[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/12/31/abdulmutallab.terror.radical.cleric/story.suspect.air.usm.jpg caption="Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab appears to have had contact with radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki." width=300 height=169]
Julian E. Zelizer
Special to CNN
Almost as soon as the botched Christmas airplane bombing hit the airwaves, the politics of national security reared its head.
Many Republicans quickly attacked President Obama for being responsible for the fact that Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab was able to walk onto an airplane with dangerous explosives despite the fact that the government had received warnings about him. They argued that the failure proved the White House was weak on terrorism.
"Soft talk about engagement, closing Gitmo," warned South Carolina Republican Jim DeMint, "these things are not going to appease the terrorists..." Representative Dan Burton of Indiana called for Janet Napolitano, who said the system "had worked," to step down. Napolitano, said Burton, "does not have the background or experience necessary to execute her responsibilities." Former Vice President Dick Cheney asked of the president, "Why doesn't he want to admit we're at war."
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