In what was a noteworthy remark precisely because it is made so infrequently, a top Senate Democrats insisted on Sunday that President Barack Obama has been more focused on issues of terrorism than "any other president." Even (yes) George W. Bush.
Appearing on "Fox News Sunday," Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) accused Republicans of applying a double standard to the president for his handling of the attempted Christmas Day airline bombing. While Obama moved swiftly to assess the security implications of the botched attack, and the FBI "immediately questioned the suspect," Reed said, his predecessor was lethargic in handling a botched airline attack of his own.
"When [the shoe bomber] Richard Reid was discovered trying to detonate a bomb on a transatlantic flight, it took President Bush six days to comment, and the comments were more laudatory to the crew," Reed said. "And by the way, we should in fact commend the flight crew and the passengers who really saved a potential disaster. But the situation is such that the president has focused on terrorism and counterterrorism, more than any other president. He took office under the spectra of that. He is taking steps --"
At this point, host Chris Wallace interjected. "Are you really saying he is focused more on terrorism than George W. Bush?"
"I think he came into office with the notion that the whole, the major existential threat to the United States were terrorism attacks in the country," replied Reed. "There was a profound emphasis on Al Qaida and terrorism up until I think the decision to go into Iraq and then the operations in Iraq consumed all of the energy. The situation in Yemen has deteriorated over the last several years, because of a concentration on Iraq, a concentration on efforts that are tangential at best to Al Qaida. So, this president, I think, understands that the existential threats to the country are bands of Al Qaida terrorists."
As a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Reed does have a bit more credibility to make such assertions than other members of his party. But what's striking is how few Democrats have joined him in going on the offensive when it comes to issues of national security. The White House has, by and large, been left on an island to defend itself. The complication may be that there are members in the party who firmly believe that an escalation of troops in Afghanistan could be the type of distraction from Al Qaida that Reed ascribed to Iraq.