Almost immediately after Umar Farouk Abdulmuttalab failed to detonate a bomb on an airplane on Christmas Day, conservatives rushed to politicize the attempted terrorist attack. “People have got to start connecting the dots here and maybe this is the thing that will connect the dots for the Obama administration,” Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) said before he’d even been briefed on the incident. Karl Rove and Rep. Peter King (R-NY) criticized President Obama for issuing a statement on the failed bombing 72 hours after the event, even though President Bush waited longer to comment on “shoe-bomber” Richard Reid’s failed attempt to bring down an airliner in Dec. 2001.
The drumbeat of political criticism from conservatives since then has been unrelenting, especially focusing on the fact that Abdumuttalab was read his Miranda rights after he awoke from surgery. Recently, the Obama administration has begun pushing back at the GOP’s political onslaught. On Meet The Press this past Sunday, Deputy National Security Adviser John Brennan, a 25-year veteran of the CIA, pointed out that he had kept key Congressional Republicans informed of Abdulmuttalab detainment by the FBI:
On Christmas night, I called a number of senior members of Congress. I spoke to Senators McConnell and Bond, I spoke to Representative Boehner and Hoekstra. I explained to them that he was in FBI custody, that Mr. Abdulmutallab was, in fact, talking, that he was cooperating at that point. They knew that “in FBI custody” means that there’s a process then you follow as far as Mirandizing and presenting him in front of a magistrate. None of those individuals raised any concerns with me at that point.
Brennan followed up his critique with a USA Today op-ed arguing that “too many in Washington are now misrepresenting the facts to score political points.” Brennan’s op-ed included the highly-charged assertion that “politically motivated criticism and unfounded fear-mongering only serve the goals of al-Qaeda.”
Republicans have responded to Brennan’s pushback with incredulity. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, citing former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen’s misunderstanding of the facts, called Brennan “troubling” on Fox News yesterday. Rep. Peter King (R-NY) called Brennan an “egomaniac.” Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO) declared Brennan “needs to go,” and is no longer “credible.” On Fox News today, Hoekstra, who repeatedly referred to Brennan as a “White House staffer” as opposed to an intelligence “professional,” said Obama should “fire” him. Watch it:
On MSNBC today, Chuck Todd and Savannah Guthrie grilled Bond about whether the “Republican Party deserve[s] some blame” for terrorism becoming “too politicized.” Bond responded in denial, saying, “give me a break.” “They’re the ones who went out and called politics and they played politics,” said Bond of the White House. In an ironic twist, however, he then claimed that criticisms of the Bush administration’s terrorism policy during the past eight years had been “political attacks.” The White House said today that Bond’s call for Brennan to resign was “pathetic.”
Unintentionally, Fox News’ Brian Kilmeade summed up the situation perfectly this morning when he said that Bond and Hoekstra had told him on the radio yesterday that “they’re just astounded and befuddled that” Brennan “continues to dig like this and act so political in condemning everybody else for acting political.”
TPMmuckraker’s Justin Elliott points out that none of Brennan’s top GOP critics complained about Abdulmutallab being read his rights until after Tom Ridge and Dick Cheney raised the issue and after criminal charges had been announced for Abdulmutallab.