When terror strikes


Terrorist attacks have tragically become a common occurrence. There was Charlie Hebdo and the Hyper Cacher attacks in Paris in January 2015, which killed 11 people; the Charleston church shooting in June 2015 that took nine lives; the suicide bombings and mass shootings in Paris in November that killed 130. The same month, a pair of suicide bombers killed 43 in Beirut; and in December, 14 were killed in the San Bernardino shooting that shocked the nation. And the list goes on.

The goal of these attacks is to terrorize, divide and push victims to overreact. Yet, efforts to react “just right” never seem satisfactory. Last week was no exception. In this case, President Barack Obama was criticized for continuing his state visit to Cuba, which on the day of the Brussels attacks took him to view the national pastime of both the United States and the island nation — a baseball game.

The game began with a moment of silence for the dead in Brussels. But the sight of Obama in the stands with Cuban President Raul Castro was too much for some. Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, himself of Cuban descent, called on Obama to suspend his trip and return home — or fly to Brussels. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani said Obama’s behavior was like “Franklin Roosevelt remaining at Warm Springs when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.”

Roosevelt was actually at the White House when he learned that Pearl Harbor had been attacked. But if he had all the communications technology currently available to a modern president, FDR could have just as easily monitored the situation, conferred with his advisers and congressional leaders and addressed the country from Warm Springs. We are now in the 21st century, and the president is never out of touch.

That said, we agree that the optics on this one were not great. Modern presidents, who are constantly under public scrutiny, can’t help but seem to be doing the wrong thing at times, just as former President George W. Bush was criticized for continuing to read to school children while the Twin Towers were coming down.

The attacks in Brussels, and the long list of incidents that preceded them, show that we’re in this fight against global terror for the long run. Part of the fight means continuing to live our lives. That doesn’t mean terror should be ignored or that we should be less vigilant. But we are not a people under siege, and few among us are willing to live as such. For this simple reason, the criticism of the president’s decision to continue with scheduled activities in Cuba rings hollow.

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