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Weekly remarks: GOP's Susan Collins asks, why stop interrogating a terrorist? Obama says economy grows

Capitol Hill at Night

Unusually strong weekly remarks today from the Republican side, Maine Sen. Susan Collins. With the New York City terrorist trials in the news, Collins focuses on the "lawyering up" of the Christmas airplane bomber by Obama Justice officials after less than an hour of interrogation -- and without consultation with administration intelligence experts.

She calls it an "irresponsible, indeed dangerous, decision."

The president chose instead to continue his pivot from the unsuccessful months-long healthcare drive to the economy, which polls show is Priority #1 among voters who will have their say in November's midterm election. Not to mention next week's Illinois primary.

You'll likely hear Obama make similar points on Tuesday when he's scheduled another town hall on the economy, this time in Nashua, N.H.

Obama says the economy is growing again, that jobs will be his top priority this year, and....

...reviews some of the things he said during his 70-minute State of the Union speech Wednesday night. Such as vowing to cut the federal deficit and impose a spending freeze in some areas.

Full Obama speech text here as usual. Full Republican response here as usual.

Additionally, we had an interesting event Friday when Obama met with GOP House members for a candid exchange about what is and is not possible together. In case you were otherwise occupied last evening, we published an item here on how to look inside these events, their goals and motivations

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Remarks by Republican Sen. Susan Collins, as provided by the Republican National Committee

Less than one hour. That’s right, less than one hour.

In fact, just fifty minutes.

That’s the amount of time that the FBI spent questioning Abdulmutallab, the foreign terrorist who tried to blow up a plane on Christmas Day.

Then, he was given a Miranda warning and a lawyer, and, not surprisingly, he stopped talking.

How did we get to this point? How did the Obama administration decide to treat a foreign terrorist, who had tried to murder hundreds of people, as if he were a common criminal?

On Christmas Day, the skies above Detroit became a battleground in the War on Terrorism.  

That day the bomb being carried by Abdulmutallab failed to detonate. Thanks to the courageous action of the passengers and crew, nearly 300 lives were saved on the plane and more lives were spared on the ground.
Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins
The government’s security system, a front line in the war against terrorists, failed long before Abdulmutallab boarded his flight to the United States.

It failed when his visa wasn’t revoked, even though his father had warned our embassy in Nigeria about his son’s ties to Islamic extremists.

It failed when the intelligence community was unable to connect the dots that would have placed Abdulmutallab on the terrorist watchlist.

It failed when this terrorist stepped on to the plane in Amsterdam with the same explosive used by the ‘Shoe Bomber,’ Richard Reid, more than 8 years ago.

But, today, I want to discuss another failure –  a failure that occurred after Abdulmutallab had already been detained by authorities in Detroit – an error that undoubtedly prevented the collection of valuable intelligence about future terrorist threats to our country.

This failure occurred when the Obama Justice Department unilaterally decided to treat this foreign terrorist as an ordinary criminal.

Abdulmutallab was questioned for less than one hour before the Justice Department advised him that he could remain silent and offered him an attorney at our expense.

Once afforded the protection our Constitution guarantees American citizens, this foreign terrorist ‘lawyered up’ and stopped talking.

When the Obama administration decided to treat Abdulmutallab as an ordinary criminal, it did so without the input of our nation’s top intelligence officials.

The Director of National Intelligence was not consulted.

The Secretary of Defense was not consulted.

The Secretary of Homeland Security was not consulted. 

The Director of the National Counterterrorism Center was not consulted.

They would have explained the importance of gathering all possible intelligence about Yemen, where there is a serious threat from terrorists whose sights are trained on this nation. They would have explained the critical nature of learning all we could from Abdulmutallab. But they were never asked. 

President Obama recently used the phrase that ‘we are at war’ with terrorists. But....

... unfortunately his rhetoric does not match the actions of his administration.

The Obama administration appears to have a blind spot when it comes to the War on Terrorism.

And, because of that blindness, this administration cannot see a foreign terrorist even when he stands right in front of them, fresh from an attempt to blow a plane out of the sky on Christmas Day.

There’s no other way to explain the irresponsible, indeed dangerous, decision on Abdulmutallab’s interrogation. There’s no other way to explain the inconceivable treatment of him as if he were a common criminal.
 
