Sunday, January 3, 2010
National Security Under the Obama Administration
President Obama's weekly address. In this address the President talks about the failed Christmas day terrorist attack and national security:
From the Washington Post:
"Critics have set up a straw Obama, a weak and naive leader who allegedly takes terrorism lightly, thinks that playing nicely with terrorists will make them stop, and fails to understand the threat that the United States faces from violent extremists. Mr. Cheney said that the incident had made "clear once again that President Obama is trying to pretend we are not at war." Likewise, Republican Study Committee Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.) called on Mr. Obama to "recognize that we are at war with a murderous enemy who will not relent because we heed political correctness, acquiesce to international calls for deference or close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay." Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-Mich.), the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano "and the rest of the Obama administration view their role as law enforcement, first responders dealing with the aftermath of an attack. And we believe in a forward-looking approach to stopping these attacks before they happen."
There are two ways to show how baseless these attacks are: examining Mr. Obama's words and examining his actions.
Words first. "Evil does exist in the world," Mr. Obama said in accepting the Nobel Peace Prize. "Negotiations cannot convince al-Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms." In his weekly radio speech Saturday, he disposed of the war-vs.-law-enforcement canard, pointing out that in his inaugural address he made it clear that "0ur nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred and that we will do whatever it takes to defeat them and defend our country, even as we uphold the values that have always distinguished America among nations."
But actions speak louder, and Mr. Obama's actions -- often at the cost of enraging his party's liberal base -- have also demonstrated tenacity and pragmatism blended with a necessary reassessment of the flawed policies of his predecessors and a recommitment to the rule of law. He wants to close the Guantanamo Bay prison, which is all to the good given its stain on the national character, but he has delayed that goal until acceptable alternatives can be found. He has brought criminal charges against some terrorists, but he has also sent others to be tried by military tribunals. He has invoked the authority of the executive to have lawsuits dismissed because they risk exposing state secrets. In addition to the new troop deployments, he has aggressively used predator drones to strike at terrorists, including outside Afghanistan. Even before the failed attack, his administration has been working aggressively with Yemeni authorities to deal with extremists there."
Republicans obviously don't agree.
Also from the Washington Post:
"Since before Obama was sworn into office, Republicans have been building a case that he is weak on national security, and in the wake of the intelligence and security failures that led to last week's incident, they think that narrative might stick. Congressional Republicans and GOP pollsters said they believe the administration's response to the failed attack on a Detroit-bound plane -- along with Obama's decisions on the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and the intelligence lapses connected to November's massacre at Fort Hood, Tex. -- damage the Democratic brand.
The nation's economy and health-care reform are sure to be dominant themes. But if the public remains concerned about the safety of air travel and about international terrorism, the Republican attacks on Obama could be "very influential," said Andrew Kohut, a veteran pollster and president of the nonpartisan Pew Research Center.
"I don't know if it has legs, but it certainly has potential if it has legs," Kohut said.
As the GOP seeks a path out of the political abyss in the 2010 elections, its leaders seem to be turning to the issue of terrorism, which worked for them in the 2002 congressional midterms and in President George W. Bush's 2004 reelection.
"They just don't get it," Rep. Peter Hoekstra (Mich.), the ranking Republican on the House intelligence committee, wrote in a fundraising letter for his gubernatorial campaign. "These are the same weak-kneed liberals who have recently tried to bring Guantanamo Bay terrorists right here to Michigan!"
White House Senior Adviser David Axelrod responds:
"They can run on rhetoric," Axelrod said in an interview Tuesday. "We will run on our record when the time comes. . . . The president's record, I think, is very clear and very strong. This president has taken the fight to al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, in Somalia, in Yemen. He has focused on the threat in a way that it hasn't been.'"
President Barack Obama's top counter terrorism adviser, John Brennan, said Sunday that former Vice President Dick Cheney's criticism of the Obama administration's approach to the Christmas Day terror attempt is misinformed or intentionally false.
The White House also hit back on Cheney's remarks with an official statement:
"To put it simply: this President is not interested in bellicose rhetoric, he is focused on action. Seven years of bellicose rhetoric failed to reduce the threat from al Qaeda and succeeded in dividing this country. And it seems strangely off-key now, at a time when our country is under attack, for the architect of those policies to be attacking the President."
The non-partisan Politifact organization gave Cheney's remark their dubious "pants on fire" award.