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Absorbing unfair criticism of Obama on national security

The right's atwitter -- literally, in some cases -- about President Obama’s comment to Bob Woodward that "America can absorb a terrorist attack." This unobjectionable remark -- maybe it would have been better if the president had said the country would crumble in the face of another attack? -- is taken as evidence that Obama is uncaring about the prospect of American lives lost and unserious about prosecuting the war on terror. The unhinged reaction says more about Obama's critics and their willingness to read whatever they want into the president's remarks than it does about Obama's worldview.

"I think that might be the most outrageous thing that's been reported about this book," former United National Ambassador John Bolton told Fox News. "How can an American president say that as if he's a detached observer and doesn't care about Americans dying. I think people have been worried about his qualification as commander in chief for a long time, and that ought to prove it."

The American Enterprise Institute’s Marc Thiessen piled on, calling the quote "a shocking insight into Obama's thinking when it comes to the terrorist threat" and "stunningly complacent words from the man responsible for stopping such a terrorist attack.... He is effectively saying: an attack is inevitable, we'll do our best to prevent it, but if we get hit again -- even on the scale of 9/11 -- it's really no big deal."

Let's roll back the tape to what Obama is actually quoted as saying. Woodward's book isn't out yet, but The Post account of it and the context in which the quote is used say it "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."

Hardly the picture of a White House heedless of or complacent about the terrorist threat. But then there are the president's own words, which the critics seem determined to ignore.

What Obama actually told Woodward was, "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."

How does this fairly translate to not caring about Americans dying and dismissing an attack as no big deal? Put the same words in George W. Bush's mouth -- "We absorbed it and we are stronger" -- and these same folks would be cheering him on. And speaking of cheering on, which is a more responsible presidential statement -- that the country has the fortitude to withstand another terrorist attack, or the mocking, inciting "bring it on" that Bush articulated.

If Obama is, as Thiessen asserts, "stunningly complacent" about the prospect of an attack, what does that make Dick Cheney, who said the question about another terrorist attack was "not a matter of if, but when."

Or consider this "stunningly complacent" government official: "There will be another terrorist attack. We will not be able to stop it. It's something we all live with." That was FBI director Robert Mueller -- in 2002.

Woodward's latest, which details Obama's desire to extricate American forces from Afghanistan as quickly as possible, may end up showing the president in an unflattering light -- unflattering, at least, to those who believe that national security may require more time and resources than the president appears prepared to give.

That's a fair subject for debate. Twisting Obama's words about a terrorist attack isn’t.

By Ruth Marcus  | September 22, 2010; 3:30 PM ET
Categories:  Marcus  | Tags:  Ruth Marcus  
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Next: Obama is the most poignant figure in Woodward's story

Comments

Thiessen the "Sissy"..

What else do you expect from Neocon Republicans?

More Tea Sir??

Posted by: vettesport | September 22, 2010 5:24 PM | Report abuse

Thiessen wouldn't recognize the truth if he tripped over it splayed his fat rear end all over the pavement.

Posted by: angelos_peter | September 22, 2010 5:29 PM | Report abuse

Thiessen wouldn't recognize the truth if he tripped over it splayed his fat rear end all over the pavement.

Posted by: angelos_peter
==============================
Hmm he may actually like that..!!

Thiessen the 'Sissy' is one of the gayist Republicans ever..

ISA

Posted by: vettesport | September 22, 2010 5:32 PM | Report abuse

It's quite an obvious and egregious attempt at mis-characterization as well. I wouldn't be surprised to see this from a Fox News shill or a blogger, but this guy has a column with the Post! I would think the editorial board at the Post would have higher standards than that.

Posted by: Buddydog | September 22, 2010 5:51 PM | Report abuse

...you've got to understand, the sole focus of the right-wing is to spin anything and everything that the Democrats do, especially Obama, into a negative.

Their entire political platform is Paranoid-delusional Hysteria. The only way they can win is to ceaselessly dump a lot of crap on Obama and hope that at least *something* sticks.

Posted by: tokenwhitemale | September 22, 2010 5:53 PM | Report abuse

"It's quite an obvious and egregious attempt at mis-characterization as well. I wouldn't be surprised to see this from a Fox News shill or a blogger, but this guy has a column with the Post! I would think the editorial board at the Post would have higher standards than that"

LOL this is what "fair and balanced" is all about ;)

Ok "unfair" but still "balanced".

