QUOTE OF THE DAY…. For much of the political establishment, “toughness” and national security credibility comes with heroic military service. John McCain is credible and tough, we’re told, because of his service in Vietnam. Bush and Cheney were credible and tough because, well, we’re just supposed to think so.
On the Democratic side of the aisle, the list of decorated veterans is arguably a little longer. Take Sen. Jack Reed (D) of Rhode Island, for example. A West Point grad, Reed was an Army Ranger and a paratrooper, and served in the 82nd Airborne Division as an Infantry Platoon Leader, a Company Commander, and a Battalion Staff Officer. He’s now a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Reed, then, would seem to meet the political world’s standards for “toughness.” Regrettably, that probably won’t stop draft-dodging neocons from attacking him over remarks like these.
In what was a noteworthy remark precisely because it is made so infrequently, a top Senate Democrats insisted on Sunday that President Barack Obama has been more focused on issues of terrorism than “any other president.” Even (yes) George W. Bush.
Appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) accused Republicans of applying a double standard to the president for his handling of the attempted Christmas Day airline bombing. While Obama moved swiftly to assess the security implications of the botched attack, and the FBI “immediately questioned the suspect,” Reed said, his predecessor was lethargic in handling a botched airline attack of his own.
“When [the shoe bomber] Richard Reid was discovered trying to detonate a bomb on a transatlantic flight, it took President Bush six days to comment, and the comments were more laudatory to the crew,” Reed said. “And by the way, we should in fact commend the flight crew and the passengers who really saved a potential disaster. But the situation is such that the president has focused on terrorism and counterterrorism, more than any other president. He took office under the spectra of that. He is taking steps –“
Host Chris Wallace, incredulous, felt compelled to interrupt. “Are you really saying he is focused more on terrorism than George W. Bush?” Wallace asked, as if the very idea is impossible to believe.
“I think he came into office with the notion that the whole, the major existential threat to the United States were terrorism attacks in the country,” Reed replied. After noting that Bush took his eye off the ball in 2003, Reed added, “[T]his president, I think, understands that the existential threats to the country are bands of al Qaeda terrorists.”
For what it’s worth, I think it’s an overstatement to characterize al Qaeda as an “existential threat” to the United States, but the larger point — Obama has been more focused on counter-terrorism than any of his predecessors — is both sound and reasonable. Why Reed’s Democratic colleagues don’t echo the sentiment more frequently and forcefully is unclear.