Newsweek's Alter Called Bush a Dictator, But Says GOP Emboldens Terrorists by Criticizing Obama

When The New York Times broke open the story of NSA monitoring of overseas phone calls to terrorist cells at the end of 2005, Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter proclaimed "We’re seeing clearly now that Bush thought 9/11 gave him license to act like a dictator, or in his own mind, no doubt, like Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War." He suggested the story could lead to Bush’s impeachment. But on Tuesday night’s hermetically-sealed liberal Countdown with Keith Olbermann, Alter lamented that the war on terror is now being harmed by Republicans who were so harsh as to call Obama soft on terror. Alter grew spiritual: "I wish they would look into their souls a little bit, is that if they convey over and over again that the president of the United States is weak, what does that do? It emboldens the terrorists."Alter boasted that Obama's "killed twice as many" terrorists as Bush, and claimed we have a "100 percent conviction rate" of terrorists in civilian courts.The two liberals were high-fiving over NBC reporter Pete Williams reporting on Tuesday’s Nightly News that "Federal officials now say that Umar Abdulmutallab is now freely talking to the FBI and has been since last Thursday...These officials say the information from Abdulmutallab is proving to be current and reliable and that it's being aggressively pursued in Yemen."Olbermann was giddy enough to discuss how Republicans would now pull an attack on Obama, and out of which orifice:

OLBERMANN: I mean, even though that last Washington Post poll said 62 percent specifically approved the way Obama had handled the Detroit case before this development, where, gosh, the system works and cooperation with the family turns out to be more valuable than, you know, trying to drown the man.

 [The poll Olbermann's citing was not overall a happy poll for Obama, with only a third approving of U.S. efforts against al-Qaeda. But let's continue:]

They've been selling, the right has, Obama's-soft-on-terror meme.What pushback will they offer and from which orifice will they pull it?ALTER: Well, I`m not going to hazard a prediction on the last one.OLBERMANN: All right. Just give me the first one, we can all guess the second one.ALTER: You know, I think they`re in a place now where they just want to hurt Obama.OLBERMANN: Yes.ALTER: And what they don`t get, I wish they would look into their souls a little bit, is that if they convey over and over again that the president of the United States is weak, what does that do? It emboldens the terrorists. And I don`t say that lightly.But think of -- think of terrorists overseas and -- or at home, who might be plotting an attack. If they think that the president is weak, which he is not. He`s manifestly not. He's killed twice as many of them, not to put too fine a point on --OLBERMANN: Yes.ALTER: -- with these Predators, as his predecessor did.

[Obama's killed twice as many terrorists as Bush? Footnote, please?]

He’s not weak. If they continue to convey that he is weak, that gives serious help to the terrorists. So, I think the pressure should now be on these Republicans -- aren`t you helping the terrorists by insisting against all evidence?  Remember, we have 100 percent conviction rates of terrorists in civilian courts in this country -- 100 percent. It`s not like any of them are out.OLBERMANN: Yes.ALTER: . walking the streets as we're -- as we're told.

[National Review has pointed out how liberals who tout a 100-percent conviction rate "conveniently omit mention of the paltry number of cases (less than three dozen, mostly against low-level terrorists, over an eight-year period, despite numerous attacks)."]

The only detainees from Guantanamo who have been released and have returned to terrorism in their home countries were released under President Bush.OLBERMANN: Yes.ALTER: So far, there`s not been one case of that happening under President Obama. So, this line is a bunch of hooey and they have to stop saying it, and the onus now needs to be on them for whether or not harming us as they continuing to do so.OLBERMANN: I find myself in a very unusual position on one point though. Is there -- and I`m -- I was -- the person most aggravated and insulted by the rapidity and stupidity with which the Bush administration would trumpet their own successes of stopping terrorist plots that have no more sophistication than using Mentos to blow and Diet Pepsi to blow up the moon.But he`s been talking since Thursday, he -- since Thursday of last week, is it incumbent to some degree under these political circumstances, even for this administration, with its very laid back attitude towards, oh, we stopped this, we stopped that, to say something a little more loudly to make this point under these circumstances that the system works?ALTER: Well, you know, this case has not been completed. Let's see how it's resolved. Apparently, they cut a deal where he -- you know, he won`t face the death penalty in exchange for his testimony.And so, I don't think they need to get out there and start bragging about the case, but it`s important for people to understand that this is a good development. Lamar Alexander wants Holder to resign? Does he want Mueller to resign, too --OLBERMANN: Yes.ALTER: -- who was appointed under President Bush?OLBERMANN: Yes.ALTER: Does he want the others who have been standing up for the rule of law? Look, reasonable people can disagree on whether Khalid Sheikh Mohammed should be tried in New York City, which apparently is not going to be. There's all sorts of areas for legitimate debate on how we handle terrorism. But let’s not cast these aspersions on people’s motives, let's not call people "soft," that just has to be end.

Is there anything drop-dead funnier than a guest sitting on the Olbermann set demanding an end to aspersion-casting?

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis