President Barack Obama praised the capture of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Friday night, even as he mourned those who lost their lives. He also vowed to pursue answers for the victims about what happened and whether anyone provided assistance.
“Whatever they thought they could ultimately achieve, they’ve already failed,” the president said emphatically of the terrorists from the White House, where he had been monitoring reports from the scene all day. “They failed because the people of Boston refused to be intimidated. They failed because as Americans we refuse to be terrorized. They failed because we will not waiver from the character and the compassion and the values that define us as a country, nor will we break the bonds that hold us together as Americans.”
Obama said questions remain — why did young men who grew up and studied here resort to violence and did they receive any help? These are all things law enforcement agencies and his administration will continue investigating.
The president thanked law enforcement and sent prayers to the family of slain 26-year-old MIT police office Sean Collier as well as the other victims. Obama also admonished people who had jumped to conclusions on Twitter and elsewhere.
“There is a temptation to latch on to any bit of information, sometimes to jump to conclusions. ... It’s important that we do this right. ... That’s why we have investigations. That’s why we relentlessly gather the facts. That’s why we have courts. That’s why we take care not to rush to judgment. Not about the motivations of these individuals, certainly not about entire groups of people.”
Obama said the United States welcomes people from all religions and all ethnicities and should sustain that spirit. Other leaders weighed in with praise as well.
“Tonight, the thanks of a grateful nation go out to every single federal, state, and local law enforcement official who went above and beyond to apprehend the Boston bombing suspect,” Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, said in a statement. “This has been a long day and a long week, but along the way we have gained many examples of courage and character. Humbled and inspired, let us now turn all our thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families.”
Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., added: “We have marveled at the coordination, skill, and bravery of military, intelligence, and law enforcement officials at every level — from federal agents to suburban beat cops to the campus police officer at MIT who gave his life in the line of duty. Brave Americans serve us every day to thwart and prevent such attacks. We owe them a profound debt.”
A controversy already was brewing, however, with Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., urging that the suspect be held as an enemy combatant.
“It is clear the events we have seen over the past few days in Boston were an attempt to kill American citizens and terrorize a major American city. The accused perpetrators of these acts were not common criminals attempting to profit from a criminal enterprise, but terrorist trying to injure, maim, and kill innocent Americans,” they said in a joint statement. “Now that the suspect is in custody, the last thing we should want is for him to remain silent. It is absolutely vital the suspect be questioned for intelligence gathering purposes. ... The least of our worries is a criminal trial which will likely be held years from now.”
Obama also made his first public remarks about the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas. The people there “are not forgotten,” he said, and will have all the resources they need. He added, “All in all this has been a tough week, but we’ve seen the character of our country once more.”