Napolitano’s ‘The System Worked’ Quote
An aside in my post this morning defending President Obama from charges he took inadequate measures to prevent the attempted Detroit bombing has caused John Cole some distress.
I observed that, “There’s room to criticize the administration’s response to the crisis, most notably DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano’s idiotic insistence that “the system worked.” John retorts:
Here is Janet Napolitano’s exact quote:
Once this incident occurred, everything went according to clockwork, not only sharing throughout the air industry, but also sharing with state and local law enforcement. Products were going out on Christmas Day, they went out yesterday, and also to the industry to make sure that the traveling public remains safe. I would leave you with that message. The traveling public is safe. We have instituted some additional screening and security measures, in light of this incident, but, again, everyone reacted as they should. The system, once the incident occurred, the system worked.
Tell me how anything she said there is controversial or wrong or “idiotic.” She isn’t in charge of the CIA. Or the FBI. Or Schiphol airport. Or the NCTC.
Napolitano’s only mistake is giving the GOP an easily repeated lie/talking point, not for saying anything wrong. And for the record, you don’t even need to do anything to let the GOP’s bullshit factory come up with an easily repeated lie or talking point- these are the folks who have managed to turn ACORN into SPECTRE and end of life counseling into death panels.
Not having seen the original quote in other than the headline aftermath, I was initially concerned that I’d fallen for a talking point that had become a blog meme. After some research, it’s clear that I hadn’t.
John’s quote above is from Napolitano’s appearance on ABC’s “This Week.”
The controversial quote, though, comes from her appearance the same morning on CNN’s “State of the Union.” You can see the video in full at Politico which, alas, does not make it embeddable. The transcript makes it clear that she repeatedly went with the “system worked” mantra.
NAPOLITANO: What we are focused on is making sure that the air environment remains safe, that people are confident when they travel. And one thing I’d like to point out is that the system worked. Everybody played an important role here. The passengers and crew of the flight took appropriate action. Within literally an hour to 90 minutes of the incident occurring, all 128 flights in the air had been notified to take some special measures in light of what had occurred on the Northwest Airlines flight. We instituted new measures on the ground and at screening areas, both here in the United States and in Europe, where this flight originated.
So the whole process of making sure that we respond properly, correctly and effectively went very smoothly.
CROWLEY: Well, it seems as though the reason this plane did not explode is that the explosion failed and then you had some quick passengers who jumped on him when he lit this fire. So let me ask you about how he could have gotten on the plane, with this substance, the PETN. I mean, we get on, you can’t have more than 3.4 ounces of toothpaste and you can’t have more than 3.4 ounces of anything in a little bag, and so I think people are thinking, so how does he get on with an explosive? How does that get past security?
NAPOLITANO: Well, we are asking the same questions, looking at what happened in Amsterdam as he transferred flights to a flight that was U.S.-bound. We have already been working with the airport and airline authorities there to see what kind of screening, screening equipment was used. We have no suggestion that he was improperly screened, but we want to go through and see. We’re always …
CROWLEY: I’m sorry, but if he was not improperly screened or properly screened, and yet you want Americans to feel safe on the planes, and so if it was properly screened and he got on anyway with that, it doesn’t feel that safe.
NAPOLITANO: Well, you know, it should. This was one individual literally of thousands that fly and thousands of flights every year. And he was stopped before any damage could be done. And now the forensics are analyzing, well, what actually could have been done with whatever substance he had and whatever amount. Those are all undetermined issues right now. And then we will go back and see about that technology, about that screening, just as we will go back at the president’s request and look at how we put people on different types of watch lists. Those are things that had been in place for many years. They have been the procedures that we have utilized.
And again, once this incident occurred, what I really think deserves attention is everybody responded quickly, effectively, without panicking and shutting down the airline systems or air travel. What we did is dealt with the incident, put out additional security measures both at airports here and abroad, and made sure that the flights that were in the air were indeed safe.
This was just ridiculously ham-handed. Crowley, no right wing operative, was clearly flummoxed by Napolitano’s initial characterization and gave her repeated opportunities to walk it back, which she flubbed in each instance. Finally, at the end of the exchange, she puts the emphasis on the timing: After the incident, the response was appropriate.
It was a bad interview. One that she walked back soon enough. And she’s right that proper reaction in the aftermath — including doing investigations to see what holes in the system need plugging — is the main issue. I’m not calling for her to be fired. But there’s no need to pretend she didn’t flub the interview.