Watch CBSN Live

DeMint: Obama "Has Downplayed Terrorism"

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., said he was encouraged that President Barack Obama talked openly about the "systemic failures" involving the attempted Christmas bombing of Northwest Flight 253, but criticized him for not focusing more on terrorism since taking office.

"The president has downplayed terrorism since he took office. He doesn't use the word anymore," DeMint told "Early Show" co-anchor Harry Smith. "He waited eight months to nominate someone as head of [the Transportation Security Administration] and then they wanted to rush it through without any debate or roll call vote. So the focus on terror as a threat is real important and I'm glad to see that the president has stated the goal of finding out what went wrong so we can fix it."

Umar Farouq Abdulmutallab, a 23-year-old Nigerian who was on a U.S. watch list, failed in his attempt to detonate an explosive device on the Amsterdam-to-Detroit flight, prompting intense scrutiny of the government's failure to identify him as a security threat.

Abdulmutallab leading up to the attack and his family took their concerns about his increasingly extremist religious views to the U.S. embassy in Nigeria in November.

Special Report: The Christmas Day Terror Attack

Months prior, the CIA began picking up information on a person dubbed "the Nigerian," but failed to make the connection to Abdulmutallab, reports CBS News chief investigative correspondent Armen Keteyian.

"It clearly is a problem with our intelligence system not talking to each other … we put homeland security together in order that these agencies would talk together and the fact that they're not on something that seems so obvious is disturbing," said DeMint.

But while DeMint chastised the president for , he faces criticism himself for blocking a vote on Mr. Obama's nominee for the post, police detective Erroll Southers.

DeMint has placed a hold on Southers because of concerns the new agency chief would allow TSA screeners join a labor union.

"When they move ahead with the transportation security head and say his stated goals is to unionize rather than to focus on security, I think it is something we should have a discussion about on the senate floor and have a roll call vote," DeMint said.

DeMint said the president "is more focused on coming through with a campaign promise to unions rather than keeping transportation security focused on the real security of American passengers."

More coverage from

Yemen, North Africa: Terrorism's New Home
U.S. Intel Lapses Helped Abdulmutallab
Obama: "Systemic Failure" Allowed Attack
DeMint: Obama "Has Downplayed Terrorism"
Napolitano: We Will Fix The System
Roommate: Abdulmutallab Shunned Women
Bomber's Yemen Link Mires Gitmo Closure
Somalia: Plane Attack Attempted in Nov.
Abdulmutallab Had Passport, Dutch Say
TSA Still Vexed by Explosives Screening
Did Abdulmutallab Talk to Radical Cleric?
Key Travel Agencies Lack Permanent Heads
Abdulmutallab's "Jihad Fantasies" Revealed
Behind the Abdulmutallab Security Breach
Tracing Bomb Suspect's Journey to Detroit

View CBS News In