This charade must stop. Foreign terrorists are enemy combatants and they must be treated as such. The safety of the American people depends on it.

I’m Senator Susan Collins from Maine. Thank you for listening.      ###

Obama White House at Dawn

Remarks by President Obama, as provided by the White House

At this time last year, amidst headlines about banks on the verge of collapse and job losses of 700,000 a month, we received another troubling piece of news about our economy. Our economy was shrinking at an alarming rate – the largest six-month decline in 50 years. Our factories and farms were producing less; our businesses were selling less; and more job losses were on the horizon.

One year later, according to numbers released this past week, this trend has reversed itself. For the past six months, our economy has been growing again. And last quarter, it grew more quickly than at any time in the past six years.  

This is a sign of progress. And it’s an affirmation of the difficult decisions we made last year to pull our financial system back from the brink and get our economy moving again.  

But when so many people are still struggling – when one in ten Americans still can’t find work, and millions more are working harder and longer for less – our mission isn’t just to grow the economy. It’s to grow jobs for folks who want them, and ensure wages are rising for those who have them. It’s not just about improvements we see in quarterly statistics, but ones people feel in their daily lives – a bigger paycheck; more security; the ability to give your kids a decent shot in life and still have enough to retire one day yourself.

That’s why job creation will be our number one focus in 2010. We’ll put more Americans back to work rebuilding our infrastructure all across the country. And since the true engines of job creation are America’s businesses, I’ve proposed tax credits to help them hire new workers, raise wages, and invest in new plants and equipment.  I also want to eliminate all capital gains taxes on small business investment, and help small businesses get the loans they need to open their doors and expand their operations.     

But as we work to create jobs, it is critical that we rein in the budget deficits we’ve been accumulating for far too long – deficits that won’t just burden our children and grandchildren, but could damage our markets, drive up our interest rates, and jeopardize our recovery right now.

There are certain core principles our families and businesses follow when they sit down to do their own budgets. They accept that they can’t get everything they want and focus on what they really need. They make tough decisions and sacrifice for their kids. They don’t spend what they don’t have, and they make do with what they’ve got.  

It’s time their government did the same. That’s why I’m pleased that the Senate has just restored the pay-as-you-go law that was in place back in the 1990s.  It’s no coincidence that we ended that decade with a $236 billion surplus. But then we did away with PAYGO – and we ended the next decade with a $1.3 trillion deficit.  Reinstating this law will help get us back on track, ensuring that every time we spend, we find somewhere else to cut.

I’ve also proposed a spending freeze, so that as we increase investments in things we need, like job creation and middle class tax cuts – we cut spending on those we don’t, like tax cuts for oil companies and investment fund managers, and programs that are redundant, obsolete, or simply ineffective. Spending related to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will not be affected – and neither will national security – but all other discretionary government programs will.

Finally, I’ve called for a bi-partisan Fiscal Commission – a panel of Democrats and Republicans who would sit down and hammer out concrete deficit-reduction proposals by a certain deadline. Because we’ve heard plenty of talk and a lot of yelling on TV about deficits, and it’s now time to come together and make the painful choices we need to eliminate those deficits.  

This past week, 53 Democrats and Republicans voted for this commission in the Senate. But it failed when seven Republicans who had co-sponsored this idea in the first place suddenly decided to vote against it.  

Now, it’s one thing to have an honest difference of opinion about something. I will always respect those who take a principled stand for what they believe, even if I disagree with them.  

But what I won’t accept is changing positions because it’s good politics. What I won’t accept is opposition for opposition’s sake. We cannot have a serious discussion and take meaningful action to create jobs and control our deficits if politicians just do what’s necessary to win the next election instead of what’s best for the next generation. 

I’m ready and eager to work with anyone who’s serious about solving the real problems facing our people and our country. I welcome anyone who comes to the table in good faith to help get our economy moving again and fulfill this country’s promise. That’s why we were elected in the first place. That’s what the American people expect and deserve. And that’s what we must deliver. Thank you.     #####

Photos: Associated Press; Office of Sen. Collins; Ron Edmonds / Associated Press.