Posted by: tokenwhitemale | September 22, 2010 5:54 PM | Report abuse

Thiessen did not misread Obama on terror. Obama is obsessed with socializing America and granting citizenship to the 15MM to 20MM illegal aliens. Not only is he not interest in anything that takes his mind off these goals, he has appointed a bunch of lightweights to the jobs of securing America. Janet Napalitano is the prime example.

Posted by: mike85 | September 22, 2010 6:02 PM | Report abuse

The right wing talks a lot about patriotism, however; ruthlessly attacking the US President and slandering him at every moment possible is no different than when Chavez said, he smelled the devil after taking podium after Bush, or when the Iranian president attacks us. The President may be a Democrat, but it does not give the Republicans at right to talk smack, that shows them unpatriotic. We have the freedom of speach (intellectual and honest speach), not the freedom to slander, lie or distort the truth. I don't think patriotic reveloutionary forefathers and american solders fight and die to protect the right of lieing, slandering, and distorting and manipulating the truth. I don't think Jesus prescribes that either.

Posted by: vidusa | September 22, 2010 6:05 PM | Report abuse

Ruth, you're being too nice to your colleague.
Thiessen didn't "misread" what Mr. Obama said, Thiessen intentionally misstated it. Out West, we call that LYING!

Posted by: BBear1 | September 22, 2010 6:06 PM | Report abuse

Fun Fact: Thiessen wrote that column while hiding under his chair like the fairy-winged sissy that he is.

Posted by: TwoTermObama | September 22, 2010 6:12 PM | Report abuse

Ruth,
Robert Muller was not advocating leaving afganistan where these attacks (maybe even nuclear) will come from. I cant believe you get paid for you pea brained writing. I hope for your sake you are safe at your georgetown cocktail party when the attack comes because we left and didnt finish the job.

Posted by: j751 | September 22, 2010 6:16 PM | Report abuse

Those nuclear attacks J751 was referring to, that was a reference to Nostradomus!

Posted by: vidusa | September 22, 2010 6:22 PM | Report abuse

Thiessen's work on this was not very impressive, he totally cherry picked what he quoted to support a conclusion that doesn't stand the light of examination. I don't always agree with the guy, but I do know he is capable of a better job than this.


50 cent army blocking below:
专制邪恶共惨党群體滅絕共匪九评共产党

Posted by: Nymous | September 22, 2010 6:31 PM | Report abuse

And of course the Republicans aren't willing to accept that George Bush made exactly that calculation, that a terrorist attack he was told was coming, would be something that America could absorb, so he waited for their attack because that was to be his excuse to attack Saddam Hussien.

Why we should listen to these idiots at all is beyond me. Consider the source and you understand the object.

Thiessen and the chickenhawks have been advertising how great they are on Defense and Military matters, but regularly vote against legislation that makes military life better for the rank and file. Who was Against the current GI Bill? McCain and his republican Friends. Who was against the Military Appropriations Budget, on time and in budget? McCain and his Republican Friends. Who regularly vote to reduce the size of annual pay raises? McCain and his Republican friends.

Who writes their speeches? Theissen.

So what has this punk ever done to demonstrate that he knows the Blue Army from the Orange Forces?

Bob Heinlein was a right winger's right winger, but he had a really good idea: Only Veterans can be commentators or experts on Military affairs.

If you can't be bothered to serve you can't be bothered to actually understand complex subjects like War and Peace.

Posted by: ceflynline | September 22, 2010 6:48 PM | Report abuse

Yet another example of walking into a battle of wits, unarmed

"Ruth,
Robert Muller was not advocating leaving afganistan where these attacks (maybe even nuclear) will come from. I cant believe you get paid for you pea brained writing. I hope for your sake you are safe at your georgetown cocktail party when the attack comes because we left and didnt finish the job.

"Posted by: j751 | September 22, 2010 6:16 PM"

Only in bizarro-conspiracy world, neocon teabagger land can INCREASING the US military presence in Afghanistan somehow translate into "we left and didn't finish the job".

Do try to keep up, it's really not that difficult.

At least for most people, it's not.

Posted by: kingcranky | September 22, 2010 6:48 PM | Report abuse

I said it on Thiessen's thread, as well. He is engaged in opinion malpractice.

