Back from holiday break Monday, The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart addressed the attempted Christmas day bombing of Northwest Airlines flight 253. The Comedy Central host had a tough message for the intelligence community and for critics of the Obama administration.
Stewart was appalled that the intelligence community could have missed so many signs. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s father had notified the U.S. embassy in Nigeria that his son may be becoming radicalized and could be a threat to the U.S. but that information was never passed to other parts of the counterterrorism network. The bomber purchased a one-way ticket from Nigeria connecting through Amsterdam to Detroit for $2,831 in cash and checked no luggage.
“It’s December! He’s going from Nigeria to Amsterdam to Detroit without a coat? With a one-way ticket,” exclaimed Stewart.
“I know you guys are busy,” Stewart implored the U.S. intelligence community. “Those 300 million Americans can’t wiretap themselves but remember something. This guy Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, he paid cash, had no luggage from a European capital and tried to blow up a plane with explosives hidden in his shoes eight years ago,” said Stewart.
The comedian pointed out what should have been obvious to officials. “Now, look, I realize security will never be 100%. We don’t expect you to catch everything but we do expect you to catch the exact same thing.”
But Stewart’s harshest criticism was saved for those who have taken aim at the Obama administration. “Luckily, the knee jerk partisan blame system was in perfect working order,” he said.
President George W. Bush’s senior advisor, Karl Rove, slammed President Obama for the time it took him to comment on the failed bombing. “The president waits 72 hours until we hear from him. It’s over 72 hours,” complained Rove.
“It was different when Karl Rove’s guy was in charge,” said Stewart. “Bush got right to it and talked after only 6 days which is much less than 72.”
But the critics of the president identified the problem with Obama’s response: words. They complain that the president failed to use the word terrorist to describe the bomber. “The Obama administration came in and said ‘We’re not going to use the word terrorism anymore,” Rep. Pete Hoekstra said just days after the failed bombing attempt.
“They’re not calling him a terrorist,” opined Rep. Dan Burton.
“See, you’ve just got to call him [a terrorist] and we’re safe,” explained Stewart.
Then Stewart looked into the camera and spoke directly to those Republicans slamming Obama. “Listen, I know that ‘Democrats are weak on terror’ is your go-to argument,” he said. “But what exactly would you have this president do? Should Barack Obama delay closing Guantanamo? Check. Maybe he should send more troops to Afghanistan? Done. How about strike terror bases in Yemen. Done,” continued Stewart.
“But your big problem is that Obama is not saying ‘war on terror.’ Be honest, that’s just looking for something to criticize. If if he did call it a war on terror you would say the inflection was wrong,” Stewart explained.
Just years before, Burton had castigated those who dared to find fault with President Bush’s handling of terrorism. “For any senator or congressman to start attacking him because he is not doing enough is just a terrible error,” he said.
“Another great point Dan Burton of five or six years ago,” Stewart said sarcastically.
“It’s clear you guys have no memories and giant balls,” said Stewart. “What are you hiding under them? I want answers.”
This video is from Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, broadcast Jan. 4, 2010.