Tuesday, December 29, 2009

We talk about politics like we're all morons

This is hardly an original insight, but it's particularly disturbing when the top story in the day's New York Times contains such aggressive stupidity:
In one of her Sunday appearances, Ms. Napolitano had said the system worked once the attempted bombing occurred, meaning that the government responded by increasing security and alerting other planes. 
But on another show, she did not make clear she was referring only to what happened after the incident, making it sound as if the system as a whole worked — an incongruous conclusion given that the suspect was allowed to fly to the United States on a valid visa without extra screening even though he was listed in a terrorism database, bought a one-way ticket with cash and checked no luggage.
Why does the Paper of Record think this is important enough to spend several paragraphs on (including 2 before this quote, and one after)? It's pretty obvious that Napolitano does not actually believe that the system as a whole worked - she explicitly was talking about the reaction to the attack, not the procedures that allowed it to happen.

Over the course of multiple live interviews, the Secretary at one point might have misspoken (they refuse to quote her appearance on the second show, noting only that she "[made] it sound as if the system as a whole worked", and of course she didn't misspeak at all on the first show) and now we're spending two days talking about it, and we're probably not done yet. In whose paranoid imagination does this constitute news, let alone news of such importance that it merits five paragraphs in the New York Times story of the day?

But it gets worse:
The visual contrast of a president on vacation while there was anxiety about air travel also drew fire. Although aides issued statements describing conference calls with counterterrorism advisers, pictures of passengers enduring tougher airport screening were juxtaposed with reports of the president picnicking at the beach and playing sports.
Are. You. Fucking. Kidding. Me.

An asshole tries to light a bomb in his crotch on Christmas, and the President is supposed to drop everything and...um...do what, exactly? I thought the whole point of fighting terror was that it wasn't supposed to dictate how we live our lives, but now some marginal schmuck gets through airport security in Amsterdam, and it's supposed to be a Grave National Crisis? This isn't Katrina, where a whole city was wiped out and the President partied on: nobody was injured, it took days to determine for sure that al Qaeda was even involved, and the guy's trying to spend a few relaxing Christmas hours with his family. How is this a problem?

The more noxious aspect of this allegation is that it reveals how thoroughly some people want us to capitulate to terrorists, and drop everything in response to their slightest provocation. Rep. Peter King, for instance, is quoted as saying "We’re now, what, 72 hours into this and the president’s not spoken, the vice president’s not spoken, the attorney general’s not spoken and Janet Napolitano has now told two different stories in two days."

Obviously, this would be a different type of story had the bomb actually gone off, but it didn't, and the entire executive branch getting in front of news cameras and reassuring the public isn't likely to make us all calmer about the whole situation; quite the opposite. What we need to do is treat these incidents with extreme, and quiet, seriousness that ensures public safety while not handing al Qaeda massive propaganda victories every time they try to mount an operation.