Posted by: bertram2 | September 22, 2010 7:22 PM | Report abuse

Ruth Marcus


You can not be taken seriously with this piece - if you insist on being deceptive about what was said - well at that point no one can have a constructive conversation with you.


AT what point will your partisan blindness end ?


This is a life and death situation.


I believe you know perfectly well what Obama said - however I will outline it.


In the face of drawing down forces, Generals at the Pentagon made it clear - repeatedly - a WEAKER POLICY IN AFGHANISTAN MEANT THE US IS IS MORE VULNERABLE TO A TERRORIST ATTACK ON US SOIL.


A strong policy in Afghanistan meant US citizens WERE SAFER IN US CITIES.


The Generals said this because they understood the military situation - and the risks of terrorism.


To that DECISION - OBAMA STATED CLEARLY HE WISHES TO RISK AMERICAN LIVES IN US CITIES FOR THE SAKE OF HAVING A WEAKER POLICY IN THE MIDDLE EAST.

MS. Marcus - PLEASE DO NOT ANSWER TO ME - ANSWER TO THE FAMILIES OF THE VICTIMS OF A POTENTIAL TERRORIST ATTACK.

PUT YOURSELF IN THEIR POSITION - WOULD YOU RATHER HAVE YOUR FAMILY AT RISK -


I CAN JUST IMAGINE THE FAMILIES AT THE FUNERALS - WONDERING IF THE DEATHS OF THEIR FAMILY MEMBERS COULD HAVE BEEN PREVENTED WITH A STRONGER MIDDLE EAST POLICY.

I really do not want to accuse you of partisan motivations in your defense of this unbelievably stupid policy - however I can see no other way.

I'M SURE IF A MEMBER OF YOUR FAMILY ENDS UP IN THE MIDDLE OF SUCH AN ATTACK, YOUR OPINION WOULD CHANGE QUICKLY.

.

Posted by: SaveTheRainforest | September 22, 2010 7:37 PM | Report abuse

Ruth

YOU say it "portrays Obama and the White House as barraged by warnings about the threat of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil


But you FAIL to take into account those warning came from THE PENTAGON GENERALS who were discussing Afghan war policy.


And those Generals were LINKING that Afghan war policy with the VULNERABILITY OF US CITIZENS IN US CITIES.

You completely ignore that linkage - and it is in the context of that linkage that Obama stated his WILLINGNESS TO ABSORB AN ATTACK - SO HE CAN PUT IN PLACE A WEAKER MIDDLE EAST POLICY.

Partisan Politics really should not enter into NATIONAL SECURITY POLICY -


However this is what the democrats have done - and after making that ERROR, the democrats have been driven by PARTISAN BLINDNESS.

I disagree - and I feel bad for the families of those who may be killed as a result of this misguided policy.


I hope you reconsider.

.

Posted by: SaveTheRainforest | September 22, 2010 7:56 PM | Report abuse


Marcus, You miss the point.

When Obama says "We can absorb a terrorist attack," it sounds like "We can take a punch without striking back."

In other words, we'll just stand there and take it.

Instead of deterring terrorist attacks Obama words might be more inspiring to the terrorists.

What an incompetent leader.

Posted by: janet8 | September 22, 2010 8:20 PM | Report abuse

It's so helpful when people HIGHLIGHT THE KEY POINTS of their rants in CAPITAL LETTERS. Without that I'm not sure I could understand the written English.

Posted by: BlueDogCXVII | September 22, 2010 8:37 PM | Report abuse

As I replied to a comment taking up Thiessen's line of attack:

---
It's historical fact. We've absorbed a number of them, and survived.

It would be traitorous to ignore the threat, sure. But that would describe George W Bush, who dismissed in August of 2001 the intelligence that Al Qaeda was determined to attack with airplanes. Obama clearly stated that he is not ignoring the threat. You've mis-identified the traitor.

Obama's point is that we are stronger than the terrorists. We have a military establishment with millions of personnel and the world's most advanced technology. You want us to believe that we can be defeated by a few hundred terrorists?

In fact, your attitude is a big problem. You lack courage. Buck up, be brave, be strong.

Posted by: j3hess | September 22, 2010 8:41 PM | Report abuse

Thiessen, Bolton and Liz are all anti-American. They pray for more attacks so that they can blame the Obama Adm.

