Our political Quote of the Day is the key part of a piece by Josh Gerstein in The Politico which notes that the Republicans and the news media are reacting to President Barack Obama’s delayed statement on the failed airplane bombing in way totally at variance with how they reacted to Bush. In Bush’s case? Not a peep when he didn’t react for nearly a week:
Eight years ago, a terrorist bomber’s attempt to blow up a transatlantic airliner was thwarted by a group of passengers, an incident that revealed some gaping holes in airline security just a few months after the attacks of Sept. 11. But it was six days before President George W. Bush, then on vacation, made any public remarks about the so-called “shoe bomber,” Richard Reid, and there were virtually no complaints from the press or any opposition Democrats that his response was sluggish or inadequate.
That stands in sharp contrast to the withering criticism President Barack Obama has received from Republicans and some in the press for his reaction to Friday’s incident on a Northwest Airlines flight heading for Detroit.
Democrats have seized on the disparity and are making it a centerpiece of their efforts to counter GOP attacks on the White House. “This hypocrisy demonstrates Republicans are playing politics with issues of national security and terrorism,” DNC spokesman Hari Sevugan said. “That they would use this incident as an opportunity to fan partisan flames…tells you all you need to know about how far the Republican party has fallen and how out of step with the American people they have become.”
The Democrats’ counterattack is aimed largely at two Republican congressmen who have been particularly critical of Obama, Reps. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) and Peter King (R-N.Y.). But neither GOP lawmaker will concede applying a double standard to Obama.
Yet, the similarities between last Friday’s incident and the attempted shoe bombing in 2001 are striking.
Read it in full to read about the similarities.
In the case of the GOP, the way our politics now works, those on the attack against Obama will do the verbal limbo to say this is apples and oranges. But the bottom line is that Bush wasn’t criticized because he was “their” President. This concept of “their President” and “our President” is one of the uglier aspects of our mega-partisan political scene, where every opening is used by partisans to hammer and go on the offensive.
Hypocrisy is not limited to one party. Note how some Democratic pundits and politicos who under Bush went almost ballistic over rumblings that GOPers were thinking of eliminating the filibuster are now calling for…eliminating that terrible filibuster. Consistency conshmistency, what does it matter if it helps our side?
But on the terrorism issue, the GOP’s politicization of an issue that needs to be depoliticized by both parties is clear. See yesterday’s post HERE which touches on the issue.
And the media?
As someone who worked for it and in it over the years (on a per piece basis fulltime overseas from South Asia and Europe and working for two newspaper chain newspapers in the mid-west and West) the reality is that there really is a “pack journalism” response to media coverage. If no one is doing a story a story sometimes is not done if it’s not an aspect that’s being covered.
This pack mentality continues today, although it is far more frenzied. The news cycles are now faster, the competition for (the ailing) old and (blossoming) new media to get audience share is fierce and weblogs feel they have to respond immediately. The media mix now truly takes on a life of its own and it usually come to life most actively on negative or outrage stories.
The old adage that “If it bleeds leads” is now less important than a new one: If it is screams its a dream.
AP photo composite from The Politico.
OPINIONS DIFFER. SO HERE’S SOME OTHER WEBLOG REACTION TO THE POLITICO STORY:
The cycles of media and politics have accelerated since 2002; but that doesn’t really explain the critics’ double standard.
I’ve previously defended Obama’s immediate reaction to the underwear bomber, including dismissing the idea that he should have ended his vacation…..But the two plots took place in very different contexts.
Reid’s plot was mere months after 9/11, during which time Bush was overseeing a radical revamp of airline security procedures, the creation of TSA, the forming of the Department of Homeland Security (all of which I vehemently opposed as both silly and unconstitutional) and launched a war in Afghanistan (which I supported). So, not only was the public conditioned to think terrorist plots were normal but they were keenly aware that the president was handling the situation, even if they weren’t thrilled with how he was doing so.
Fast forward eight years. We haven’t had a terrorist attempt aboard an aircraft since Reid’s comically failed attempt to ignite his shoes. The public is complacent, correctly viewing airport security as a nuisance. The new president has, thankfully, not had to demonstrate leadership in the wake of a terrorist attack on American soil.
And, yet, we’ve only had a couple of politicians trying to make hay over Obama’s handling of this. And one of them’s Peter King, for goodness sakes.
