On MSNBC’s Countdown Wednesday, Keith Olbermann slammed Liz Cheney for claiming President Barack Obama is “unwilling or unable” to keep the nation safe, noting that her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, and former President George W. Bush, were unable to prevent the September 11th attacks.
Cheney’s statement is in response to a claim made in Bob Woodward’s recently published book that Obama told him America “can absorb a terrorist attack.”
“We expect him to use every tool at his disposal to find, defeat, capture, and kill terrorists. We expect him to deter attacks by making clear to our adversaries that an attack on the United States will carry devastating consequences. Instead, President Obama is reported to have said, ‘We can absorb a terrorist attack.’ This comment suggests an alarming fatalism on the part of President Obama and his administration. Once again, the president seems either unwilling or unable to do what it takes to keep this nation safe. The president owes the American people an explanation.”
In his book, Obama’s Wars, Woodward writes,
“I said very early on, as a Senator and continue to believe, as a presidential candidate and now as president, that we can absorb a terrorist attack. We will do everything we can to prevent it. But even a 9/11, even the biggest attack ever, that ever took place on our soil, we absorbed it, and we are stronger. This is a strong, powerful country that we live in, and our people are incredibly resilient.
Then he addressed his big concern. “A potential game changer would be a nuclear weapon in the hands of terrorists, blowing up a major American city. Or a weapon of mass destruction in a major American city. and so when I go down on the list of things I have to worry about all the time, that is at the top, because that’s one area where you can’t afford any mistakes. And so right away, coming in, we said, how are we going to start ramping up and putting that at the center of a lot of our national security discussion?”
As Greg Sargent of the Washington Post notes, “The full context of the quote, from page 363 of Woodward’s book, shows very clearly that the criticism is thoroughly bogus… If anything, this amounts to the direct opposite of being cavalier about the terror threat.”
While serving as vice president, Cheney’s father claimed that the United States was in danger of being attacked again.
In an interview with Meet the Press in 2002, then Vice President Dick Cheney said, “The prospect of another attack against the United States is very, very real. It’s just as real, in my opinion, as it was September 12… Not a matter of if, but when.”
“If we make the wrong choice [this election], then the danger is that we’ll get hit again,” Dick Cheney told a crowd at a town hall meeting in Iowa in 2004. “That we’ll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States.”
On Countdown, Keith Olbermann labeled Cheney “today’s worst person in the world” for her press release.
“Madame, who in the hell do you think you’re talking to?” said Olbermann, after reading her press release. “The negligence, dereliction of duty and nonfeasance of your father led directly to this country having to absorb a terrorist attack. To quote you, your father and Mr. Bush failed to use every tool at their disposal to find, defeat, capture, and kill terrorists and were unwilling or unable to do what it takes to keep this nation safe.”
“During the summer of 2001, as al Qaeda operatives were in flight training and finalizing plans for the attacks, the administration’s public focus was on other matters,” writes Robin Wright at The Washington Post.
After his first meeting with NATO heads of state in Brussels in June 2001, Bush outlined the five top defense issues discussed with the closest U.S. allies. Missile defense was at the top of the list, followed by developing a NATO relationship with Russia, working in common purpose with Europe, increased defense spending in NATO countries, and enlarging the alliance to include former East European countries. The only reference to extremists was in Macedonia, where Bush said regional forces were seeking to subvert a new democracy.
Top officials continued that public focus right up to the eve of the al Qaeda attacks. On Aug. 2, 2001, Cheney emphasized the bold new U.S. plan for a 21st century approach to security. “We’re fundamentally transforming the U.S. strategic relationship around the world as we look at missile defenses and modifications to our offensive strategic arms,” he said at a news conference with Republican congressional leaders on Capitol Hill.
On August 6, 2001, the Central Intelligence Agency sent Bush a memo entitled Bin Laden Determined to Strike Within the United States (.pdf file).
In 2003, Thomas Kean, the head of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, more commonly known as the 9/11 Commission, publicly stated that the attacks could have and should have been prevented.
“Your father and Mr. Bush, Miss Cheney, were utter failures whose track record on terrorism will go down in infamy,” Olbermann continues. “And worse still, your statements suggest that this country is not capable of absorbing the consequences of a terrorist attack, even though it already has, because it had to, because your father and Mr. Bush failed to absorb the warnings screamed at you by the intelligence community.”
“America, Miss Cheney, absorbed eight years of your father and George Bush. We have proved we can absorb anything. And the only explanation owed to the American people, Miss Cheney, is by you. Is the name of your group ‘Keep America Safe,’ is that deliberately ironic or are you in secret agreement that your father and the last president failed utterly to do that? Liz Cheney, chairman, today’s worst person in the world.”
This video is from MSNBC’s Countdown, broadcast Sept. 22, 2010.