Politico explains it (emphasis added):
Handling problems the Obama way:
There is a sense of déjà vu in the Obama administration’s response to the attempted terrorist attack on Christmas Day. A by-now familiar pattern has been established for dealing with unexpected problems.
First, White House aides downplay the notion that something may have gone wrong on their part. While staying out of the spotlight, the president conveys his efforts to address the situation and his feelings about it through administration officials. After a few days, the White House concedes on the issue, and perhaps Barack Obama even steps out to address it.
And then there’s a terrorist attack:
But the fact that the issue now is a terrorist incident — albeit an unsuccessful one — makes the stakes much higher, and the White House’s usual approach more questionable. That this test of his leadership comes while he’s on vacation in tropical Hawaii further complicates things.
That’s not the only complication. Mark Steyn ponders the difference between an “alleged suspect” and an enemy combatant:
There’s a difference between an alleged suspect (which is what he is is the president’s fantasy) and an enemy combatant (which is what he is in reality). If this were a war, we would question him about who he hooked up with in Yemen, who did he meet with in London, and maybe get a lead on attacks to come. Instead, the authorities, having issued the Knickerbomber a multi-entry visa, having permitted him to board the plane, and having failed to detect his incendiary unwear, now allow him to lawyer up and ensure that we’ll never know who he knew in Yemen or anywhere else.
The thing is, you have enemy combatants in a war. Defining it so would certainly not fall within the definition of “unexpected problems”, would it?
It’s much easier to resort to damage control in five easy steps.