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Tilting at Windmills

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January 8, 2010

OBAMA ORDERS IMPROVEMENTS, REJECTS 'CYNICISM AND DIVISION'.... Announcing the results of a surprisingly quick review following the failed Christmas-day terrorist plot, President Obama yesterday "ordered intelligence agencies to take a series of steps to streamline how terrorism threats are pursued and analyzed."

The president laid out a wide variety of steps he was ordering in the wake of the review, in areas ranging from transportation security to more distributed intelligence, the visa program to the watchlist criteria. Obama also went into some detail about the missteps that allowed the incident to occur in the first place.

But towards the end of his remarks, the president seemed to acknowledge the sniping from Republicans and the media, and talked a bit about how he approaches the national security landscape.

"Over the past two weeks, we've been reminded again of the challenge we face in protecting our country against a foe that is bent on our destruction. And while passions and politics can often obscure the hard work before us, let's be clear about what this moment demands. We are at war. We are at war against al Qaeda, a far-reaching network of violence and hatred that attacked us on 9/11, that killed nearly 3,000 innocent people, and that is plotting to strike us again. And we will do whatever it takes to defeat them.

"And we've made progress. Al Qaeda's leadership is hunkered down. We have worked closely with partners, including Yemen, to inflict major blows against al Qaeda leaders. And we have disrupted plots at home and abroad, and saved American lives. [...]

"Here at home, we will strengthen our defenses, but we will not succumb to a siege mentality that sacrifices the open society and liberties and values that we cherish as Americans, because great and proud nations don't hunker down and hide behind walls of suspicion and mistrust. That is exactly what our adversaries want, and so long as I am President, we will never hand them that victory. We will define the character of our country, not some band of small men intent on killing innocent men, women and children.

"And in this cause, every one of us -- every American, every elected official -- can do our part. Instead of giving into cynicism and division, let's move forward with the confidence and optimism and unity that defines us as a people. For now is not a time for partisanship, it's a time for citizenship -- a time to come together and work together with the seriousness of purpose that our national security demands.

"That's what it means to be strong in the face of violent extremism. That's how we will prevail in this fight. And that's how we will protect our country and pass it -- safer and stronger -- to the next generation."

Obama obviously didn't feel the need to call out any of the partisans by name, but it was nevertheless a pretty forceful rebuke of the entire line of argument launched over the last two weeks by Cheney, DeMint, Hoekstra, King, Steele, and their assorted allies. In effect, Obama was reminding the nation that the Republican approach is fundamentally backwards, and at odds with who we are as a people. It's a reminder he may need to repeat a few more times before it sinks in with the political establishment.

And for what it's worth, the president did use the word "terrorism" (or one of its iterations) 11 times in his speech. He also used the "war" twice, and referenced the Sept. 11 attacks twice. One would like to think this will satisfy the demands of the rhetoric-obsessed Republican Party, but it's hard to know for sure.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (18)

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Sadly, I'm not sure there is any chance that the right wing partisans will pay any attention to rhetoric coming from Obama whether it's what they want to hear or not. They have worked very hard to build a negative image of him and have convinced their flock to think the same way. I've gotten into arguments with some of these people and I'm always surprised how removed from logic they've become. I get hit with a barrage of spittle flecked invective that mirrors the contemptuous bile I see from the right wing media machine. So when Cheney and Hoekstra et al trot out their silly arguments, the legions of goose stepping partisans sing right along, reality be damned.

Posted by: kschultz on January 8, 2010 at 8:19 AM | PERMALINK

OMG, there he goes again, pretending we are not at war, and he didn't use the word "terrorist" once, not a single time!!! OMG, the outrage, the outrage!!! He hasn't tortured or killed the panty bomber yet? OMG, the outrage, the outrage!!! Can't this president see the only recourse is to invade Iraq AGAIN and avenge the wrong done to us on Christmas day, it's time for Shock and Awe II!!!!

Posted by: Capt Kirk on January 8, 2010 at 8:23 AM | PERMALINK

"And for what it's worth, the president did use the word "terrorism" (or one of its iterations) 11 times in his speech. He also used the "war" twice, and referenced the Sept. 11 attacks twice. One would like to think this will satisfy the demands of the rhetoric-obsessed Republican Party, but it's hard to know for sure"

This is crying out for John Cleese to do a Python skit with the Ministry of Silly Phrases. There should be a daily word tracking poll created somewhere to ensure that Obama uses the prerequisite number of approved phrases. I know the terrorists are cringing at the Knights who say Knicht (do your worst!)

Posted by: Knee Andrethal on January 8, 2010 at 8:28 AM | PERMALINK

You nailed it, Capt Kirk! Except, of course, the part about invading Iraq. That isn't global thinking, and of course this is the Global War on Terror. We need to invade on a whole different continent, just to show them terrists what's what. I suggest Norway. It's in Europe, and had as much to do with 9-11 as Iraq did.

Posted by: azportsider on January 8, 2010 at 8:34 AM | PERMALINK

But Steve, he didn't say "War On Terror!" He didn't say the three magic words in the right order!

Of course, even George Bush tried to get rid of that silly expression, but the alternatives his PR people came up with were even sillier: "Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism." Nifty acronym: G-SAVE, get it? Much better than "G-Wot?" But it didn't catch on. Still, it's all OKIYAR.

Posted by: T-Rex on January 8, 2010 at 8:44 AM | PERMALINK

I am a fan of Seymour Hersh, he always seems to know what is going on, he says Cheney left behind moles in the government to keep him in the loop about what is going on and also sabotage the government, this is so scary because Cheney is an evil man who does not want the best for the country and wants to destroy Obama.

