WASHINGTON -- Was Christmas Day 2009 the same kind of wake-up call for Barack Obama that Sept. 11, 2001, had been for George W. Bush?
The near-miss by a passenger flying into Detroit plotting to blow up an American airliner seems to have shocked this president as much as the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon did the last.
Both presidents had had plenty of warnings in the form of prior threats and even incidents. But both were caught off-guard: Bush reading to a classroom of youngsters; Obama on a family vacation in Hawaii.
Bush reacted with anger and a determination to punish the people who wreaked the havoc. Obama was just as mad, but a good portion of his anger was targeted on the members of his own intelligence bureaucracy he said had missed the abundant clues and failed to forestall the attack. Like Bush, he vowed to see that the consequences also fell on the foreign country that gave birth to the plot -- Afghanistan eight years ago, Yemen today.
For now, we are conducting a proxy war in Yemen, but that may change. Al-Qaeda's local enablers must learn that there is a price to be paid when Uncle Sam is attacked from their bases.