The Democrats' worst nighmare


From the time he launched his campaign for president three years ago, Barack Obama had to consider how he would react to the first serious act of terrorism during the campaign, or if he won, on his watch. His fellow Democrats had been thinking about the moment even longer - since the September day in 2001 when attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon defined George W. Bush’s presidency and gave Republicans a decisive advantage on a defining political issue.

And yet the White House’s response to last week’s attempt to blow up a Northwest Airlines flight to Detroit could rank as one of the low points of the new president’s first year. Over the course of five days, Obama’s Obama’ reaction ranged from low-keyed to reassuring to, finally, a vow to find out what went wrong. The episode was a baffling, unforced error in presidential symbolism, hardly a small part of the presidency, and the moment at which yet another of the old political maxims that Obama had sought to transcend – the Democrats’ vulnerability on national security – reasserted itself.

“The presidency is sometimes about symbolism and not just substance,” said Bob Shrum, who help craft Senator John Kerry’s response to the late-October message from Osama bin Laden that was a pivotal point in the 2004 campaign – and learned a painful lesson in the uneven political playing field on the question of terrorism, at least at that time.

“Kerry reacted perfectly, but it probably cost us the election,” said Shrum, who said he thought Obama had effectively changed course after his aides’ overconfident appearance on the Sunday shows following the attempted attack.

Obama’s campaign was intensely familiar with the danger a potential terror incident posed to any Democratic candidate, and all the more to one who lacked Kerry’s military service and foreign policy experience. They did everything they could to compensate with a high-profile Senate focus on nuclear disarmament and a set of graybeard validators to vouch for Obama’s readiness to lead.

If Republicans and Cheney don't have any credibility on the issue why are they beating him like a drum right now? Democrats are floundering and bucking themselves up with wishful thinking. Cheney killed Obama's policy on Gitmo and changed the public's mind on closing it. It is absurd to suggest that he has no credibility on the issue of terrorism.

While Obama is being wishy-washy, Rasmussen found that 58 percent of voters think we should be waterboarding the underwear bomber to find the enemy's future plan rather than going through the failed lawfare polices of the past.

As for Kerry, his pretense of military credibility was shown to be a farce by the Swift vets who exposed his grandstanding over minor wounds. The bottom line is Kerry is an epitome of the Democrat anti war pukes who vote for the funding before they vote against it.

Peter Wallsten has a pretty coherent description of the Republican strategy of dealing with the national security issue.


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