Conservative media accuse Obama of not taking attempted terrorist attack seriously

Numerous right-wing media figures have attacked the Obama administration's response to the attempted bombing of a Northwest Airlines flight by baselessly accusing the administration of not having initially been “serious” in its response. However, President Obama took several immediate actions following the incident, including ordering a review of national security measures and increasing airline security measures.

Following attempted attack, conservative media say Obama and his administration are not “serious” about terror

Pruden: Obama treated bomber “as if it were merely an amusing story.” In a January 8 Washington Times op-ed, editor emeritus Wesley Pruden wrote: “After first treating the Detroit panty bomber as if it were merely an amusing story ('an isolated incident') that an airline passenger could dine out on for a few days, President Obama is giving a good imitation now of a man getting a late education.” In fact, Obama did not refer to the attack as an “isolated incident” and has consistently described the incident as an attempted terrorist attack.

Kristol: Brennan comment “shows a kind of not-serious-about-the-war mentality.” On the January 3 edition of Fox News Sunday, Fox News contributor Bill Kristol said the United States is “not treating it [terrorist attacks] as a war.” Then, discussing Homeland Security adviser John Brennan's assertion that there was “no smoking gun” that would have led U.S. intelligence to prevent the attack, Kristol said that "[bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab] is the smoking gun. And frankly, for Mr. Brennan to say, 'Well, no smoking gun,' that itself shows a kind of not-serious-about-the-war mentality."

Gretchen Carlson: “Let's face it,” their “tone” is “not quite that serious.” On the January 8 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Gretchen Carlson asked political analyst Doug Schoen about the “tone ... specifically in the White House right now when it comes to terror” and whether there is “a war waging behind the scenes between the CIA and the White House.” After Schoen said that “there is no clear division of responsibilities or plan to deal with the inevitable conflicts,” Carlson added, “Is that why everyone felt comfortable being on vacation, because the tone -- let's face it -- is not quite that serious?”

Washington Times: For Obama, “Terrorism doesn't rate that much effort.” In a December 30 editorial, The Washington Times wrote that “President Obama gives resounding campaign-style speeches to back agenda items he actually cares about. Terrorism doesn't rate that much effort. After Fort Hood and Northwest Airlines Flight 253, Mr. Obama seemed like he was dragged in front of the American people.” The editorial went on to claim the White House did not take terrorism “seriously.”

Obama took several steps to address attack, including ordering reviews, corrective actions

December 28: Obama ordered two reviews of air security and announced immediate increased airline security measures. After the incident, Obama ordered several actions to “protect the American people and to secure air travel,” including a review of the watch list and airport security procedures. From his December 28 address:

Since I was first notified of this incident, I've ordered the following actions to be taken to protect the American people and to secure air travel.

First, I directed that we take immediate steps to ensure the safety of the traveling public. We made sure that all flights still in the air were secure and could land safely. We immediately enhanced screening and security procedures for all flights, domestic and international. We added federal air marshals to flights entering and leaving the United States. And we're working closely in this country, federal, state and local law enforcement, with our international partners.

Second, I've ordered two important reviews, because it's absolutely critical that we learn from this incident and take the necessary measures to prevent future acts of terrorism.

The first review involves our watch list system, which our government has had in place for many years to identify known and suspected terrorists so that we can prevent their entry into the United States. Apparently the suspect in the Christmas incident was in this system, but not on a watch list, such as the so-called no-fly list. So I have ordered a thorough review, not only of how information related to the subject was handled, but of the overall watch list system and how it can be strengthened.

The second review will examine all screening policies, technologies and procedures related to air travel. We need to determine just how the suspect was able to bring dangerous explosives aboard an aircraft and what additional steps we can take to thwart future attacks.

January 5: Obama ordered “initial reviews” to be completed and “reforms implemented immediately.” While outlining several of the “concrete steps” he asked the administration to take to strengthen national security, Obama said in a January 5 address: “I made it clear today to my team: I want our initial reviews completed this week. I want specific recommendations for corrective actions to fix what went wrong. I want those reforms implemented immediately, so that this doesn't happen again and so we can prevent future attacks. And I know that every member of my team that I met with today understands the urgency of getting this right.”

January 7: Security and intelligence review completed. The White House produced a security and intelligence review on January 7 and issued a statement along with it saying the review and corrective steps were a reflection of the “urgency” of the situation. From the statement:

The President spoke two days ago about “the urgency of getting this right,” and the identification of failures in this review, along with the immediate ordering of reforms and corrective steps both today and in the days since this incident, are a recognition of that urgency. This review is also a recognition that while there is no place for partisanship and the old Washington blame game in dealing with Al Qaeda and the threat they represent, keeping American safe depends on honest and direct accountability.

January 7: Directive for “immediate actions” for intelligence and national security also completed. On January 7, Obama also issued a list of “immediate actions” for the “intelligence, homeland security, and law enforcement communities” to take “to enhance the security of the American people.” The directive says the “actions are necessary given inherent systemic weakness and human errors revealed by the review.” The directive addresses corrective actions for: the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Director of National Intelligence, the CIA, the FBI/Terrorist Screening Center, the National Counterterrorism Center, the National Security Agency, and national security staff. Among other things, the directive orders DHS to "[a]ggressively pursue enhanced screening technology, protocols, and procedures, especially in regard to aviation and other transportation sectors, consistent with privacy rights and civil liberties; strengthen international partnerships and coordination on aviation security issues."

Contrary to right-wing claims, Obama has routinely used the word “terror” and did so in discussing attempted Christmas Day attack

Sargent: "[T]he plain fact is that Obama has used the word 'terror' and its variants lots and lots and lots of times." As The Plum Line's Greg Sargent wrote in a blog post, “No matter how many times critics say otherwise, the plain fact is that Obama has used the word 'terror' and its variants lots and lots and lots of times." Sargent also noted that despite Sen. Jim DeMint's (R-SC) claim that Obama is not “willing to use the word,” "[i]n his weekly address only 24 hours before DeMint made his claim, Obama used the term 'terror,' 'terrorism,' or 'terrorists' a half dozen times."

Obama repeatedly referred to the attempted Christmas Day attack as a “terrorist attack.” Despite the conservative media's attempts to falsely claim Obama does not use the word “terror” to describe the attacks, Obama addressed the nation on the incident on December 28 and repeatedly described the attack as a “terrorist attack.” Obama also repeatedly used the word “terror” or some variation of the word in subsequent addresses.