Posted by: e_ssy | September 22, 2010 9:01 PM | Report abuse

For some strange reason I've come to think of all future terrorist attacks occuring in Ruthy's neighborhood ~ preferably at her home.

She'll know what to say I'm sure.

If she survives.

Frankly, I'd feel better about it all if the President would tell us he's going to do everything he can to keep that sort of thing out of here but he didn't.

That's the trouble with so many of you Democrats with your mad bomber friends ~ you just can't be trusted.

Posted by: muawiyah | September 22, 2010 9:23 PM | Report abuse

Sorry Ruth but what Obama said was that geting out of Afghanistan as quickly as possible was the most important thing because if he stayed there longer than two years (or gave the military the troops they needed for victory) he would "LOSE THE DEMOCRATS". His statement was that getting out of Afghanistan as quickly as possible was the main POLITICAL goal and if America got attacked again (even on the scale of 9/11) --- SO WHAT.

Some 'commander-in-chief'. But at least the soldiers giving their lives in Afghanistan for nothing can look forward to getting groped in the showers if the Defeatocrats get their way.

Posted by: oldno7 | September 22, 2010 9:27 PM | Report abuse

The unmitigated gall of these people who supported a president who sat on his tush reading My Pet Goat to a classroom of second graders when we were attacked on 9/11 is unbelievable. I can assure you that if we are attacked Obama will do better than Bush.

Posted by: jesther | September 22, 2010 9:29 PM | Report abuse

I suppose that Obama (being a "man" of his "word") will now remove the metal detectors from the White House and allow the public through on tours on a daily basis as was the norm before 9/11. I'm sure that the White House could "absorb" a terrorist attack. Certainly America would be stronger without Obama. Oh... that's right... Obama is only bold with other people's lives.

Posted by: oldno7 | September 22, 2010 9:31 PM | Report abuse

Thousands of American ghosts hovering around Ground Zero tell me Obama's doing fine compared to Bush thanks.

Posted by: TwoTermObama | September 22, 2010 10:13 PM | Report abuse

Obama is President and the words he chooses to express his opinions are important. To paraphrase another situation, he "acted stupidly" in saying we could absorb a terrorist attack. Its incredibly insensitive to the families of the victims of 9/11 (not to mention those of the victims of the Cole, of the Africa embassy bombings, etc) and to the families of those killed and wounded and all others serving in Afghanistan. If he's OK with absorbing a terrorist attack, then why are we even in Afghanistan chasing down the terrorists?

Ultimately these relevations show a pretty spineless president. He should either pursue victory or pursue withdrawal, and defend his position. Its apparent that he can't decide so he's trying to split the difference. Fortunately, in 36 months he'll no longer be in a position to be making these equivocating decisions.

Posted by: Illini | September 22, 2010 10:13 PM | Report abuse

First things first. Thiessen didn't write the book. Thiessen didn't put those words in the mouth of Petraeus. Don't hold others responsible for the way Obama thinks and governs. Those were Obama words. We can absorb a terrorist attack. What a connect with this country and a concern for the safety of the American people. Does that mean we don't have to get it right 100 percent of the time. If Obama fails to think, before he speaks that's his problem.

Posted by: houstonian | September 22, 2010 10:16 PM | Report abuse

ceflynline:

Great post, and many fine points.

Thanks.

Posted by: MadamDeb | September 22, 2010 11:18 PM | Report abuse

Marcus, You miss the point.

When Obama says "We can absorb a terrorist attack," it sounds like "We can take a punch without striking back."

In other words, we'll just stand there and take it.

Instead of deterring terrorist attacks Obama words might be more inspiring to the terrorists.

What an incompetent leader.

Posted by: janet8
___________________________________________

"We can absorb a terrorist attack" does not mean "come and attack us because we will do nothing about it." Not in any sane interpretation of the sentence. Unless you want to say that anything goes when it comes to interpretation, you are objectively wrong.

Posted by: ablum1 | September 22, 2010 11:19 PM | Report abuse

John Bolton still has enough credibility to be quoted by the Post?

I thought that simple-headed neocon JACKA$$ had been relegated to Liz Cheney's dog-walking boy, but here he is, jobless again and all back-of-the-buss but still shilling for Cheneyism and the new 'Anti-American Way' as aided, abetted, sponsored by Prince Rupert and Fux Nooz.

