Obama orders improvements, rejects ‘cynicism and division’

OBAMA ORDERS IMPROVEMENTS, REJECTS ‘CYNICISM AND DIVISION’…. Announcing the results of a surprisingly quick review following the failed Christmas-day terrorist plot, President Obama yesterday “ordered intelligence agencies to take a series of steps to streamline how terrorism threats are pursued and analyzed.”

The president laid out a wide variety of steps he was ordering in the wake of the review, in areas ranging from transportation security to more distributed intelligence, the visa program to the watchlist criteria. Obama also went into some detail about the missteps that allowed the incident to occur in the first place.

But towards the end of his remarks, the president seemed to acknowledge the sniping from Republicans and the media, and talked a bit about how he approaches the national security landscape.

“Over the past two weeks, we’ve been reminded again of the challenge we face in protecting our country against a foe that is bent on our destruction. And while passions and politics can often obscure the hard work before us, let’s be clear about what this moment demands. We are at war. We are at war against al Qaeda, a far-reaching network of violence and hatred that attacked us on 9/11, that killed nearly 3,000 innocent people, and that is plotting to strike us again. And we will do whatever it takes to defeat them.

“And we’ve made progress. Al Qaeda’s leadership is hunkered down. We have worked closely with partners, including Yemen, to inflict major blows against al Qaeda leaders. And we have disrupted plots at home and abroad, and saved American lives. […]

“Here at home, we will strengthen our defenses, but we will not succumb to a siege mentality that sacrifices the open society and liberties and values that we cherish as Americans, because great and proud nations don’t hunker down and hide behind walls of suspicion and mistrust. That is exactly what our adversaries want, and so long as I am President, we will never hand them that victory. We will define the character of our country, not some band of small men intent on killing innocent men, women and children.

“And in this cause, every one of us — every American, every elected official — can do our part. Instead of giving into cynicism and division, let’s move forward with the confidence and optimism and unity that defines us as a people. For now is not a time for partisanship, it’s a time for citizenship — a time to come together and work together with the seriousness of purpose that our national security demands.

“That’s what it means to be strong in the face of violent extremism. That’s how we will prevail in this fight. And that’s how we will protect our country and pass it — safer and stronger — to the next generation.”

Obama obviously didn’t feel the need to call out any of the partisans by name, but it was nevertheless a pretty forceful rebuke of the entire line of argument launched over the last two weeks by Cheney, DeMint, Hoekstra, King, Steele, and their assorted allies. In effect, Obama was reminding the nation that the Republican approach is fundamentally backwards, and at odds with who we are as a people. It’s a reminder he may need to repeat a few more times before it sinks in with the political establishment.

And for what it’s worth, the president did use the word “terrorism” (or one of its iterations) 11 times in his speech. He also used the “war” twice, and referenced the Sept. 11 attacks twice. One would like to think this will satisfy the demands of the rhetoric-obsessed Republican Party, but it’s hard to know for sure.