Welcome to Politics 101, Josh! The problem is two fold with your narrative, though, Joshy. First of all, Obama has shown himself not only to be relatively weak on terrorism and terrorists, but, somewhat divorced from leadership. His admin dithered for days over their response, and sent out idiotic Janet Napolitano to say that the system worked, then had to walk the moronity (I know, not a word) back. Secondly, yes, it did take 6 days for Bush to make a response himself, but, as the Huffington Post inadvertently points out, the Bush admin was on top of its game.
The Bush admin. gave measured responses and was paying attention. While he was certainly on Christmas vacation, much as Obama was, we did not get stories about Bush getting a briefing, then running off to the gym 15 minutes later, then playing golf. Multiple times.
Anyhow, its nice to see The Politico be in the pay of the Obama admin….
Remarkable story out today from that left-wing rag The Politico* about the similarities between the ways that President Obama and President Bush responded to very similar failed airplane attacks, and the strikingly different ways that the two commanders-in-chief were treated by your “liberal” American media….
…I’d explain this except I don’t really understand it myself, despite having worked more nearly three decades in the media. It does make a difference that Democrats were highly deferential to Bush because U.S. troops were waging war in Afghanistan in December 2001, while Republicans are highly critical of Obama today…because we’re still waging war in Afghanistan?
—The Huffington Post’s Sam Stein:
The bellowing by Republicans over the Obama administration’s supposedly lackadaisical response to the attempted bombing of an airliner over Detroit seems as much about political posturing as legitimate national security concerns.
How else to explain the GOP’s relatively quiet reaction eight years ago to President George W. Bush’s detached response after a similarly-botched terrorist attack?
Stein provides a lot of detail about the incident when Bush was President, how the administration reacted and how others didn’t then writes:
And so there you have it. The Bush White House downplayed not just the Reid incident (handing over lead responsibilities to federal law enforcement officials) but also consciously deflected attention away from bin Laden out of concern about elevating his latest antics.
In contrast to that response, the current White House has been quite active. The attempted bombing of the plane over Detroit occurred on December 25. That night, Obama convened a secure conference call with his Homeland Security and counter-terrorism advisers. He did the same the next morning and the morning after that. On the 27th, the president dispatched his press secretary, Robert Gibbs, and the head of the Department of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, to the Sunday shows to take questions on the matter. And on December 28, he gave a public statement while still on site in Hawaii.
Obama may not have worn a tie while giving those remarks (which has annoyed more than a few conservatives). But he did host a public address specifically on the situation (which Bush did not do). And while Napolitano may have gaffed during the first round of interviews by proclaiming that the system worked, it was nothing worse than what then-Attorney General John Ashcroft said about Richard Reid back in 2001.
Read it in its entirety.
Perhaps the news cycle has speeded up somewhat since then. Also, perhaps Bush had earned himself such “credit” in the arena of taking-terrorism-seriously after 9/11/01 that he didn’t need to react to the next incident so quickly, whereas (apparently) Obama has yet to gain his war-on-terror stripes. What’s missing from that perspective, however, is something Obama is trying to re-introduce – an awareness of AQ and their (potential) followers as a target audience. The bigger fuss the president makes over a failed terrorist attempt, the bigger they look.
In December 2001, Reid tried to blow up an airplane en route to the United States, intending to murder the Americans on board. In December 2009, Abdulmutallab tried to blow up an airplane en route to the United States, intending to murder the Americans on board. To hear several prominent far-right Republicans tell it, Abdulmutallab’s attempt must be President Obama’s fault — as they see it, the suspected terrorist wouldn’t have tried to commit mass murder were it not for the administration’s policies. Failed attempt or not, the effort itself, Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) said, is evidence of the White House’s “approach” being wrong.
For any grown-up, that’s obviously insane. But taken at face value, doesn’t that necessarily mean that Bush/Cheney policies were equally responsible for Reid’s nearly identical terrorist plot? If Abdulmutallab’s attempt is evidence of Obama’s national security strategy being misguided, wouldn’t Reid’s attempt also be evidence of the Bush/Cheney strategy being equally misguided?
What’s more, is there any evidence — any at all — that congressional Democrats attacked Bush/Cheney for Reid’s failed attempt? I suspect there isn’t, which is why it seems like the two parties simply aren’t playing the same game.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.