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Originally published Wednesday, December 30, 2009 at 10:05 PM

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Partisan battle over airline incident escalates

The political war over the failed Christmas Day bombing of a Detroit-bound U.S. airliner showed no signs of abating Wednesday as leaders of both parties escalated attacks, employing fiery rhetoric in assessing blame for the Detroit incident.

The Washington Post

WASHINGTON — The political war over the failed Christmas Day bombing of a Detroit-bound U.S. airliner showed no signs of abating Wednesday as leaders of both parties escalated attacks, employing fiery rhetoric in assessing blame for the Detroit incident.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney led a GOP offensive to assail President Obama's leadership on national security, charging the American people are less safe because Cheney believes Obama is "pretending" that the United States is not at war with terrorists.

"Why doesn't he want to admit we're at war?" Cheney said in a statement to Politico. "It doesn't fit with the view of the world he brought with him to the Oval Office. It doesn't fit with what seems to be the goal of his presidency — social transformation — the restructuring of American society."

Obama aides and Democratic leaders pushed back aggressively, accusing Cheney and other Republicans of politicizing the incident in ways they say Democrats did not during previous terrorist acts.

"Cheney was out there today saying that the president doesn't recognize that we have a war on terror," White House senior adviser David Axelrod said. "This is the president who has made a very tough decision to refocus our efforts in Afghanistan after seven years of drift."

For days, GOP leaders have sought to portray Obama as weak on national security because of his administration's response to the incident as well as the intelligence and security failures that allowed Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to carry an explosive onto a Northwest Airlines flight.

Republicans said Obama should have interrupted his Hawaiian vacation, even though President George W. Bush said nothing from Camp David and Crawford, Texas, for six days after shoe bomber Richard Reid's failed attack in 2001.

"Republicans are simply hypocrites," Democratic National Committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse said. "There is nothing — no bounds whatsoever — to what they will politicize for their own political gain."

House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, on Wednesday said the Detroit incident is evidence that Obama should reconsider his decision to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. "It's time for the president to halt terrorist transfers to other countries, including Yemen."

The detainees who ended up in the al-Qaida leadership in Yemen were released by Bush two years ago.

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