Richard Reid and Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab: Double standard in reax?

Predictably, when they can’t defend our celebrity President’s decisions and actions, the left turns to the “blame Bush” game in response – and why shouldn’t they, when the President himself and his administration have set the example that nothing bad that happens is his fault? So far, most on the left haven’t been able to put up a solid, sensible defense of this administration’s poor handling of the attempted terror attack on the Detroit-bound flight 253, so their response is to … ridicule the Republican response to dear leader’s incompetency, and to point out alleged “double standards” when it comes to examining the GOP’s reactions to the aftermath of the attempted attack last week versus their response post-Richard Reid’s attempted attack back in December of 2001. Anything to deflect.

Intentionally or not, Politico’s Josh Gerstein poured flames onto the left’s fire today in a piece he wrote titled “Obama takes the heat Bush did not” – but when one reads the piece it’s not difficult to realize that the piece is missing some important context -not to mention is missing a few facts:

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 concedes applying a double standard to Obama.

But the similarities between last Friday’s incident and the attempted shoe bombing in 2001 are striking.

This year’s attack came on Christmas. The attempt eight years ago took place on Dec. 22. Obama was on vacation in Hawaii when the suspect, Omar Abdulmutallab, allegedly used plastic explosives in his try to blow up the Amsterdam-to-Detroit flight. Bush was at Camp David when Reid used similar plastic explosives to try to blow up his Paris-to-Miami flight, which diverted to Boston after the incident.

Like the Obama White House, the Bush White House told reporters the president had been briefed on the incident and was following it closely. While the Obama White House issued a background statement through a senior administration official calling the incident an “attempted terrorist attack” on the same day it took place, the early official statements from Bush aides did not make the same explicit statement.

Bush did not address reporters about the Reid episode until December 28, after he had traveled from Camp David to his ranch in Texas.

Democrats do not appear to have criticized Bush over the delay. Many were wary of publicly clashing with the commander in chief, who was getting lofty approval ratings after what appeared to be a successful military campaign in Afghanistan. The media also seemed to have little interest in pressing Bush about the bombing, or the fact that the incident had revealed a previously unknown vulnerability in airplane security — that shoes could be used to hide chemicals or explosive devices.

Michelle Malkin addressed some of the differences in the two attacks – and the reactions to them – here:

This Politico piece tries to make hay of the supposedly unfair double standard in how Bush was treated during the shoe bomber attack during Christmas 2001 versus the “heat” that Obama is taking now for remaining on holiday.

A few inconvenient differences and facts that the article glosses over: Bush had been working non-stop since September 11 on homeland security issues and had the public’s trust. The attacks consumed him. By contrast, the current Democratic majority and White House have been working non-stop to lower our defenses and speed the jihadi revolving door.

In December 2001, Bush had not yet amassed his lousy record on Katrina, Harriet Miers, Dubai Ports, shamnesty, and the massive bailouts (all of which have been lambasted extensively on this website and in my columns over the last four years). In December 2009, Obama has already amassed enough Culture of Corruption material to fill an encyclopedia set.

And unlike the low-key Bush, President Obama has been a shameless, consummate TV hog from Day One — willing to turn anything and everything, including a race-baiting tiff between his good friend Professor Henry Louis Gates and Cambridge MA police — into a global “teachable moment” of “unprecedented” proportions. When he doesn’t rush to address Americans after a matter of real import strikes, “heat” — no matter how hypocritical his supporters may paint it – is entirely appropriate.

Let’s look at a few other differences:

-Reid wasn’t on any terrorist watch list. Abdulmutallab was.
-Reid’s father didn’t warn the US embassy in his home country the month before Reid planned the attack that he feared his son was “under the influence of religious extremists.” Abdulmutallab’s did.
-Since Reid wasn’t a suspsected terrorist at the time he tried to blow up American Airlines Flight 63, there was no visa issue. The State Dept. failed twice to catch Abdulmutallab’s active visa.
– No one from the DHS went on various talking head shows to announce that “the system worked” in the aftermath of the Richard Reid attempted terror attack.

