Rhetoric Change

04.16.1312:06 PM ET

Obama Assails Boston Bombing as ‘Terrorism’

The president used the T word to describe the Boston Marathon attacks a day after declining to do so. Howard Kurtz on the White House response.

President Obama reversed himself on Tuesday and declared the Boston Marathon bombings to be “an act of terrorism.”

Having drawn some political flak for omitting that word in his initial reaction to the attacks on Monday, the president offered a definition that raised questions about why he had been so cautious.

Obama said the FBI was investigating the twin bombings as a terrorist act. But a moment later, he said: “Any time bombs are used to target innocent civilians, it is an act of terrorism.” By that standard, the attack that has killed three people and wounded more than 100 should have immediately be seen as terrorism.

Speaking to reporters at the White House, the president echoed what investigators have been saying, that no one yet knows whether foreign or domestic plotters are behind the crude bombs: “We don’t have a sense of motive yet.”

But Obama sought to project a sense of firmness and resolve, again vowing to bring the perpetrators to justice. “The American people refuse to be terrorized,” he said, citing acts of “kindness,” “generosity,” and “love” by bystanders at the race. This, he said, is “who we are, what America is.”

Although he had little information to impact, the president chose to go before the cameras for a second straight day to make clear he is on top of the investigation. He left the briefing room without taking questions.