Rove hypocrisy: Doesn't “understand” why Obama was “off the stage” for four days after attempted attack

On Hannity, Karl Rove attacked President Obama for waiting four days before publicly commenting on Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab's alleged attempt to set off a bomb on a Northwest Airlines flight, commenting, “I don't understand why keeping the president off the stage and then not having him explain it for four days is supposed to reassure us.” But in 2001, when Rove himself was serving in the White House, President Bush was “off the stage” for six days before responding to Richard Reid's attempt to detonate a shoe bomb on a trans-Atlantic flight.

Rove attacked Obama for not “explain[ing]” bomb attempt “for four days”

From the January 4 edition of Fox News' Hannity:

HANNITY: Well, what do you make of the handling of the whole situation -- you know, “the system worked,” Janet Napolitano tells us. The president -- you know, when we finally got a remark out of him, he says it's an isolated extremist, which we don't know to be the fact, but he said that. And then he talks about a systemic failure days later, but only because of president criticism.

ROVE: Yeah.

HANNITY: When you look at the entire incident in total, what does it tell you?

ROVE: Well, it tells me that we got the gang that's not got its act together. First of all, I think it was a mistake for the president to have the incident happen on Christmas and for him not to be heard from for four days. The White House sent out its people to spin the press in that they were trying to reassure the American people. Well, I don't understand why keeping the president off the stage and then not having him explain it for four days is supposed to reassure us.

But Rove served in White House when Bush took six days before responding to 2001 “shoe bomber”

Richard Reid, the “shoe bomber,” attempted to light a fuse in his shoes on December 22, 2001. On December 22, 2001, Richard Reid attempted to light a fuse in his shoes while aboard American Airlines Flight 63 from Paris to Miami, Florida. Passengers and flight crew were able to restrain the attempted terrorist and Reid's plot was foiled. Reid pleaded guilty in federal court and is serving a life sentence at the ADX Florence prison, commonly referred to as Supermax, in Florence, Colorado.

Bush first mentioned the 2001 “shoe bomber” on December 28, six days after the attempted bombing. On December 28, 2001 -- six days after the December 22 attempted plane bombing-- Bush mentioned the attempted bombing at a press conference Q&A in Crawford, Texas, while answering a question on Osama bin Laden:

QUESTION: Can you say with confidence now that Osama bin Laden in no longer in a position to mastermind another terrorist attack against the United States or our allies? And related to that, you talked about 2002 being a year of war. What can you say to prepare the American people for what that vision is, what they need to be prepared for, as compared to what they've seen in Afghanistan?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I hope 2002 is a year of peace. But I am also realistic, and I know full well that bin Laden and his cronies would like to harm America again, bin Laden and his cronies would like to harm our allies. How do I know that? I receive intelligence reports on a daily basis that indicates that that's his desires. And therefore, the United States must be vigilant, must make sure we continue to focus on our homeland security measures, must disrupt, must use our intelligence-gathering network to prevent the enemy from attacking.


The shoe bomber was a case in point, where the country has been on alert. A stewardess on an American Airlines flight -- or a flight attendant on an American Airlines flight was vigilant, saw something amiss, and responded. It's an indication that the culture of America has shifted to one of alertness. And I'm grateful for the flight attendant's response, as I'm sure the passengers on that airplane. But we've got to be aware that there are still enemies to the country. And our government is responding accordingly. [emphasis added]

At the time, Rove served as “Senior Advisor” to Bush. According to a 2005 White House press release announcing Rove's promotion to Deputy Chief of Staff, “Since 2001, Mr. Rove has served as Senior Advisor to the President, overseeing strategic planning, political affairs, public liaison, and intergovernmental affairs at the White House.”

“President Obama takes the heat President Bush did not”

In a December 29 article, Politico contrasted the “withering criticism” Obama has received from the media and conservatives for his response to the Christmas day attempted attack with the “virtually no complaints” Bush received for his 2001 response:

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.


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.