CONGRESSIONAL DEMS START TO SPEAK UP…. Within hours of the attempted terrorist attack last Friday, Republicans had already begun blaming the president for the actions of the madman. Since then, abandoning any sense of reason, GOP officials and their allies have been trashing U.S. officials for … well, something bad. It’s unclear what.

Congressional Democrats have been slow to either defend the White House against baseless attacks or go on the offensive against the Republican attack dogs. That seemed to change this afternoon.

While many Dems stay silent and let the WH lead the way, DCCC chair Chris Van Hollen and Rep. Eric Massa (D-NY) say the previous admin let down their guard.

“In general, we are facing the consequences of the Bush administration’s failures to deal with al Qaeda,” Van Hollen told Hotline OnCall. “The Republicans have no business in pointing fingers at the Obama administration on terrorism and national security.”

“The Obama administration has been much more aggressive about going after al Qaeda than the Bush administration, which turned its focus from al Qaeda to Iraq,” he added. The Obama admin has “been on the offense in places where the Bush administration had taken its eye off the ball.”

I’d go a little further, but that’s not bad. It’s probably also worth noting that a) Bush/Cheney released the terrorist plotters into an “art therapy rehabilitation program“; b) failed spectacularly to keep America and its allies safe from terrorism during the former administration’s eight years; c) the same Republican lawmakers whining now also opposed funding for the Transportation Safety Administration, including money for screening operations and explosives detection systems; and d) that Obama has succeeded on counter-terrorism fronts that Bush/Cheney only talked about. That said, Van Hollen’s message isn’t a bad start.

Also today, Massa picked up on Cheney’s latest idiocy, responding, “I would remind the American public that the apparent leaders of the al Qaeda cell in Yemen were two terrorists who were released by Vice President Cheney in secret. I think there’s a level of accountability that has to be levied personally on the vice president.”

And Van Hollen and Massa both pointed to the fact that the Transportation Safety Administration doesn’t have a chief administrator right now because of Republican obstructionism. Sen. Jim DeMint’s (R-S.C.) “pure partisan ideology placed not only the passengers and crew of that Northwest flight at great personal danger, but in fact placed the entire American traveling public in danger,” Massa said. “He should be held personally accountable for that incredible act of partisan politics that placed so many Americans at risk.”

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.