I knew when I read this quote that it would get all sorts of criticism, deservedly so, but mainly the wrong kind. Bob Woodward’s new book contains this rather odd statement from America’s Commander in Chief about terrorism:
Woodward’s book portrays Obama and the White House as barraged by warnings about the threat of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil and confronted with the difficulty in preventing them. During an interview with Woodward in July, the president said, “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.”
People jumped on this statement and claimed that Barack Obama said that terrorism was no big deal, but that’s not really fair — and it misses the larger problem with the statement. He’s not dismissing terrorism; in fact, Obama says in the same breath that the administration is doing everything it can do to prevent another one. That’s hardly a dismissal, although one can certainly argue whether Obama’s administration really is doing everything it can do, say, by capturing and interrogating terrorists rather than just killing them to avoid the legal questions of interrogation and detention.
No, the bigger issue is that Obama didn’t say anything at all with this statement. Of course we can absorb another terrorist attack. No one is arguing that another 9/11 will mean the disintegration of the US, except perhaps the nutcases who plotted the last one expecting an American collapse commensurate with the Soviet collapse in the late 1980s. Another terrorist attack would hardly surpass the effects of the previous one in terms of American cohesion, which were negligible even in the long run.
But that’s not the point. The point is that we lost almost 3,000 Americans in a day who should be still with us. Secondarily, we sustained billions of dollars in economic damage. The role of the executive branch and its Commander in Chief is to protect us from outside attack, not because we can’t “absorb” one, but because we want to preserve the lives, liberty, and property of Americans, which is the primary duty of the President.
Mumbling platitudes about our ability to absorb 9/11 nine years after the fact is plain silliness. Unfortunately, this administration has a pattern of issuing nothing but platitudes in crises, especially the current economic crisis, where the White House launched its most ridiculous platitude, “Recovery Summer.” It’s a fundamentally unserious administration, and this is just another example of it.
Got an Obamateurism of the Day? If you see a foul-up by Barack Obama, e-mail it to me at [email protected] with the quote and the link to the Obamateurism. I’ll post the best Obamateurisms on a daily basis, depending on how many I receive. Include a link to your blog, and I’ll give some link love as well. And unlike Slate, I promise to end the feature when Barack Obama leaves office.
Illustrations by Chris Muir of Day by Day. Be sure to read the adventures of Sam, Zed, Damon, and Jan every day!