President Obama’s caution Monday in refusing to label the Boston Marathon bombing terrorism is understandable, but it’s a mistake.
As the nation’s leader, he doesn’t want to say something that might prove inaccurate or stir emotions too greatly.
But the bombings are, by definition, acts of terror. Two bombs went off, synchronized to cause murder, injury, and mayhem at a high-visibility event, naturally striking fear in the hearts of many Americans. Even if this were done by a lone individual without any affiliation – as unlikely as that would be in a coordinated assault – it’s terrorism.
By not labeling it as such, the president in his caution is, effectively, leading from behind. Even his own aides are privately calling it terrorism.
It’s the president’s job to be responsible, but it’s even more his job to take the lead when a nation has been stunned by what everybody knows is terrorism. They need to be reassured that he understands this is terror and is prepared to act forcefully to oppose it.
Americans are not children, and we’re not hysterical participants in some less advanced society. We can deal with the notion that we’ve been attacked without overreacting, as we have before.
The president can frame it carefully – saying we don’t know if it’s the work of foreign or domestic terrorists – but he must say this is terrorism. He should have done it yesterday, even if he had to qualify it with the word “likely.”
Obama did better Monday than he did during the Christmas 2009 attempted bombing of a Delta jet, when he was AWOL in Hawaii for three days before making a statement. But he didn’t do quite well enough. He can rectify the situation this morning.