Writer Josh Gerstein wrote Wednesday:
Eight years ago, a terrorist bomber’s attempt to blow up a transatlantic airliner was thwarted by a group of passengers, an incident that revealed some gaping holes in airline security just a few months after the attacks of Sept. 11. But it was six days before President George W. Bush, then on vacation, made any public remarks about the so-called “shoe bomber,” Richard Reid, and there were virtually no complaints from the press or any opposition from Democrats that his response was sluggish or inadequate.
That stands in sharp contrast to the withering criticism President Barack Obama has received from Republicans and some in the press for his reaction to Friday’s incident on a Northwest Airlines flight heading for Detroit.
Democrats have seized on the disparity and are making it a centerpiece of their efforts to counter GOP attacks on the White House. “This hypocrisy demonstrates Republicans are playing politics with issues of national security and terrorism,” DNC spokesman Hari Sevugan said. “That they would use this incident as an opportunity to fan partisan flames…tells you all you need to know about how far the Republican party has fallen and how out of step with the American people they have become.”
The Democrats’ counterattack is aimed largely at two Republican congressmen who have been particularly critical of Obama, Reps. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) and Peter King (R-N.Y.). But neither GOP lawmaker will concede applying a double standard to Obama.
Yet, the similarities between last Friday’s incident and the attempted shoe bombing in 2001 are striking.
• This year’s came attack came on Christmas. The attempt eight years ago took place on December 22. Obama was on vacation in Hawaii when the suspect, Omar Abdulmutallab, allegedly used plastic explosives in his try to blow up the Amsterdam-to-Detroit flight. Bush was at Camp David when Reid used similar plastic explosives to try to blow up his Paris-to-Miami flight, which diverted to Boston after the incident.
• Like the Obama White House, the Bush White House told reporters the president had been briefed on the incident and was following it closely. While the Obama White House issued a background statement through a senior administration official calling the incident an “attempted terrorist attack” on the same day it took place, the early official statements from Bush aides did not make the same explicit statement.
• Bush did not address reporters about the Reid episode until December 28, after he had traveled from Camp David to his ranch in Texas.
• Democrats do not appear to have criticized Bush over the delay. Many were wary of publicly clashing with the commander-in-chief, who was getting lofty approval ratings after what appeared to be a successful military campaign in Afghanistan. The media also seemed to have little interest in pressing Bush about the bombing, or the fact that the incident had revealed a previously unknown vulnerability in airplane security – that shoes could be used to hide chemicals or explosive devices.
• An Agence France Presse story was one of the few to call attention to the silence from Bush and other top officials.