"The Buck Stops With Me"
In the wake of the Detroit Christmas-bomber scare and it's aftermath of finger pointing and questionable agency communication, anybody else feeling somewhat refreshed after hearing President Obama speak yesterday? I know it seems strange. I should be shaking in my boots knowing there are lonely, misguided, vulnerable people out there being recruited-or even seeking recruitment-today ready to blow themselves up (along with as many Americans as possible) in the name of Al Qaeda. The target groups seems to be young Muslim men, but who knows? Maybe next time it will be an elderly gentleman or "pregnant" woman. We have no idea what tactics the extremists will employ as they try to plan a "next time." Although cautious and aware of this, I am strangely calm today and I must give President Obama at least some credit for that.
A few things I appreciate about how President Obama has decided to handle this situation and his January 7th remarks.
1. The pause President Obama initially took to gather and connect all information before rushing to judgement, overreacting, or making ignorant conclusions. At the same time I am impressed at the speed with which this national security report came together once the "dot connection" issues became clear.
From MSNBC First Read:
*** Review fallout: The speed at which the Obamaadministration released its report on the failed attack isunprecedented -- and something that’s probably not being appreciatedright now (considering how short-term the public’s and press’ memory isthese days). Of course, the government should be able to conduct amajor review of a botched terrorist attack in 13 days, right?
2. The transparency of this administration actually conducting and releasing a report and openly admitting failures (if you read the report, not much spin there, that's for sure.)
3. President Obama not being power-hungry or controlling by firing a dozen people just to show he is tough. Instead, he demanded improvement and change to "get this right" and followed up by taking responsibility: "The buck stops with me."
4. The other U.S. government agencies admitting mistakes and promising the president they will do better (rather than playing the usual Washington blame-game.)
5. President Obama reaching out to the Muslim world, most of whom reject this violence and extremism, rather than playing up stereotypes or unfairly painting all Muslims with one broad brush of prejudice.
6. President Obama being honest with us-treating us like adults, not children-when he says "nothing is foolproof." While he assures us he will put every security measure possible in place, he reminds us to be alert and aware since nothing can be 100% perfect in a world where violent extremists will stop at nothing to cause chaos and death.
7. President Obama BEING a grown-up, owning up to a problem, not trying to blame Bush or make excuses. How uplifting to have a president calling for unity and citizenship in the wake of a frightening event like this and not being reduced to the mindset of the GOP "leaders" and talking heads who can't seem to have a rational dialogue about the real issues involved and would rather play political games to try to highlight disunity through unfair and dishonest partisan attacks, ignoring the fact that such behavior will only embolden the enemy.
You can read the entire transcript here from CNN. However, the portion below, to me, was the most powerful part of President Obama's remarks on January 7th. I think it certainly highlights what is emerging as the "Obama Doctrine."
Moreover, I am less interested in passing out blame than I am inlearning from and correcting these mistakes to make us safer, forultimately the buck stops with me. As president, I have a solemnresponsibility to protect our nation and our people, and when thesystem fails, it is my responsibility.
Over the past two weeks,we've been reminded again of the challenge we face in protecting ourcountry against a foe that is bent on our destruction. And whilepassions and politics can often obscure the hard work before us, let'sbe clear about what this moment demands.
We are at war. We areat war against al Qaeda, a far-reaching network of violence and hatredthat attacked us on 9/11, that killed nearly 3,000 innocent people, andthat is plotting to strike us again. And we will do whatever it takesto defeat them.
And we've made progress. Al Qaeda's leadershipis hunkered down. We have worked closely with partners, includingYemen, to inflict major blows against al Qaeda leaders. And we havedisrupted plots at home and abroad and saved American lives.
Andwe know that the vast majority of Muslims reject al Qaeda. But it isclear that al Qaeda increasingly seeks to recruit individuals withoutknown terrorist affiliations, not just in the Middle East but in Africaand other places, to do their bidding.
That's why I've directedmy national security team to develop a strategy that addresses theunique challenges posed by lone recruits. And that's why we mustcommunicate clearly to Muslims around the world that al Qaeda offersnothing except a bankrupt vision of misery and death, including themurder of fellow Muslims, while the United States stands with those whoseek justice and progress.
To advance that progress we've soughtnew beginnings with Muslim communities around the world, one in whichwe engage on the basis of mutual interest and mutual respect and worktogether to fulfill the aspirations that all people share -- to get aneducation, to work with dignity, to live in peace and security.
That's what America believes in. That's the vision that is far more powerful than the hatred of these violent extremists.
Hereat home, we will strengthen our defenses, but we will not succumb to asiege mentality that sacrifices the open society and liberties andvalues that we cherish as Americans, because great and proud nationsdon't hunker down and hide behind walls of suspicion and mistrust. Thatis exactly what our adversaries want. And so long as I am president, wewill never hand them that victory.
We will define the character of our country, not some band of small men intent on killing innocent men, women and children.
Andin this cause, every one of us -- every American, every electedofficial -- can do our part. Instead of giving in to cynicism anddivision, let's move forward with the confidence and optimism and unitythat defines us as a people, for now is not a time for partisanship,it's a time for citizenship, a time to come together and work togetherwith the seriousness of purpose that our national security demands.
That'swhat it means to be strong in the face of violent extremism. That's howwe will prevail in this fight. And that's how we will protect ourcountry and pass it, safer and stronger, to the next generation.