NOTHING WRONG WITH SOME COUNTER-TERRORISM BOASTS…. About a year ago, in the immediate wake of the failed Abdulmutallab terror plot on Christmas Day, Marc Ambinder had an item about the deliberate White House strategy.
Authorities respond appropriately; the President (as this president is wont to do) presides over the federal response. His senior aides speak for him, letting reporters know that he’s videoconferencing regularly, that he’s ordering a review of terrorist watch lists, that he’s discoursing with his Secretary of Homeland Security.
But an in-person Obama statement isn’t needed; Indeed, a message expressing command, control, outrage and anger might elevate the importance of the deed, would generate panic (because Obama usually DOESN’T talk about the specifics of cases like this, and so him deciding to do so would cue the American people to respond in a way that exacerbates the situation. […]
Let the authorities do their work. Don’t presume; don’t panic the country; don’t chest-thump, prejudge, interfere, politicize (in an international sense), don’t give Al Qaeda (or whomever) a symbolic victory; resist the urge to open the old playbook and run a familiar play.
Around that time, Republicans and the political establishment decided this sensible approach was all wrong. When there’s a serious terror plot, even an unsuccessful one, mature leadership, focused on denying lunatics p.r. victories and maintaining public calm, is the last thing we need — or so we’ve been told.
I respect the fact that the White House has resisted exploitation and fear-mongering. But with Mohamed Osman Mohamud’s thwarted terrorist plot in mind, I wonder if the president and his team might consider a little more political grandstanding
Administration officials have had quite a bit of success over the last two years in preventing domestic terror attacks, capturing would-be mass murderers, and keeping the public safe, but no one seems to talk about it, precisely because it’s not this White House’s style to chest-thump after a job well done.
But as a consequence, I suspect much of the country just doesn’t hear about these developments.
Does the typical voter, or even the typical political reporter, know about the administration arresting would-be terrorists Najibullah Zazi, Talib Islam, Hosam Maher Husein Smadi, and now Mohamed Osman Mohamud into custody before they could launch their planned attacks? Perhaps not. If similar developments had occurred in, say, 2006, we’d see considerable efforts from the Bush White House and the Attorney General’s office to boast about their success stories. GOP officials in the previous administration decided to make this a political priority — even when they were celebrating minor developments.
President Obama, by all appearances, finds shameless politicization of counter-terrorism offensive. And it is. But the White House’s critics would have Americans believe this administration isn’t succeeding on this front, and isn’t even taking the threat seriously. With this in mind, maybe some shameless exploitation, just to help get the word out, is in order?
Sometimes, leaders acting like a grown-up can go over the political world’s head.