Saturday, January 02, 2010

Connecting the Dots

Kathleen Parker instructs us,
If Bush could be blamed for the dot-connecting inadequacies that helped enable the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, eight months into his administration, then Obama can fairly be held responsible for the incompetence that allowed a disaffected jihadist to get explosive powder onto a plane.
Except somebody, oh... who was it again... Oh yes, Kathleen Parker doesn't actually believe it's fair to blame Bush or his administration for failing to connect those dots. Is she applying a different standard to President Obama - a new standard that, by implication of her own words, is unfair - or has she somehow forgotten the amount of slack she repeatedly extended to Bush? One of the biggest unconnected dots leading up to 9/11, "Bin Ladin Determined to Strike in US", was given to Bush while he was on vacation. Yet it appears that no words of criticism have ever crossed Parker's lips.

Similarly, Parker offers no criticism of Jim DeMint for blocking confirmation of the new head of the TSA, DeMint apparently finding it more important that TSA workers be blocked from unionizing than that the TSA itself be effectively managed. No dots to connect there.

Parker also whines that President Obama is on vacation, didn't make a public statement about the incident for two days, and... well, responded in much the same manner as Parker, focusing on institutional failures instead of the incident itself. Parker dismisses the attempt itself as banal, and is full of 'wit' in her description of the terrorist, "Was this fellow computer-generated by a cartoon character", and incident, "If it weren't all so bloody horrifying, the incident would be ridiculous" - yet one can imagine what her reaction would have been had President Obama made similar comments. She probably would blast him for displaying a demeanor that in these circumstances borders on inappropriate - no, wait, she did that anyway.

Many have pointed out that Bush took six days to make a public statement over "shoe bomber" Richard Reid's December 22, 2001 attempt to take down an airliner - an incident that seems remarkably analogous to what Parker describes as "the underwear bomber" of December 25, 2009. Obama, with three days more experience when the incident occurred, and with one day less experience when he made the statement, should have... um... well, I'm sure "it's different". In fairness, Bush had other issues on his mind at the time that he may have deemed more important.

Parker is also horrified that President Obama was on vacation with his family over Christmas. Unthinkable. G.W., the most vacationed President in U.S. history was... well, on a "holiday retreat" when Richard Reid attempted to take down a plane, sure, but surely that's also "completely different".

Parker's largest substantive criticism of Obama, if you can call it that, is, "The cool detachment that was so attractive when political opponents were trying to rile Obama is suddenly becoming annoying." She doesn't "need bombast and flared nostrils" and notes that "Calm in the face of potential disaster is laudable," but... shouldn't he be declaring a war, or something? Seriously. So let's take a look at an appropriate reaction - none of that calm detachment stuff - from GW's statement on Richard Reid:
First of all, I wish everybody a Happy New Year; 2002 is going to be a great year for America. And we will continue to pursue our mission in fighting terror. We'll work hard to make sure our economy rebounds. But most of all, the Nation will continue to embrace the culture of compassion, which really, really flourished right after September the 11th.

I'm looking forward to an early evening tonight. I guess at the age of 55, it's expected that--or it's okay for a guy to go to bed at about 9 p.m., maybe 10 p.m. So I don't plan anything glamorous for New Year's Eve.

I've got to tell you, there's nothing more relaxing than being in Crawford, Texas. I'm spending as much time outdoors as I can. I spent-- after my briefing this morning with National Security Council, I was able to spend about 3 hours in the canyons, cleaning underbrush. And I feel refreshed and fortunate that we've got such a beautiful piece of land to live on.
Hm. Well maybe he is less detached, with appropriate level of nostril flare, when he speaks directly about Richard Reid?
The FBI, the whole culture of the FBI has changed, for the better. The FBI's main task now is to protect Americans from further attack. The country is on alert. And a classic case was the person who tried to put the bomb in his shoe, and a flight attendant on the American flight alertly notified people, and they got it. And he's now--we're now giving him a chance to tell us what he knows about terror and about Al Qaida.
That's so much better than "A systemic failure has occurred, and I consider that totally unacceptable". After all, if you make a "low key response" to an incident like this you're "trying to pretend" that the nation is not at war, right?

All in all, the editorial is typical of Parker's work: Late to the story, parroting the standard Republican Party talking points even after most of the points have been discredited, regurgitating her usual personality-based criticisms of President Obama, ignoring all facts that contradict her assertions.... Pretty much everything it would take for Fred Hiatt to deem her "highly qualified".


  1. "Parker offers no criticism of Jim DeMint for blocking confirmation of the new head of the TSA, DeMint apparently finding it more important that TSA workers be blocked from unionizing than that the TSA itself be effectively managed." - I don't necessarily disagree with your main point, but there are some valid reasons to think that unionizing TSA would be a bad idea. I'm also still more than somewhat troubled by having the nominee downplay his role in abusing his position to spy on a rival, which is to me the biggest strike against him.


  2. It's hard to imagine that you would find any argument against unionizing to be credible. ;)

    Seriously, though, if there is any sign that DeMint shares actual concerns about the nominee, please share it.


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