This morning, during an appearance on Fox News, Weekly Standard editor Fred Barnes suggested that, based on his recent meeting with the president, catching Osama bin Laden is “no longer a top priority” of President Bush’s war on terror. Afterwards, liberal bloggers responded with equal parts disbelief and dismay.
Think Progress, one of the first to post Barnes’ comments, reacted with a few choice words.
“Bush’s priorities have always been skewed,” writes Think Progress. “Just months after declaring he wanted bin Laden ‘dead or alive,’ Bush said, ‘I truly am not that concerned about him.’ Turning his attention away from bin Laden, Bush trained his focus on Iraq — a country he now admits had ‘nothing’ to do with 9/11.”
Others accused Bush of flip-flopping.
“What in the hell?” asks No Quarter. “Bush has been on so many sides of this issue that he is giving new meaning to flip flop. First it was dead or alive, followed by ‘bin Laden, I don’t think much about him.’ Then, a couple of weeks ago, we heard bin Laden/Saddam/9-11 repeated ad nauseam. And now, he’s a low priority. Plus, note that Bush, who vowed to fight terrorism as a military threat instead of relying on that silly Clinton policy of law enforcement and intelligence, now believes, based on what Freddie Barnes reports, that Clinton’s vision of catching terrorists based on intelligence is spot on.”
“If Democrats can’t run with this, they need serious help,” declares Religion, Politics, and the Great Pumpkin. “The president just said that the leader of al Qaeda, one of the architects of 9/11, is not a priority for his administration. He needs to be held to account for that position. Whether or not capturing/killing him will have an impact on worldwide terrorism (questioning this is a new GOP talking point) is irrelevant; this is a man who must be brought to justice. It has huge symbolic value in terms of restoring an image of American competence/seriousness in the world, and will allow us to move past 9/11 and move toward a serious, more realistic approach to combating terrorism. Just my two cents.”
In the meantime, one blogger pointed out the slightest hint of a silver lining.
“At a minimum, I’m glad to hear the president’s thoughts on the issue, if for no other reason because I was convinced he was making up the policy as he went along,” the Carpetbagger Report writes. “At least now I understand what Bush thinks is an effective counter-terrorism strategy. Of course, there’s the downside to his approach: it’s misguided and ineffective.”
Some, however, were feeling a bit darker and more conspiratorial.
“Now we know the reason Osama bin Laden is still free after five years,” the Supreme Irony of Life concludes. “George Bush and the Republicans don’t actually want him captured. OBL is a convenient boogey man designed to distract the American public from the real purpose of why we are in Iraq, and threatening Iran (why not Saudi Arabia?).”
Finally, Fluorescent Elephant can’t help but wonder why “is the actual mastermind of the murder of 3,000 Americans not being actively pursued? Answer this question correctly (with evidence that will stand up in impeachment proceedings) and you win either a cigar T-shirt, a cigar coffee mug, a Cuban cigar, or a trip to the lovely Caribbean resort at Guantanamo, Cuba (no cigars).”