 
Comments () | Archives (7)

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Wow! Would Susan Collins want a child of hers treated as she is proposing? No lawyer, no Miranda rights, just interrogation. Where would we draw the line with this new proposal? Could we draw it along state lines, religious lines, political beliefs?

I think its obvious the republicans have no intention of being civil decent human beings and refuse to be anything but the party of no. They tell any lie possible to merely go into attack mode against this admin.

They spent 8 years letting Bush run this country in the ground and everything is for the business and the rich. The had 8 years to do something about health care and the high cost and they did nothing cause how much did they get paid by drug companies and heath insurance companies to not do anything for the people. Or stop the credit card companies with their loan shark ways they adopted. How much did they get to sock it to the people.
These people don't go into politics and get rich because of their yearly salary.
Their lobbyist make them rich by saying "NO" to the people in this country. The more back up money they have to say no to us the richer they get. Then they sit there with their fancy suits and fancy haircuts with their stubborn arrogant selves snickering and mocking this administration, their own government of this country which only shows how they feel about their own people they are supposed to represent. That is me they are mocking. A party many republicans are ashamed to be listed as a registered republicans and that I belong to a party of liars. You can put a video up of the presidents words and then you have a republican lying about what he said. Why do you put republicans out there on national tv to lie. Do they see us as that stupid or is it they are that stupid? The president can say we are at war 30 times in a speech and then you have a republican say he never said we are at war. Duhhhhh! This time it was the president said he would meet and work with republicans and they come out and he won't work with us. Are republicans so stupid that they think they are going to take control of this admin their way and then when it goes all wrong like the past 8 years then they will take cover and blame the current admin. I think not. Their gig is up.

Susan Collins has just gotten a headline, or the proverbial 15 minutes of fame, by just squeeling on a half baked subject. She has probably forgotten the basics of Political Science 201.

Here is where her comments make no sense: The president has nothing to do with how many minutes the FBI interrogates a suspect, or where the FBI will take the investigation. Then,
there is the typical inter-agency rivalry and territorial turf that existed among the agencies under previous presidents, and will be there after he is gone. And those bureaucracies have become so big - and inneficient- that they have become a state-within-a state by themselves. And that was why many past presidents, and among them John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, wanted to fire the late FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, but they didn't dare.

Obama certainly made a mistake to appoint as DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano. That Department needed a secretary who is vivid, highly active and alert, and not a sloth in a catatonic state. No surprise, then, that her deputy that was supposed to supervise the incident over Detroit left for
vacation within a few hours afterward.

Unfortunately, though, Obama is stuck with Ms. Napolitano.
His one year anniversary came with thorns - not flowers, and the last thing he needs now is to start firing nonperforming secretaries. Nikos Retsos, retired professor

Senator Susan Collins is still back there in the days of Bush and Guantanamo. The Nigerian terrorist did have constitutional rights no less than a vicious bank robber, a serial killer, etc. By denying the Nigerian terrorist his right to an attorney, Senator Collins might have this guy go free. This is the U.S. Constitution, not lawyering up. If she wants to change the constitution, then she knows the rules.

I think many of us are waiting for things to change and he says, hopefully we are at the beginning of the year ... We'll see what results later this year.

Clearly allowing Abdulmutallab to board a plane to anywhere was a mistake. But you have to question Senator Collins sincerity when she questions the manner of his arrest. Where was her concern when the Bush administration arrested Richard Reid the ‘Shoe Bomber’ and similarly Mirandized him? Where was her letter admonishing George Bush? America has a long and admired system of justice. It is our Judicial system, our Constitution, and the rights guaranteed therein which oppressed people the world over point to as reasons to wish to be an American. Why is it that Senator Collins and others would seem to have such little faith in the American system of justice and our Constitution? That we are today threatened by an enemy who it would seem despises our American way is little reason to assist them in their war to destroy America. The thousands who have given their lives in defense of America did not die so that we may now abandon the principles our birthright to enable Senator Collins and others to sleep better at night. Our enemies succeed when we willingly run from the fight which being an American sometimes requires.

As much as Susan Collins clearly has contempt for the Constitution, her claim is simply incorrect. The Constitution is not limited to US Citizens. Every judge ever has agreed with that, even Scalia.


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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