January 3, 2010

As much as I disagree with them on so many issues, I'm glad to see David Brooks and the Wall Street Journal actually calling this terrorism fear mongering out for what it is. Playing politics to pretend there's ever any hope of catching everyone that might slip through the cracks with any security measures that are taken with our airlines.

Brooks reiterated some of what he wrote in his column at the New York Times during this interview on The Newshour on PBS. I'm quite sure the right won't be happy with them for acknowledging that the Muslim, socialist, left wing, terrorist loving, weak on national defense, non-waterboarding President Obama and his TSA might not be able to catch every one of those Underwear Bombers unless you want to do a cavity search on everyone that flies on an airplane performed personally by Dick Cheney... but somehow I think Brooks and the Wall Street Journal will survive the outrage on the right and continue to be a souce for more hackery we post about here later.

Brooks: They do a pretty good job of reducing the risk of terrorist attack. Occasionally, somebody gets through. That is going to inevitably happen.

We should have some sort of steady, level-headed response. That is the sign of a resilient nation. We don't have it. We have had the last week of the whole country going -- or at least the punditocracy -- going into semi-hysteria over this. And it's just not the sign of a serious country. And I think nobody has covered themselves with glory in all this.

John Amato:

I really hope I'm wrong, but it's probably going to happen again unfortunately. There are too many variables to control for a terrorist to always fail, but as a society we can react with maturity and a level head instead of the knee jerk FOX News led--GOP fearmongering assholes, who's only mission is to attack a Democratic president at every turn. Too bad our media doesn't use sensibility when something bad happens. Instead they point their microphones immediately at the first right wing hack that has nothing constructive to say.

Transcript via PBS below the fold.

JEFFREY BROWN: And finally tonight: the analysis of Shields and Brooks, syndicated columnist Mark Shields and New York Times columnist David Brooks.

Happy new year, first.

DAVID BROOKS: Happy new year.

MARK SHIELDS: Happy new year.

JEFFREY BROWN: Fallout all week from the attempted airline bombing.

David, how did the Obama administration handle this?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, not so well. But, I mean, to me, the whole reaction was overwrought.

We have all these geniuses who are, post hoc, that they could have figured out if only they were in place, sort of a hysteria calling for Janet Napolitano's head, calling for this person's head.

The fact is that we have this vast bureaucracy. The NSA, National Security Agency, alone captures four times as much data per day as exists in the Library of Congress. They do a pretty good job of reducing the risk of terrorist attack. Occasionally, somebody gets through. That is going to inevitably happen.

We should have some sort of steady, level-headed response. That is the sign of a resilient nation. We don't have it. We have had the last week of the whole country going -- or at least the punditocracy -- going into semi-hysteria over this. And it's just not the sign of a serious country. And I think nobody has covered themselves with glory in all this.

JEFFREY BROWN: Hmm. Mark, not a serious country.

MARK SHIELDS: Boy, not a serious country, that is a serious charge.

I do -- I mean the point David makes about -- that -- and that NSA information, which is four times as much as the Library of Congress, is just from cell phones and wireless. I mean, so, it is a remarkable amount of information to be processed.

But I think there is cause for concern, and there's no doubt about it, not -- there has been partisan overreaching, excessive and indefensible. But, at the same time, there were signs. There were warnings here.

And we're supposed to have, eight years later, some sense of communication, and especially some sense of urgency. And I think that was missing. And I think the president recognizes that. The president says, there was a systemic failure. He is accepting accountability from his administration. And I think it is serious. And I think it is something that has to be addressed.

JEFFREY BROWN: Well, there were -- there were... Oh, go ahead.

DAVID BROOKS: Well, I would just say they haven't achieved the right balance. The country, I think, is reacting in an overwrought, almost...

JEFFREY BROWN: Who hasn't achieved...

DAVID BROOKS: Well, the Obama administration, because they have responded to what the country wants. The first line of spin was, everything is fine. That is what Janet Napolitano and Robert Gibbs said on Sunday. Everything is fine. The system worked.

And then they realized that wasn't flying. So, they went to the other extreme and said, this is totally unacceptable.

The reaction, the proper reaction, should, seem to me, to be, listen, we get most of what gets through. There are always going to be things that get through. We have successfully degraded the amount even somebody who gets through can do, because they have to resort to this very inefficient means of trying to blow up an airplane.

But, folks, this is going to happen. And let's keep our head about this and let's not get -- go crazy over this. So, I thought the Obama administration has gone from one extreme to the other, without finding any balance in between.

JEFFREY BROWN: And, then, what about the opposition finger-pointing...

MARK SHIELDS: Well, no, I will be happy to address the opposition.

I do think there is no question that Secretary Napolitano's answer was an attempt -- misguided, inept -- to assure people who were traveling over Christmas that it was going to be safe, and which was a legitimate intention, but not a sensible assessment of the situation.

And I do think that what we are seeing as a result of this is, we're still in silos, we're still in smokestacks, as far as intelligence is concerned. I mean, we did have 9/11 recommendations that did require the director of national intelligence to coordinate all this.

I mean, there were failures at each level, I mean, whether the State Department on the visa, all the way along the line, the CIA on information, whether as to whether in fact this fellow was going to be a real problem. We had specific information from his dad.

So, I think there is cause for concern. I think the president has shown restraint. I mean, I really do. I mean, he insisted that he wouldn't do anything until the facts are there. But he addressing it as a serious problem.

JEFFREY BROWN: You think he got it right?

MARK SHIELDS: I do think he did get it right. And David's point is, as always, thoughtful.


MARK SHIELDS: No, and, usually, about 85 percent incisive.

MARK SHIELDS: No. But, as far as the other side is concerned, I mean, Jim DeMint comes in, the senator from South Carolina, comes in for special treatment in this New Year's season. I mean, this is a man who has held up the appointment of the director of the Transportation Safety (sic) Administration, which is charged with airport safety and the travel -- or the safety of travel, and he said for one person -- reason.

And that is that he wants to get from this man, to extract from him, a guarantee that employees of the TSA will not be able to collectively bargain, Jeffrey. And, I mean, if this -- it's based on some know-nothingness that says, oh, they will -- union bosses will interfere with the safety of the country.

Now, this is a man who is a graduate of the University of Tennessee, has a master's in business from Clemson, was 50 years old on 9/11. When -- to go in to save, after the Twin Towers were leveled, the trapped and the terrified, 343 New York firefighters walked into the jaws of death and the fires of hell, and every one of them was a dues-paying union member.

And, I mean, the fact that, somehow, he associates that these people are not public servants, not interested in public safety is probably partisanship of the narrowest and the most unforgiving nature.

DAVID BROOKS: I don't want to defend DeMint. I think most nominees, and especially this nominee, should be let through.

That said, I can't hide my jaundiced attitude toward the TSA. I think most of what they do is pure security theater and a jobs program, and that the stuff they do has very little effect on our security. The stuff that actually helps us is invisible and stuff we can't see. The stuff about taking off your shoes and the toothpaste and all that stuff, I think, is designed to make us feel good.

And the idea that they would respond to this latest attack by upping the silly things that we have to do -- or potentially have to do -- is, again, a sign of theater, and not a sign of -- that we are willing to accept risks. There are risks in traveling these days, and we're willing to accept that.

And then, just to -- the one person we haven't mentioned is Dick Cheney.

JEFFREY BROWN: Right. I was just going to bring him up, because he was...

DAVID BROOKS: Again, the idea, to me, this is endemic in the nature of this kind of warfare. We're going to have failures. And it's just because you can't predict the future.

The idea that it was, as Dick Cheney said, as the result of some ideological failure is also silly.

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