It has come to the point where President Barack Obama can say exactly what he means and some pundit or Republican partisan will twist it to mean something nefarious, cowardly, despicable, or corrupt. Take, for instance, the current flap about his quoted words in Bob Woodward’s upcoming new book, Obama’s Wars. According to CBS News, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author quotes the president as saying that the U. S. could sustain another terrorist attack. Conservatives like Ron Christie and Liz Cheney have been quick to call people’s attention to the quote, even shading it to look like something that it was not.
President Obama is quoted by Bob Woodward as saying, “We can absorb a terrorist attack. We’ll do everything we can to prevent it, but even a 9/11, even the biggest attack ever . . . we absorbed it and we are stronger.”
Former vice president Dick Cheney’s daughter, Liz, issued a statement saying that Obama’s comments “suggests an alarming fatalism on the part of President Obama and his administration.”
Fatalism? How about realism? President Obama was answering a question from Bob Woodward about the large number of terrorist threats on targets in America and the difficulty of combatting them. The fact that it took so long for a non-domestic terrorist attack like 9/11 to occur is not just coincidence but also a glowing testament to the dedicated, diligent, and vigilant work by American intelligence service personnel to thwart such attempts. The fact that it hasn’t happened since is also a testament to those working in the intelligence gathering and counter-terrorism outfits, both in the United States and around the world.
It is not “fatalism” or being resigned to something to realize that, should another terrorist attack occur, the United States will be able to withstand it, no matter how devastating. Besides, hasn’t that been the province of conservatives since Obama took over the Oval Office, hyping the inability of the Obama administration to adequately deal with terrorism and raising the alarm that the odds of a terrorist attack, including a nuclear terrorist attack, were more likely while Obama was president?
Ron Christie, who once worked on vice president Cheney’s staff, was also quick to pounce. The Republican political strategist said that it was imperative that the president protect Americans “from senseless acts of terrorism.” In fact, Christie suggests that Obama has trivialized the terrorist attack on 9/11. He wrote in “The Hill”: “How dare the president opine that “we can absorb a terrorist attack”? This isn’t a gravel spill or an overturned apple cart in which no one gets hurt.”
Christie’s complete denial that President Obama said exactly what Christie is accusing him of not saying — “We’ll do everything we can to prevent it…” — only plays to the fears of conservative alarmists like Liz Cheney and her father, Dick, who constantly trumpet that Obama is soft on defense and that the U. S. is less safe with him as president. It is an accusation that Dick Cheney has leveled since Obama became president.
But the president is correct, regardless of the fear tactics of Republican strategists, former Republican vice presidents, and conservative non-profit chairs (Liz Cheney is chairperson for Keep America Safe, a group formed with conservative warhawk William Kristol to follow national security issues). The United States can absorb another terrorist attack, just like the country absorbed 9/11 after the Oklahoma City bombing. Our ability to do so was and is noteworthy testimony to our strength and our resilience as a people. And he was correct in another regard: It made us stronger as a nation. Using former vice president Dick Cheney’s own argument, for President Obama to have made us weaker, we have to have grown stronger.
Of course, domestic attacks like the Oklahoma City bombing and extra-national inspired and funded terrorist attacks like 9/11 also pushed to the fore alarmists and doomsayers that take quotes about strength and resiliency and make them into statements about fatalism and trivialization to promote a political agenda. Some are even going so far as to say that President Obama would be willing to allow a terrorist attack in order to be re-elected and save his presidency.
And there are still those that wonder why comedian talk show host Jon Stewart has called for a “Rally to Restore Sanity”?