Posted by: JS on January 8, 2010 at 8:52 AM | PERMALINK

It's an insult to the memory of the victims of 9/11 that BHO only mentioned 9/11 twice.

Posted by: Al on January 8, 2010 at 9:01 AM | PERMALINK

They should put an illegal warrantless wiretap on all of DICK Cheney's communication devices!!

Posted by: Pragmatic on January 8, 2010 at 9:05 AM | PERMALINK

In an Alternate World, Rudy ("America's Mayor!) was on Morning Joe, berating Obama for not using 'terror', 'war on terror', etcetera, ad infinitum.

I only heard his opening lines- had to go barf. . .

Posted by: DAY on January 8, 2010 at 9:11 AM | PERMALINK

Al, it is an insult to humanity that you continue to parade you ignorance in public like this.

Posted by: Joel on January 8, 2010 at 9:13 AM | PERMALINK

On this current matter, and in his prosecution of this ideological conflict between al Qaeda and the West, I Support My President! He has made exponentially more progress engaging the real threat to our way of life than the Bush Cheney team did after it let down its guard and allowed al Qaeda to attack our beloved nation on September 11, 2001.

George Bush, Dick Cheney and their national security team let us down, people died, and now they think we will listen to them? What fools! -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on January 8, 2010 at 9:13 AM | PERMALINK

You all forget that Bush/Cheney kept us safe from the terrorists, well except for this one day back in the late summer of 2001, but they weren't responsible. It's not like anybody wrote a briefing memo entitled something like "al Quada determined to strike US."

Anyway we should all do what the Republicans want us to do. Now cower in your undisclosed location, click your heals together and repeat "be afraid, be afraid, be very afraid."

What strikes me about all this is the Villager idiots still believe the Republican wussies are better on terrorism than Obama.

Posted by: Ron Byers on January 8, 2010 at 9:35 AM | PERMALINK

So when Cheney and Hoekstra et al trot out their silly arguments, the legions of goose stepping partisans sing right along, reality be damned.

One has to admire how easily GOP elites can manipulate their fan base in the face of reality. Even the Nazi's, I think, would be proud.

The Iraq War pathology

Iraq War = Preemptive strike against terrorist helpers who have WMDs

When that reasoning failed it became:

Iraq War = Taking out evil doers and installing democracy to stabilize region

When that failed spectacularly it morphed into:

Iraq War = Taking the fight to them "over there" rather than allowing them to come here.

And,all were perfectly acceptable to the minions.

Financial/Housing Market Meltdown pathology:

Recession = black people defaulting on loans they never should have or would have gotten if not for the Clinton administration


Recession = evidence that the country doesn't have confidence in a black muslim socialist leader


Recession = Liberal spending spree.

Once again, all perfectly logical and acceptable.

In perspective then, it's a small PR spin act to say

Closing Guantanamo Bay = Obama weak on terror

Failed terrorist attempt = Obama incompetent against terror

Not using the word "terror" = Obama doesn't care about terror

Posted by: about time on January 8, 2010 at 9:37 AM | PERMALINK

This is the meme that Democrats should be using. Since when did Americans become bed wetters? America is the greatest country on earth and we aren't going to let some panty-exploding terrorist scare us! We have nothing to fear but fear itself, etc. Anyway, I thought I would use it at lunch today with my conservative co-workers and they didn't actually have anything to respond with except Obama was soft on terror, but that's easily knocked down. They couldn't argue with me because they'd portraying Americans as sissies and knew it. The blank looks on their faces said it all for me. It was fun actually.

Posted by: Joy on January 8, 2010 at 9:38 AM | PERMALINK

The jihadists are great at using propaganda. Wouldn’t it be priceless to hack some websites belonging to those popular clerics /imams who proselytize for jihad and post a picture of the would be bomber’s diaper-underwear and a riff on the weakness of judgment in selecting such an inept terrorist. Apparently, the Jihadist version of God wasn't signaling approval for this selection. Seriously, we know the pressure points for these people, why not use them as propaganda to our benefit. Clearly, trying to identify every alienated and angry individual that might be used as a weapon will consume enormous resources with little return. Focus on the guy doing the preaching and discredit him.

The Republicans would be masters fomenting untruths that gin up the audience - finally something they could do in the cause of their country

Posted by: DTR on January 8, 2010 at 10:01 AM | PERMALINK

The immortal Republican talking points seem to always go to the death card and be askeared, very askeared you're gonna die of something other than "natural causes". Face it, we're all gonna die, even today if you happen upon a drunk, inattentive driver, or even a disgruntled employee. Hey Al, you're wife said she needs milk and bread. Take a drive if you're not too askeared.

Posted by: Dave on January 8, 2010 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

"That is exactly what our adversaries want"

This is what needs to be emphasized and repeated and repeated and repeated until it soaks into people's brains. The whole point of terrorism is to make the general populace so fearful that they destroy themselves thus saving the terrorists a lot of effort. There is no way on earth that al Qaeda can destroy America. All they can do is punch a few buttons and hope that we will do their work for them. Under the Cheney/Bush regime, they were having inordinate success, but now, except for this fiasco in Afghanistan, Obama has pretty much not taken the bait, and it is putting al Qaeda at its wits' end. Fortunately for al Qaeda but not for us, Cheney and his minions are still active and are still pushing the al Qaeda program. They need to be stopped just as much as the bombers need to be stopped.

Posted by: Texas Aggie on January 8, 2010 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

"...great and proud nations don't hunker down and hide behind walls of suspicion and mistrust."

Carve that one in marble -- in fact, carve the whole thing in marble. Words to remember.

Posted by: leo on January 8, 2010 at 6:09 PM | PERMALINK
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