Janet Napolitano on This Week: The System Worked ‘Like Clockwork’



Jake Tapper interviewed DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano on ABC’s This Week, giving an early indicator of what the administration’s narrative on Flight 523 will be. Caught between the need to reassure a jumpy public, political opponents drooling at the chance to score points, and an unwillingness to tip our hand to those who would do us harm, Napolitano had her work cut out for her. Even given those factors, the Secretary’s overarching message was tone deaf, to say the least.

Napolitano sold the notion that the system worked, hitting the talking point several times:

I think the important thing to recognize here is that once this incident occurred, everything happened that should have. The passengers reacted correctly, the crew reacted correctly, within an hour to 90 minutes, all 128 flights in the air had been notified. And those flights already had taken mitigation measures on the off-chance that there was somebody else also flying with some sort of destructive intent.

So the system has worked really very, very smoothly over the course of the past several days.

Tapper followed up by saying “(Y)ou keep saying everybody acted the way they were supposed to. Clearly the passengers and the crew of that Northwest Airlines flight did. But I think there are questions about whether everybody in the U.S. government did.”

Napolitano was undeterred:

Now once this incident occurred, everything went according to clockwork. Not only sharing throughout the air industry, but also sharing with state and local law enforcement, products were going out on Christmas Day, they went out yesterday, and also to the industry to make sure that the traveling public remains safe.

So, a man on a really long terrorism list carries an incendiary device onto an airplane, ignites it in midair, the detonator fails, the passengers jump the flame-crotched suspect, and he is subdued/extinguished. As Hannibal Smith would say, “I love it when a plan comes together.” Maybe she meant to say that it worked like “A Clockwork Orange.”

In fairness, that’s not exactly what Napolitano said, but that’s the effect. She prefaced it all by saying “Once this incident occurred,” which is a lot like bragging about how well Trojans work after your girlfriend is pregnant.

Tapper interviewed Press Secretary Robert Gibbs next, and he wisely abandoned Napolitano’s breathtakingly clueless line.

Here’s the clip:

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