President Barack Hussein Obama gave himself a high mark when he appeared on the Oprah Show in December 2009. When asked by the host what sort of grade he would give himself for his first year in office, Obama said B+. The president then qualified his grade by saying that the only thing standing in the way of a higher grade was some unfinished business, namely passage of health care legislation.
Six weeks later a far different report card was released on the eve of Obama’s first state of the union address. The Commission on the Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction, Proliferation and Terrorism, a bi-partisan group independent of government oversight gave the president an “F” for failing to take any steps outlined by the commission one year ago.
Former Senator Bob Graham (D-FL) and former Senator Jim Talent (R-MO), are the respective chair and vice chair of the commission, releasing their report card on Tuesday. That 19-page report card contains 17 grades with the president receiving three “F” grades for the following categories: rapid and effective response to bio-terrorism; Congressional oversight of homeland security and intelligence; and national security workforce recruitment.
Despite the failing grades, the commission said that Obama’s grades could be quickly raised if Congress and the Administration took a leadership role to address these deficiencies.
“Nearly a decade after September 11, 2001, one year after our original report, and one month after the Christmas Day bombing attempt, the United States is failing to address several urgent threats, especially bio-terrorism,” said Senator Graham. “Each of the last three Administrations has been slow to recognize and respond to the bio-threat But we no longer have the luxury of a slow learning curve, when we know al Qaeda is interested in bio-weapons.”
“We are also enormously frustrated about the failure of Congress to reform homeland security oversight,” said Senator Talent. “The Department can’t do its job, if it is responding to more than 80 congressional committees and sub-committees. This fragmentation guarantees that much of what Congress does is duplicative and disjointed.”
Despite the failing grades, the president did achieve high marks in several areas including “…review of domestic programs to secure dangerous pathogens, for finalizing and approving an Interagency Bioforensics Strategy, and for conducting recommended reorganization inside the National Security Council.”
Obama received one incomplete grade for implementing a comprehensive policy toward Pakistan. That country has a nuclear cache and has been unstable for many years. In addition, al Qaeda operates freely in remote regions of Pakistan with terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden believed to be at work nearby.
The president has been criticized severely for his mishandling of several terrorist attacks or homeland threats since he took office.
Those incidents include the shooting of two US soldiers in Arkansas by a Muslim militant, Abdulhakim Muhammad, in June as well as the November attack on Fort Hood where a radicalized Islamic U.S. Army major by the name of Nadal Malik Hasan—a psychiatrist at that—killed thirteen people and wounded thirty more.
Most recently, the president’s reaction to the Christmas Day bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, has also been criticized. In each case the three attackers have admitted their ties to Al Qaeda, but the Obama administration has handled these cases as criminal acts, not acts of war.