National security is in President Obama's court

By Kathleen Parker
Sunday, January 3, 2010

As the new year begins, two facts emerge: George W. Bush is officially retired as the fault-guy for the nation's ills, and Barack Obama owns the game.

Whether he wants to or not.

Every president deserves a year of grace to adapt to the job and adjust to its Himalayan learning curve. As Obama's first year ends -- almost with a bang, thanks to a lonely Nigerian who found love in jihad -- his grace period is up.

Indeed, depending on how he responds to the security breach that almost brought down a Detroit-bound flight from Amsterdam, Obama's presidency is at risk of being rendered prematurely impotent.

If Bush could be blamed for the dot-connecting inadequacies that helped enable the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, eight months into his administration, then Obama can fairly be held responsible for the incompetence that allowed a disaffected jihadist to get explosive powder onto a plane.

The banality of our most recent would-be attack is almost too on-the-nose to exploit, but really. The son of a Nigerian banker, already a punch line to all who've been spammed by e-mailers alleging to be Nigerian bankers promising riches, packs his underwear with explosive material? Was this fellow computer-generated by a cartoon character?

If it weren't all so bloody horrifying, the incident would be ridiculous.

Which, come to think of it, is a fair appraisal of the Obama administration's initial performance when faced with a potentially catastrophic terrorist strike. The dots that needed connecting were all but performing the California Raisin dance. Were we ever justified in hoping for better?

National security was never considered Obama's strong suit. Back in September 2008, if I may be excused for quoting myself, I wrote: "I worry that Obama isn't serious enough about terrorism and free markets. . . . I worry about Obama's over-intellectualizing -- that he will get lost in a maze of deep thoughts and fail to be decisive when necessary."

Or lost on a golf course, as the case may be.

Obama's open-collared vacation response from Hawaii was delivered on Katrina time -- about two days too late -- and fell a few links short of reassuring. Something about humans and systems failing. Yes, well, that would about cover it.

Deep breath.

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