“September the 11th for them was a bad day; for us it was a change of attitude” — President George W. Bush, 2006.
Barack Obama has a unique response to terrorist attacks: America can “absorb” them. A new book shows the president exhibits blasé indifference to the prospect of American citizens suffering another 9/11 attack from Islamic terrorists but is highly concerned that he not accept the blame for such an event. The book also reveals Obama crafted his own military strategy for Afghanistan — ignoring Pentagon advice, binding soldiers with pages of activities they cannot do, and saddling them with a deadline for withdrawal — creating a plan so hopeless a senior administration official believes “it can’t work.” As this writer has long noted, Obama hopes to drain the military budget so it can be redeployed into domestic spending programs that “fundamentally transform America.”
The new revelations are found in Watergate reporter Bob Woodward’s new book, Obama’s Wars. In addition to showing a dysfunctional administration filled with self-important charlatans at war with each other over power and prestige — the norm in Washington — excerpts portray a president who views constant briefings about impending terrorist threats as a hassle. The commander-in-chief told Woodward during a July interview, “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.”
At least, those of us who survived.
This administration believes the real threat is not terrorism but bad PR. The New York Times reports a telling event in Woodward’s book: When Admiral Dennis Blair, then the National Intelligence Director, told the White House of “radicals with American and European passports were being trained in Pakistan to attack their homelands,” Rahm Emanuel replied, “You’re just trying to put this on us so it’s not your fault.” Faced with the news that their country could be under attack by stateside religious fanatics, Obama officials’ first instinct was to shift the blame and tell their intelligence chief to shut up.
When Woodward asked about the prospect of terrorists unleashing a nuclear attack on American soil, the most Obama could muster was that such a move could represent “a potential game changer.” Potential?
It was not always this way. On the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, President George W. Bush told NBC News, “I realize that my most important responsibility, and that of all of us in government, is to protect the people. I mean, after all, 19 people killed 3,000 citizens.”
Woodward similarly captures Obama tailoring his policy in Afghanistan to suit his re-election efforts, putting politics ahead of saving our soldiers’ lives. Last summer, Gen. Stanley McChrystal reported solemnly that Obama needed to dispatch at least 40,000 more troops to Afghanistan or risk “mission failure.” Obama, through Joe Biden, pushed for 20,000. Ultimately, Obama took all the proposals on the table and wrote his own: deploying 30,000 troops with a six-page-long “terms sheet” of new activities they could not engage in, even if their lives depended on it. Obama’s special representative for the region, Richard Holbrooke, looked at the plan and surmised, “It can’t work.” When a Pentagon official asked the president for 4,500 additional enablers to undergird the mission, Obama exploded at the military servant, “I’m done doing this!”Obama told Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-SC, he set a withdrawal timetable in Afghanistan because, “I can’t lose the whole Democratic Party.” Marine General James Conway told reporters last month this deadline is “giving our enemy sustenance.” But it is also giving MoveOn.org sustenance, and apparently Obama thinks that a worthwhile trade-off.