Napolitano Is on Defense after Bomber's Case

Since a bomber's attempt to blow up an airplane the Obama administration has been fiercely on the defense. The administration is operating in campaign mode - issuing statements, messaging through press releases and reactively hitting the airwaves while the President birdies and bogeys his way to the bottom of things.

The administration has also been trying to deflect and shift blame - a notorious campaign move - by hammering the GOP for playing politics in the hopes that it will scare off discord. But blaming former President George W. Bush will only make the Obama administration appear devoid of answers.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs was busy warning Washington against politicizing the attack. "This should not be a tug of war between the two political parties," he said.

Amazingly, in the breath right after they pleaded for Republicans to stop politicizing, Hill Democrats extended their fingers toward Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) for blocking Obama's nominee to head the Transportation Security Administration, New York Daily News reports.

In the meantime, after the 9/11 attacks, members of Congress set aside bitter, partisan disputes – at least for a season – in a show of unity and resolve on the steps of the US Capitol.

They linked arms. They sang God Bless America. Democrats pledged support to the President Bush, a Republican. Much of the post-9/11 reform agenda in this previously gridlocked Congress passed with unanimity.

But the Christmas attack on Northwest Flight 253 has produced no such bipartisan moment. Instead, it’s amplified the partisan sniping on Capitol Hill on issues ranging from national security policy to end-of-year fundraising.

After losing bids to block healthcare legislation, Republicans are seeking traction on national security. “Anything that forces the focus of attention on security issues naturally favors the Republicans,” says GOP pollster Whit Ayres, The Christian Science Monitor reports.

Meanwhile, a statement by Ms. Napolitano during one of her three appearances on Sunday talk shows that "the system worked" continues to haunt the former Democratic governor of Arizona, even after her repeated attempts to walk it back -- and a vote of confidence from the White House. Some Democrats already envision Ms. Napolitano's three words being used in a 2010 GOP campaign commercial calling the party in power soft on terrorism.

Ms. Napolitano has been a strong advocate behind the scenes in pushing for more and better information sharing, even with the White House, according to aides and counterterrorism officials who support her. She has provided specific proposals to ensure that information moved between agencies more quickly, but there has been no substantive follow-up, said a counterterrorism official who supports Ms. Napolitano.

But Ms. Napolitano's public statement Sunday continues to resonate and could come back to bite Democrats.

Appearing on CNN, Ms. Napolitano said, "One thing I'd like to point out is, is that the system worked." In the same interview, she talked about what the administration says it did well once the Nigerian suspect was subdued, including immediately beefing up security around the world. She made six appearances Monday, arguing that her CNN statement had been taken out of context and that she intended to convey that the system worked well after the attempt failed -- not before, The Wall Street Journal reports.

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