The foiled Christmas Day attack, carried out by 23-year-old Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, poses a tough dilemma for the president: Should he continue his family holiday in Hawaii -- an annual tradition for the Obamas -- or return to Washington?
The president broke from his vacation to reassure the public Monday afternoon, saying he has called for more air marshals and tougher screenings. The president so far has no plans to change his holiday schedule and he is being briefed at least half a dozen times per day, according to the White House.
Vice President Joe Biden is in the U.S. Virgin Islands, also vacationing with his family.
"I'm not one of these people that thinks the president has to be out there every time something happens, that's why he has people that work for him," ABC News consultant Matthew Dowd said on "Good Morning America" today.
But others said the president should have been at the front and center immediately after the incident and that he waited too long to address the public, all the while golfing, spending time on the beach, even playing a game of tennis before making his remarks.
"This was an assault on the United States, and it is important at a time like this that the president of the United States or someone in the administration with stature step forward," Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., the ranking member on the House Homeland Security said on CNN Sunday. "Whether it was President Bush or President Clinton or President Reagan, at times like this, the country looks for a leader. And I just feel that this administration is much more comfortable in talking about issues other than terrorism."
Democratic strategist James Carville said "Wild West kind of goofy statements" wouldn't have helped the public, but experts agree that the Obama administration needs to determine what went astray.
"If this review, which I'm very interested in -- and by the way, I think this is some kind of a fault we have in our security system -- and this thing should be taken extremely seriously but it's going to be what kind of security review we had -- when did the system break down," Carville said.
"This thing needs to be taken very very seriously and we need to find out what happened."
The first one, by the Transportation Security Administration, is underway. The terror-watch list review is still in the "gathering information" stage.
Meanwhile, Congress has yet to appoint Obama's nominee for TSA director, Erroll Southers, but White House officials expressed confidence in acting director Gale D. Rossides.