“National security has been a perceived Democratic weakness for the last few decades. It hurts Obama with the right and the center,” says pollster John Zogby of Zogby International. “But on the other hand, he is now forced into a position where he is doing some things like the Bush administration. It not only hurts him with the left, but it raises the issue you’re just starting to hear: Was Bush really so bad, and if he was so bad, why are you doing things exactly the way he did?”
In fact, congressional GOP leaders publicly support broad lines of the president’s national security policy. They backed the decision to not drawn down troops in Iraq early on and to direct more resources to Afghanistan, including stepped-up deployment of unmanned drones to kill Al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan – moves that alarm the left wing of the Democratic congressional delegation.
But the barely aborted Christmas bombing attempt aboard a Detroit-bound airliner set off rounds of congressional oversight hearings that revived sharp partisan differences.
The appearance of Attorney General Eric Holder before Congress next month will give lawmakers a venue to press their views of events to the public.
Here are key flash points:
Interrogation of terror suspects: Republicans charge that the Department of Justice wasted critical moments after the Christmas Day bombing attempt when FBI interrogators told terrorist suspect Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab that he had a right to silence and to an attorney.