President Obama’s statement yesterday about “systemic failure” in the security system will undoubtedly give his opponents and political opportunists all the room they need to point and say he’s weak on defense or not taking it seriously or waiting too long to say anything or not carrying on like a banshee when he does speak up. That noise is meant to distract you from the fact that the system he’s saying is broken was put in place by the people who are now making the most noise, that his taking three days to respond to the incident is twice as fast as the response the Bush administration had in the case of Richard “Shoe Bomber” Reid, and the response then was very understated because then, as now, they weren’t sure what they were dealing with. At the time, the response by a lot of people to the Bush’s laconic response wasn’t a purple-faced shriek from a congressman running for governor of Michigan, but rather a bit of relief that people were not over-reacting to the incident, especially since it took place three months after the attacks of September 11, 2001. Mr. Reid was tried and convicted in a civil court, afforded all the legal rights under the laws and the Constitution of the United States, and is now spending the rest of his life in the Supermax prison in Colorado. When Mr. Abdulmutallab goes to trial, it should be under the same circumstances since, after all, it would only be for political reasons that he would receive different treatment. (In one respect, the system did work flawlessly: the Obama administration did something, and the right-wing had a full-tilt off-with-their-heads knee-jerk — emphasis on “jerk” — response. It never fails.)
The Obama administration has a lot to answer for. They’re the ones in charge, and they are the grown-ups now. As tempting as it may be, it’s not going to make travel any safer if we keep reminding ourselves that the Department of Homeland Security has been without a leader because a right-wing senator is holding up the confirmation, or that some of the people who trained Mr. Abdulmutallab were released from Gitmo in November 2007 to attend “art therapy rehabilitation program” in Saudi Arabia, or that it was both the Dutch and the Nigerian authorities who allowed him to get on the plane in the first place.
If there is any comfort in what the president said yesterday, is that he admitted that things didn’t work the way they should have. That’s a far cry from previous administrations that refused to admit that they had screwed up for fear of handing their opponents some kind of crowing rights amongst the Villagers. That would happen no matter what, and if the president isn’t quick enough on the draw for Maureen Dowd, well, dems da berries. If heads roll and someone gets fired or is forced to resign, be it Secretary Napolitano or someone else, let it be because of a real failure to do the job, not for the sake of political expediency.