NY bomb attempt puts security on Obama agenda

By Matt Spetalnick – Analysis

WASHINGTON (BestGrowthStock) – The Times Square car bomb attempt has pushed national security higher on President Barack Obama’s agenda and could have implications for pivotal U.S. congressional elections in November.

Obama and his fellow Democrats could benefit politically from the swift arrest of a Pakistan-born American suspected in the failed attack, but opposition Republicans may also exploit Saturday’s incident to raise questions about the president’s counterterrorism policy.

In a speech to business executives on Tuesday, Obama sought to assure Americans he is deeply engaged in the case and will not repeat mistakes made after a Christmas Day airline bombing attempt. In that incident, he was heavily criticized for waiting three days before making his first public comment.

* By voicing confidence that the FBI has the tools to interrogate the suspect, Faisal Shahzad, Obama hoped to show that investigators were treating the case with the utmost care and urgency. His administration had come under withering fire for its handling of the alleged bomber of a Detroit-bound plane on December 25.

* If the Times Square suspect turns out to have links to Pakistani militants, Obama — who vowed that the United States “will not cower in fear” — will come under pressure to prod the Pakistani government to do more to crack down on Islamists.

That could give Republicans a chance to chide Obama for his approach to ally Pakistan, whose border with Afghanistan serves as safe haven for insurgents who attack U.S.-led forces.

* Until now, national security had not looked like a major issue in the November mid-term elections, when Democrats face a threat to their hold on Congress due to voter anxiety over nearly double-digit unemployment and a fragile economy. All 435 seats in the House of Representatives and about a third of the 100 seats in the Senate will be up for grabs in November.

But Saturday’s scare could give Republicans, who have insisted that the United States is less safe under Obama, the opportunity to focus again on what they see as one of the president’s weak points — national security. The failed Christmas attack exposed continuing gaps in air security after the September 11 attacks of 2001 and Obama has ordered sweeping reforms.

The risk for Republicans, however, is that Obama’s aggressive response to the latest security threat will win public favor and make the issue a plus for Democrats in November.

* Despite that, some conservative pundits have already started raising questions about why the plot got as far it did. They point out the bombing was foiled more by the bomber’s ineptitude and by vigilant citizens in Times Square than by government intelligence.

Republicans have been careful so far not to echo that point, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell was quick to join Obama in praising law-enforcement officials for the arrest.

But he also said he hoped “the appropriate officials are using this opportunity to exploit as much intelligence as he may have about his overseas connections and any other plots against Americans either here or abroad.”

Investment Research

(Additional reporting by Steve Holland and Tabassum Zakaria; editing by Patricia Wilson and Frances Kerry)

NY bomb attempt puts security on Obama agenda