Wounded by their losses on healthcare, Republicans have gone on the offensive after the Christmas attack, amplifying partisanship by criticizing President Obama's national-security credentials.
After the 9/11 attacks, members of Congress set aside bitter, partisan disputes – at least for a season – in a show of unity and resolve on the steps of the US Capitol.
They linked arms. They sang God Bless America. Democrats pledged support to the President Bush, a Republican. Much of the post-9/11 reform agenda in this previously gridlocked Congress passed with unanimity.
But the Christmas attack on Northwest Flight 253 has produced no such bipartisan moment. Instead, it’s amplified the partisan sniping on Capitol Hill on issues ranging from national security policy to end-of-year fundraising.
After losing bids to block healthcare legislation, Republicans are seeking traction on national security. “Anything that forces the focus of attention on security issues naturally favors the Republicans,” says GOP pollster Whit Ayres.
With hours to go on closing the books on fundraising for 2009, GOP campaign committees in both the House and Senate are using Flight 253 as a reason for supporters to refill party coffers by Thursday midnight.
President Obama’s post-inaugural reference to "man-made disasters,” instead of terrorist acts, "showed a remarkable lack of understanding of the threat America faced, but in the face of what nearly happened a couple days [ago], it is even more infuriating,” wrote National Republican Senatorial Committee Executive Director Rob Jesmer in a fundraising appeal on Wednesday.