And contrary to Jake Tapper’s assertion here that in the aftermath of the attempted attack by Richard Reid that the Bush administration made a similar claim about the system working, his own quotes prove his assertion wrong:

In a press conference on January 17, 2002, then-Attorney General John Ashcroft made a similar claim about shoe-bomber Richard Reid.??

“Throughout the war on terrorism, our military and intelligence officials have made a concerted effort to share appropriate information with the public in order to enlist their assistance,” Ashcroft said. “We’ve asked citizens to be vigilant, to be alert to any possible threat. The success of this strategy was made clear by yesterday’s indictment of Richard Reid, who may very well have succeeded in destroying American Airlines Flight Number 63, as the indictment charges, had it not been for the courage and attentiveness of the citizen passengers and crew.”

Napolitano’s predecessor as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge, went on MSNBC’s Hardball on September 10, 2002, where host Chris Matthews asked him if the US government had thwarted any terrorist attacks within the US.

“You can’t measure that success,” Ridge said, “because it’s difficult to determine with an organization that’s so decentralized.”

Matthews suggested that such success could in fact be measured “if you catch a guy about to blow up a building” or “you catch a guy moving a car bomb into an area of their building.”

“Because of the vigilance of some citizens, we certainly have gotten some folks on airplanes, shoe bombers,” Ridge said.


I wrote in the comments section there:

Jake – love your writing and have linked to you numerous times on my blog, but I’m surprised you’re not seeing the differences between claiming that the US call for citizens to be ‘vigilant’ and ‘alert’ that was being praised by Ashcroft for working in the aftermath of the Reid incident versus Napolitano’s and Gibbs’ respective claims that “the system worked” when it in fact did not, as we are learning more and more each day.

From your own piece:

“We’ve asked citizens to be vigilant, to be alert to any possible threat. The success of this strategy was made clear by yesterday’s indictment of Richard Reid, ***who may very well have succeeded in destroying American Airlines Flight Number 63, as the indictment charges, had it not been for the courage and attentiveness of the citizen passengers and crew.”***

(asterisk emphasis by me)

Contrast “had it not been for the courage and attentiveness of the citizen passengers and crew” versus “the system worked.” Huge difference.

Same same with Ridge’s response.

I’d also like to address the finger-pointing by some who have noted the story about how two of the planners behind the thwarted Flight 253 attack were released from Gitmo “under Bush’s watch.” I had a short exchange at Twitter yesterday with Washington Times reporter Jon Ward, who, in trying to be fair to the Obama administration, made a similar claim. Here’s the transcript:

JW: those looking to blame Obama for gitmo releases should remember that the Bush admin released al-Harbi and al-Shihri. just saying

ST: & those blaming Bush for rel. of 2 plotters should rmber that it wasn't admin who wanted 2 release any1 frm Gitmo. Just sayin

JW: (after retweeting my message) granted. but bush did eventually want, key word, to close gitmo

ST: Didnt have choice after SCOTUS rulings on detainee 'rights.' Not a question of want – but rather had to

ST: June 06 quote “I’d like to close Gitmo” But “I also recognize we’re holding some ppl that R dangerous.”

ST: Bill J. @LegInsurrection gets it right again: Scalia Was Right About Releasing Gitmo Detainees @jonwardeleven

And finally, when even reliable liberals like Ruth Marcus, Maureen Dowd, and – gasp – Andrew Sullivan – have all slammed your response to an attempted terror attack then, well, you know you’ve pretty much screwed up. If these three have the audacity to criticize a President who they’ve made no secret that they support, the rest of the left should follow suit. I won’t hold my breath, though. It’s too much easier to whine “Bbbbbut Bush!” than to actually address the Obama admin’s response itself.

The same people who screamed for years that “BUSH KNEW!” in advance about 9-11 in advance but did nothing are upset about the GOP’s questions about who knew what and when in advance of this terror attack attempt? Don’t make me laugh? And aren’t many of the same people who are pointing fingers at the Bush administration for releasing two of the suspected Flight 523 attack planners from Gitmo a few years ago the same people who demanded he close down Gitmo because it was “anti-everything the US stands for”? You betcha.


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