With the Senate still in snowy session, President Obama and his family could not leave for Hawaii until Christmas Eve. Aboard Air Force One, Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton, en gaggle, told the traveling press "not to anticipate any possible announcements or news-making events." Wasn't this just asking for trouble? The President was going to be on Oahu for ten days and eleven nights, at a time when we are ratcheting up the war in Afghanistan, a time when we reasonably might gird ourselves for more mayhem and carnage there and elsewhere. So wasn't the expectation -- even if Obama & Entourage were merely under the influence of that angelic wish for peace on earth -- naive, willfully so?
Let us count the news-makers: the hapless attempt by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to blow up a Northwest flight over Detroit on Christmas Day; the lurching forward of heightened security measures during the rest of the busy holiday travel season; the weekend during which the President did not speak to the American people about any of this, although he did manage a statement on the death of Tuskegee Airman Percy Sutton; instead the visitation of the Ghost of George Bush upon Janet Napolitano during the Sunday talk shows. And then there were the more serious events: the deaths of seven CIA agents three days later in an Afghanistan suicide bombing; the Afghan outcry over the deaths of several boys during a fight between NATO and Afghan forces and the Taliban; the way in which our ally Hamid Karzai pounced upon and further broadcast the rumors that NATO forces had executed those boys; and finally the burning in effigy of Barack Obama in Jalalabad. How quickly in foreign lands our American presidents rise aloft and fall. Barack Obama has not been in office one whole year.
Last week, as if she were a bit player in a vintage war movie, a staff secretary shuttled papers back-and-forth between Obama's beachfront rental and a secured telecommunications center. In this day and age, there was something surreal about this. How was it that the advance staff had thought to provide dozens of poinsettias for Hawaii White House West but not a safe fax line? Only the year before, the biggest problem for Barack Obama on his Hawaiian holiday was being followed by the press pool--a reality that led to a bit of whining about photo ops before his golf game. Of course, there was golf this holiday, too. Not that the President shouldn't have time and space to relax, just like anybody else. But this Obama Hawaii sojourn wore an air of disconnect. In his Christmas Address to the nation on December 24, the President remarked upon the "extraordinary recession that still has so many Americans hurting." Then he flew to Hawaii, where rich mainlanders spend winter holidays. Since Barack Obama was born in and grew up in Hawaii, it would be unfair to remark upon this disjunction if he were not President. But then he is.
A week after his Christmas Address, the President delivered his regular Saturday radio address. The subject: President Obama Outlines Steps Taken to Protect the Safety and Security of the American People. Amid the assurances was this odd comment: "But as we go forward, let us remember this--our adversaries are those who would attack our country, not our fellow Americans, not each other."
Maj. Nidal Hasan, from Virginia? Najibullah Zazi, of Denver and New York? David Coleman Headley, in Chicago? Bryant Neal Vines, the Long Island convert to Islam? The young Somali-Americans from Minnesota who have joined the terrorist group Al Shabab in Somalia? The five Virginia would-be jihadists whom Pakistan decided to prosecute, making that announcement during Obama's Hawaiian holiday? Even Yemeni Imam Anwar al Awlaki, inspiration for many of these men, grew up in New Mexico.
Increasingly, one has to wonder if President Obama and his inner circle understand Islamic fundamentalism. Luckily for us, at least so far the fundamentalists who turn to terror do not get what makes us tick either.
In a New Year's Eve press conference, a "Senior Administration Official" said, in reference to the fact that everybody would be working that evening, "Yes, it's a heck of a Happy New Year." Retort from a press wag: "Does it give new meaning to the word ball drop?"
Check out my new blog at mayhillfowler.com. First up: the three things that surprised me last year.