The plutocratic meme that animates these goose-stepping goons is obviously being kept alive in the neocon morgue (otherwise known as the AEI) where those other rotting corpses like Krauthammer, Rove, and Wrong-Way-Wolfowitz plot their return to life as born-again, sloganeering 'Tea-o-con' zombies vomiting forth their Power-To-The-Rich' propaganda.

When will people ever learn?

Posted by: Frank57 | September 22, 2010 11:44 PM | Report abuse

John Bolton still has enough credibility to be quoted by the Post?

I thought that simple-headed neocon JACKA$$ had been relegated to Liz Cheney's dog-walking boy, but here he is, jobless again and all back-of-the-buss but still shilling for Cheneyism and the new 'Anti-American Way' as aided, abetted, sponsored by Prince Rupert and Fux Nooz.

The plutocratic meme that animates these goose-stepping goons is obviously being kept alive in the neocon morgue (otherwise known as the AEI) where those other rotting corpses like Krauthammer, Rove, and Wrong-Way-Wolfowitz plot their return to life as born-again, sloganeering 'Tea-o-con' zombies vomiting forth their Power-To-The-Rich' propaganda.

When will people ever learn?

Posted by: Frank57 | September 22, 2010 11:45 PM | Report abuse

BlueDogCXVII:

Most people CAPITALIZE because THERE ARE NO ITALICS!!!

Seriously, as long as it's not the entire post, there's NOTHING wrong with it!!

See YoU LAtER!!

Posted by: andrew23boyle | September 23, 2010 4:58 AM | Report abuse

Ms. Marcus

I would like someone to address my concern when reading it. The passage makes it sound like the president thinks that this is the WORST the terrorists could do to us--another 9-11. He doesn't seem to think that the enemies are interested in WMD-based attacks, which could easily kill tens of thousands of Americans.

I share his optimism that we can overcome anything. But i am disturbed by the way the passage seems to fail to understand how dangerous our enemies' plans are.

I would like Bob Woodward to release much more of the passage, so we can see the full context. Or command his publisher to make his book searchable on amazon.com.

Posted by: awalker1972 | September 23, 2010 9:21 AM | Report abuse

Thank you, Ruth. Isn't it funny that a remark about how strong and resilient America is sends certain folks on the right into a tizz?

I wonder why this has them so upset, but not George W. Bush's famous "we've had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved in September the eleventh", which is ON TAPE.

I'm always amazed how "strong & tuff" Republicans become so fearful and cowardly. People who decry the "nanny state" demand the government do whatever it takes, including shredding the Constitution, to protect them from anything unpleasant.

As far as "finishing the job in Afghanistan", I think we more or less did. By all accounts, there are few Al Qaeda types left in the country--they're all in Pakistan or Somalia now. There is Taliban in Afghanistan, but that's a different issue. Those who idolize Ronald Reagan for "winning the Cold War" forget that a big part of the strategy was to get the Soviets entrenched in a nationbuilding exercise in Afghanistan while the USSR spent its way into oblivion. We have to leave Afghanistan sometime. If for no other reason, it should be that our enemy is no longer there. We're wasting time, treasure, and troops' lives most importantly.

Posted by: JamesK1 | September 23, 2010 10:49 AM | Report abuse

Breaking econ news the WaPo refuses to cover:

New Jobless Claims Rise Unexpectedly
Published September 23, 2010 | Associated Press

Initial claims for jobless aid rose by 12,000 to a seasonally adjusted 465,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The rise suggests that jobs remain scarce and some companies are still cutting workers. Initial claims have been stuck above 450,000 for most of the year.

Claims typically fall below 400,000 when hiring is robust and the economy is growing. These figures show that the economy ISN'T growing but, is shrinking. Initial claims, while volatile, are considered a real-time snapshot of the job market. The weekly claims figures are considered a measure of the pace of layoffs and an indication of companies' willingness to hire. The number of people continuing to receive jobless benefits fell by 48,000 to 4.49 million, the department said. But that doesn't include several million people who are receiving unemployment aid under extended programs approved by Congress during the recession.

The extended benefit rolls rose by about 200,000 to nearly 5.2 million in the week ending Sept. 4, the latest data available.

Hoax & Chains YOU can believe in!

Posted by: illogicbuster | September 23, 2010 11:40 AM | Report abuse

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