It is common lore among political junkies that Michael Dukakis lost the 1988 presidential election when he gave a weak answer to a question about capital punishment (what if your wife were murdered . . . ) during a televised debate. It's not true. His entire campaign was a disaster. But his flabby response to a terrible question did stick as an example of his character. So Barack Obama should have been ready for this one in the recent South Carolina debates (Byron York at National Review):
“If, God forbid, a thousand times, while we were gathered here tonight, we learned that two American cities had been hit simultaneously by terrorists,” [Brian] Williams said, “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?”
That question is very strong in its first half, and way too vague in its second. But it was good enough to send the Illinois Wonderkid into the mat. Here is his response:
“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,” Obama said. “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.”
So the first thing President Obama would do in response to a terrorist attack on two American cities would be to determine whether FEMA is adequately prepared for the next hurricane. That will calm fears.
“The second thing,” Obama continued, “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.”
So after FEMA is squared away, President Obama would launch an investigation of our intelligence services, to find out whether there are "other threats and attacks potentially out there." I can tell him that. They are out there.
Finally he would try to find out what is already assumed by the question, that al Qaeda did it, so that we can "potentially take some action to dismantle that network." These are the words of someone who cannot so much as bring himself to talk about actually using force against some foe. This guy is in close second place for the Democratic nomination.