Barack Obama's answer was jaw-dropping bad on several levels. The substance was weak and vague. Even more offensive was his automatic move to his pre-ordained talking points, which was off-key in response to a question of this immediacy and import. Here's the question from Brian Williams and the response:
Question: If, God forbid, a thousand times, while we were gathered here tonight, we learned that two American cities had been hit simultaneously by terrorists, and we further learned beyond the shadow of a doubt it had been the work of al Qaeda, how would you change the U.S. military stance overseas as a result?Obama's answer here shows he's not ready to be Commander-in-Chief. Bringing Katrina into the mix when asked to respond to an attack bigger than 9/11 is not smart, not presidential and certainly not reassuring. It demonstrates that Obama just hasn't thought much about what to do about Islamic radicalism and, despite his pledge to "lift the debate," will resort to cheap shot Democratic talking points no matter what the situation.
Obama: Well, first thing we'd have to do is make sure that we've got an effective emergency response, something that this administration failed to do when we had a hurricane in New Orleans. And I think that we have to review how we operate in the event of not only a natural disaster, but also a terrorist attack.
The second thing is to make sure that we've got good intelligence, A, to find out that we don't have other threats and attacks potentially out there; and B, to find out do we have any intelligence on who might have carried it out so that we can take potentially some action to dismantle that network.
But what we can't do is then alienate the world community based on faulty intelligence, based on bluster and bombast. Instead, the next thing we would have to do, in addition to talking to the American people, is making sure that we are talking to the international community. Because as has already been stated, we're not going to defeat terrorists on our own. We've got to strengthen our intelligence relationships with them, and they've got to feel a stake in our security by recognizing that we have mutual security interests at stake.
Hillary Clinton handled the question much more forcefully. The partisan Democrats might not agree, but Obama was the big loser last night. If he somehow emerges as the nominee, his stunningly bad answer to that question last night will undoubtedly show up in a Republican attack ad.