Friday, March 20, 2009


Peggy Noonan actually defends Dick Cheney in her latest column -- she says Cheney's recent statement asserting that President Obama is making us less safe was "received as partisan" but was "right in the most important, and dreadful, way," because, y'know, they want to kill us (and only Cheney and his ideological soul mates seem to have noticed!). Noonan cites Cheney's remarks and a Robert Mueller speech about a possible Mumbai-style attack in the U.S., then writes this:

Contrast it with the new secretary of homeland security, Janet Napolitano, who, in her first speech and testimony to congress, the same week as Mr. Mueller's remarks, did not mention the word terrorism once. This week in an interview with Der Spiegel, she was pressed: "Does Islamist terrorism suddenly no longer pose a threat to your country?" Her reply: "I presume there is always a threat from terrorism." It's true she didn't use the word terrorism in her speech, but she did refer to "man-caused" disasters. "This is perhaps only a nuance, but it demonstrates that we want to move away from the politics of fear."

Ah. Well this is only a nuance, but her use of language is a man-caused disaster.

Which might be fair if it weren't completely belied by what Napolitano actually said, which Noonan presumably never read in full, choosing instead to channel right-wing blogger outrage.

Here's the key part of the interview in Der Spiegel (emphasis mine):

SPIEGEL: Madame Secretary, in your first testimony to the US Congress as Homeland Security Secretary you never mentioned the word "terrorism." Does Islamist terrorism suddenly no longer pose a threat to your country?

Napolitano: Of course it does. I presume there is always a threat from terrorism. In my speech, although I did not use the word "terrorism," I referred to "man-caused" disasters. That is perhaps only a nuance, but it demonstrates that we want to move away from the politics of fear toward a policy of being prepared for all risks that can occur.

SPIEGEL: This sounds quite different from what we heard from the Bush administration. How will the new anti-terror policy differ from the previous one?

Napolitano: Our policies will be guided by authoritative information. We also have assets at our disposal now that we did not have prior to 9/11. For example, we are much better able to keep track of travellers coming into the US than we were before. The third thing is to work with our international partners and allies to make sure that we are getting information and sharing information in an appropriate and real-time fashion....

Omigod! She actually wants to know as much as possible about the threats! That's not what we want! We want her to say the booga-booga word! As often as possible!

And in Napolitano's testimony, no, she didn't use the word "terrorism." She did, however, say this:

At its core, I believe DHS has a straightforward mission: to protect the American people from threats both foreign and domestic, both natural and manmade -- to do all that we can to prevent threats from materializing, respond to them if they do, and recover with resiliency. Government does nothing more fundamental than protecting its citizens....

And this:

In an effort to assess security across all forms of transportation, I directed the review of transportation security in the surface, maritime and aviation sectors. The review identified a number of areas where risks to transportation security could be reduced. Resources such as explosives detection systems and transit, rail, and port security personnel contained in the recently passed American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 will enable the Department to accelerate the mitigation of risk in these areas....

And this:

I issued an action directive to assess the status of the Department’s efforts to shield the Nation’s critical infrastructure from attacks. The response contained several steps DHS would take to inspect the security of chemical plants and efforts DHS would participate in to limit the availability of dangerous materials....

And this:

I issued two action directives concerned with the Department’s partnerships and intelligence-sharing activities with state, local, tribal, and territorial partners. As a result of the directives, the Department is considering a possible future assessment of all intelligence-sharing efforts within DHS with an eye toward reducing duplication. DHS is also considering ways to improve intelligence sharing by involving state and local partners during the formulation of intelligence-sharing policies and programs. The Department is looking to improve the coordination of activities involving state and local partners across DHS. I issued a separate action directive on FEMA integration with state and local governments; FEMA presented feedback based on 75 recommendations emerging from the candid assessments of state and local homeland security and emergency management officials....

To the wingnuts, this is a troubling dismissal of the terrorist threat.


And go here, where Ahab makes an excellent point about a more scurrilous part of Noonan's column, in which she essentially lets Bush off the hook for 9/11.


One more thing from Noonan's column:

...the teleprompter trope is taking off. Mr. Obama uses it more than previous presidents. No one would care about this or much notice it as long as he showed competence, and the promise of success. Reagan, if memory serves, once took his cards out of his suit and began to read them at a welcoming ceremony, only to realize a minute or so in that they were last week's cards from last week's ceremony. He caught himself and made a joke of it. One was reminded of this the other day when Mr. Obama's speech got mixed up with the Irish prime minister's. Things happen. But the teleprompter trope has taken off: Why does he always have to depend on that thing?

Obama is overreliant on the prompter? Because he wants to get his words right? That's a problem?

Just a reminder about Peggy's ex-boss and how reliant he was on scripts:

On October 15, 1984, President Ronald Reagan gave a campaign speech at the University of Alabama. Afterward, his motorcade pulled into the parking lot of the Northport McDonald's at the Northwood Shopping Center. It was a photo op, meant to show that the President was a regular guy. Secret Service agents grabbed two customers and sat them down next to Reagan to talk about University of Alabama football. Regular-guy Reagan turned to an aide and asked, "What am I supposed to order?"

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