The phrase is Martin Peretz‘s, and it’s just right for the president’s scandalously inadequate response to what he called “the Christmas-day incident,” i.e., the near incineration of 289 people by an al-Qaeda-trained Nigerian Muslim who stuffed explosives into his underwear before boarding an airplane bound for Detroit. He failed to keep his early appoint with Allah, though, partly because of his own mechanical incompetence, partly because he was pounced upon by a few private citizens whose instinct of self-preservation had not been completely impaired. Had the would-be bomber been just a tad brighter, had his fellow passengers been a tad more sheeplike, then Northwest Flight 253 would have exploded in flames as it came in for a landing over Motor City.
Will we always be so lucky? Take your time . . . (Arresting detail: Richard Reid, the so-called “shoe bomber” had about 50 grams of the explosive Pentaerythritol tetranitrate; our fellow had about 80 grams of the stuff.)
That failed detonation led to a successful one in the wordy purlieus of the blogosphere, into which I dipped an occasional toe over the mostly blog-free Christmas holidays. There were a lot of good lines. I especially liked the blogger — now, alas, forgotten — who spoke of the round-the-clock “security theater” we would all henceforth be subjected to.
“Security theater”? It was new to me. But I instantly grasped what he meant. Wikipedia was on the case before the unnamed genius pressed “Post”: “Security Theater”: “security countermeasures intended to provide the feeling of improved security while doing little or nothing to actually improve security.” (Wikipedia credits Bruce Schneier, but that’s not where I read it.)
I’ll come back to “security theater” in a moment. For the moment, let me stay with Mr. Peretz, who was on a roll in this column. He was right that “the skivvies terrorist” (good, what?) laid bare not only the colossal intelligence failure that allowed that pathetic terrorist wannabe onto the plane in the first place (even the chap’s father, for Allah’s sake, had warned the CIA in November that his son had drunk the Muslim kool-aid and was dangerous). Equally alarming, Mr. Peretz pointed out, the episode laid bare President Obama’s total failure to grasp the reality of the evil that threatens the country he is supposed to be leading. He just doesn’t get it.
Predictably, Obama went through the three stages of accommodation. First, he told us he was “monitoring” the situation from his vacation on Hawaii. (His “Homeland Security” Director, Janet Napolitano, was similarly reassuring: there was “no indication,” she said, that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, he of the explosive stuffed undies, was part of a terrorist network.
Janet, Janet: what Hawaii of the mind do you inhabit? Umar Mubo Jumbo was on zillions of watch lists. What do you do all day as “director of homeland security”? (“Oh, but she eventually admitted there was a terrorist connection.” You don’t say?)
Where was I? Oh yes: eventually the leader of the formerly free world issued the bulletin that the attempted bombing was the action of “an isolated extremist” — a notion Claudia Rosett, with her usual percipience, instantly put paid to. “Extremist,” yes; “isolated”? If only.
Finally, on January 2, the President discovered what everybody not actually being paid to protect us had known all along: that the skivvies bomber was an al-Qaeda operative.