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Comment: Will terror alert divert Obama?

By Jonathan Mann, CNN
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Obama: 'Failed to connect dots'
  • Suspect allegedly tried to bomb a U.S.-bound airliner with 289 people aboard
    Christmas Day
  • Comment: Till now U.S. based counter-terrorism not high on Obama's public agenda
  • Comment: Obama has big plans at home, abroad, does not want to be diverted by terror threat
  • Official quotes Obama as saying "We dodged a bullet but just barely"

(CNN) -- How angry should the president dubbed 'No-Drama Obama' be about an alleged attack that could have killed hundreds of people? How much should it change his plans?

"This was a screw-up that could have been disastrous," one official quoted President Barack Obama as saying this week, in uncharacteristically blunt language. "We dodged a bullet but just barely."

Obama has spent much of his first year in the White House leading wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, attending to domestic reform and international relations. U.S. based counter-terrorism hasn't been high on his public agenda.

But there has been an apparent change to that agenda since a suspect who claimed links to al Qaeda allegedly tried to bomb a U.S.-bound airliner Christmas Day, with 289 people aboard.

Video: Attack was a 'systemic failure'
Video: Bremer speaks about Obama

New stringent rules for visitors flying into the U.S. are only the most obvious result.

"He's been focused on health care and focused on climate change, focused on the economy," said Thomas Kean, the former head of a government commission that studied the 9/11 terror attacks of 2001.

"When you are so focused and you're a brand-new president in your first year, you can't look at everything at once. This is a reminder there's nothing more important than the safety of the American people."

Obama's aides insist he didn't need reminding.

"The president has spent part of every day since he's been here working on terrorism," said White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs.

In fact, The New York Times reported this week that even before he took office, Obama was warned that Somali terrorists would attack his inauguration ceremony. The new administration didn't confirm that the threat was false until it had already prepared a contingency plan for his potential assassination.

The ceremony was January 20th, almost exactly one year ago.

The president approaches the anniversary much the same way he did the inauguration -- with big plans at home and abroad, trying not to be forced off course by the threat of terror.