The Washington Post “coincidentally” ran a story today reporting that the president has a meeting on terrorism every week.
It is hard not to believe that the White House handed the story to the Post. In the wake of the NYC car bomb plot, the Administration needs to counter criticisms that it is weak on battling terrorism.
The story actually makes things worse for the president. First, by “protesting” against the criticism, the story draws attention to it. There are after all some legitimate concerns. As my colleague Jena McNeill pointed out yesterday, there are just too many coincidences – “known threat, known tactic, known network – between the NYC and Detroit incidents. It sure suggests that Washington is missing out on stopping threats before, rather than after, the fact.
The article also makes the president look pretty ineffectual. The meetings are described as “terrorism tutorials,” telling us, that literally our president needs to be educated on his job. That’s reassuring.
Furthermore, the meetings sound like a class at Harvard not like a commander-in-chief who is commanding anything. Worse, it sounds like one of the top national security concerns rates only an hour a week of the president’s time. Does the president even receive the daily intelligence updates anymore?
Battling terrorism is a 24-7-365 job. Presidents are not supposed to parachute in, make a speech at the National Archives, hold a press conference, and gum up a newspaper article. That just suggests that they are more worried about the politics of terrorism than battling terrorism. They are not supposed to jettison talk of being at war or downplay the danger of Islamic terrorism.
It is not clear that the White House learned much from Detroit other than to undertake a more aggressive public relations effort in the wake of a terrorist attack.