The Obama administration is saying that Janet Napolitano's "The system worked" comment after the abortive plot to blow up a jet has been taken out of context. The homeland security chief has been getting beat up a lot over this quote by commentators and bloggers and Republicans, who argue that our heightened, post-9/11 security measures failed to keep a would-be bomber off a plane.
If you listen to the interview, it is pretty clear that Napolitano is talking about what happened after the bomber tried to ignite explosives.
So the administration has a point, that her remarks were taken out of context.
But Napolitano created her own problem by trying to get too clever, and by relentlessly trying to change the subject from the failures of our security system to what happened after the fact. It was like saying that after a bridge fell into the river because of faulty construction and inadequate inspections, the fact that ambulances showed up promptly to take away the dead proved that the "system worked."
In the old days, her statement wouldn't have made much of a stir. But today, in the 24/7 news cycle and with the blogosphere elevating every gaffe to the status of cosmic blunder, her comment has had an extended shelf life.
One of the reasons that I don't much care for cable news shows is that virtually every comment by every guest is predictable. It's either defend, defend, defend or attack, attack, attack. It is like watching two high school debating teams, constantly trying to score points. The administration refuses to admit any errors and the opposition refuses to cut the administration any slack. Nuance is banned. This is the environment in which Napolitano was operating. But there is a difference between being accountable for your governance and being a talking head on cable.
More context doesn't help Napolitano here.