In his first term, the president was criticized for his responses to several potential incidents of terrorism.
Most notably, he was vacationing in Hawaii in 2009 and waited three days to speak publicly about the attempted bombing of a trans-Atlantic Northwest Airlines flight as it prepared to land in Detroit.
“There’s a suspicion among Republicans that he is only willing to be tough against al Qaida and nobody else,” said Will Marshall, a former Democratic speechwriter who heads the Progressive Policy Institute research center.
Obama, Marshall said, struck the right tone in trying to calm the nation after three people were killed and more than 170 were wounded Monday in two blasts near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
“When there is a crisis we look to the president to be calm, not to be excitable, not boiling over,” he said.
But it’s clearly a balancing act. In at least two other instances, the president was faulted not for his speed but for not speaking forcefully enough.
In 2009, Obama called the deaths of 13 people at Fort Hood military base in Texas in 2009 an “act of workplace violence” despite the shooter’s ties to terrorists. Last September, his aides attributed the attack that killed four Americans at a diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, to a spontaneous protest against an anti-Islam video, not a terrorist operation.
In both cases, Republicans pounced.
However, Marc Thiessen, who served as a speechwriter for President George W. Bush and former Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, said conservatives had plenty of reasons to be suspicious of Obama but that the president’s reaction to Monday’s bombing wasn’t one of them.
“We don’t know what this is yet,” he said.
Marisa Taylor contributed to this report.