terrorist killers.”

Bush then issued one of his classic self-assured nods and without missing a beat added, “Thank you. Now watch this drive.”

The moment would eventually feature negatively in Michael Moore’s agitprop Fahrenheit 9/11 and, more complicatedly, enter the conservative mind as a humorous marker of the roguishness that made Bush both frustrating and endearing. (As recently as last week, my colleague Greg Pollowitz referenced the “watch this drive” line in poking fun at Obama for delaying a tee-time to answer questions on health-care reform.)

But the difference between Bush and Obama is that after Bush left the golf course he oversaw an unprecedented global war on terror that put serious dents in jihadist causes from Buffalo to the Philippines, and forestalled attacks on American soil for eight years.

What, exactly, has Mr. Obama done so far besides make it unlawful for passengers to use the lavatory at the end of a long flight?



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