As many of the more salacious details from Bob Woodward's book on President Barack Obama's foreign policy appear in newspapers, everything from White House squabbles to Afghanistan counterterrorism efforts are being dissected by commentators. But one piece of the book has drawn special attention: Obama's comment to Woodward in July that, "We can absorb a terrorist attack. We'll do everything we can to prevent it, but even a 9/11, even the biggest attack ever ... we absorbed it and we are stronger." Is Obama right? What does this comment reveal about his views on national security, on the nature of U.S. counterterrorism policy, and the legacy of Sept. 11, 2001?
Real talk: Obama "absorb" comment is most sensible, pro-America thing a politician has said about terrorism in a long time.
- True, But Bad Politics Foreign Policy's Blake Hounshell warns that the comment "fall[s] into the category of 'true but not a good idea to say.'"
- 'The Cost of Doing Business?' Conservative blogger Rob Port writes, "I think this has been a long-term trend in thinking on the left. Attacks like 9/11 are just the price of doing business to them. We don't let the yearly death toll from car accidents deter us from driving, so why should we try to solve the problem of international Islamic terrorism?"
- Reveals Naive Liberal 'Bargain' on Terrorism Conservative blogger Jim Hanson suspects a "killer notion here -- the idea of bargain. Of what is being exchanged for these deaths. In the case of automobile collisions, well, sure, we have mobility and freedom. That's something. But the left is pushing this idea that we can safely 'absorb' many new 9/11's with an eye towards getting us to 'accept' the greater bargain they fatuously offer -- peace, and a general wind-down of post-9/11 security 'overreactions' like the FBI tracking Muslims suspected of terrorist ties. If only we didn't overreact to the occasional mass-murder, we could go about our business without war, without increased security measures, without 'Islamophobia,' without the rest of it. ... For the good of relations with the Muslim world we're just going to have to be mature about mass murder."
- Obama's Right--How He Should Follow His Own Logic Liberal national security blogger "Gulliver" reacts, "I think we all understand the political realities involved in this, and there's no doubt the president would suffer terrible consequences if he were to be seen admitting that terrorism is a danger we simply have to learn to live with. But when I think about what we can 'absorb' and about the president's stated belief that 'we are stronger' after having suffered through the consequences of 9/11, it makes me wonder whether we're stronger for the $70B we're spending annually in Afghanistan, or for the thousand-plus U.S. lives that have been lost there, or for the consequences of our involvement there like reduced flexibility in our land forces, physical and psychological strain across the force, and the eroded moral force that accompanies a superpower being seen as a vanquished occupier. If we could 'absorb' another 9/11, then WTF are we doing in Afghanistan?"
- 'Doesn't Care About Americans Dying' Bush-era Ambassador the United Nations John Bolton said on Fox News, "I think that might be the most outrageous thing that's been reported about this book. How can an American president say that as if he's a detached observer and doesn't care about Americans dying. I think people have been worried about his qualification as Commander-in-Chief for a long time and that ought to prove it."
- Too Detached The American Thinker's Thomas Lifson writes, "Where is the talk of the necessary retaliation in such an event? Perhaps Woodward has more details in his book, not yet released, in which Obama sounds like a commander in chief, rather than a historian describing wars of centuries past. This feeds the growing impression that Obama's level of detachment is scary in a man supposed to lead and protect the United States of America."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.