DALLAS TWP. — The Homeland Security and Counterterrorism adviser to President George W. Bush shared her views Tuesday on everything from the Boston Marathon bombing to civil war in Syria with a packed house at Misericordia University, and still managed to weave in some personal insights about the 43rd president of the United States.
Frances Townsend was the featured speaker for the second annual Dr. Midori Yamanouchi Lecture Series in the university’s Lemmond Theater.
Noting among her other accomplishments and experience that Townsend has appeared as a consultant on CNN in the wake of the bombing, professor Brian F. Carso, director of the school’s Government, Law and National Security Program, introduced her as “one of the reasons the last decade has seen strikingly few terrorism attacks in the United States.”
Townsend began her presentation talking about the Boston bombing and other events of that week.
“When (President Barack Obama) stood up after the second suspect was taken into custody … and he said, ‘It’s been a tough week,’ there are few people who could understand exactly what he meant. And having lived in the West Wing, my heart went out to him and his staff,” Townsend said, noting that the administration also dealt with a fertilizer plant explosion in Texas and letters laced with the poison ricin being sent to elected officials.
“It really is a tremendous credit to any administration, but to this president in particular, that we calmy navigated the shoals that he and the country faced last week and did so in a way that we ought to be really proud about,” Townsend said.
She explained the importance of good foreign policy. “Today, there are more fractured and unstable regimes around the world that pose a threat, both to their own people, to the regions they’re in and to the United States. … Ungoverned states are a terrorist’s dream because they can use it to plan, train, plot and execute an attack. In the case of 9/11, it was from Afghanistan,” she said.
She also spoke about drones and balancing liberty with national security and public safety. “You can’t stop the march of technology. … What you can do is engage the public policy debate about how those technologies are most appropriately used consistent with our constitutional freedoms. … Otherwise, the government will decide what’s in the best security interests. They may anyway, but the policy will be better if they hear from you,” Townsend said.
Answering audience questions, Townsend said she didn’t think the Boston terror suspect should be treated as an enemy combatant and she supported stockpiling smallpox vaccine in the event of a viral attack. Asked about working with President Bush, Townsend shared a few amusing and heartwarming stories.
While Bush’s favorite place to be is at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, Townsend said, she thought it odd he never spent Christmases there, choosing Camp David instead. One day, she asked him why.
“He said ‘Because the Secret Service agents have to go … and I don’t want to take the agents away from their children’ ” on Christmas, she said. “It’s just a level of graciousness and sensitivity. … That was the person I knew and had the privilege to work with.”