The Seaford Republican has been talking, all right - with CNN, Fox, CBS, ABC, NBC, MSNBC and pretty much anyone in America with a television, keeping the Obama administration on the run over its terrorism policies and its handling of the Christmas Day bombing attempt of a Detroit-bound Northwest Airlines passenger jet.
Members of the administration have said this week that the airline security system failed. President Barack Obama said there were deficiencies in the system that would be fixed and the overall system strengthened.
"The system did not work," King told "Face the Nation" Sunday morning, in a pointed rebuke to U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano's televised assurances offered minutes earlier that the system had worked.
The following day, Napolitano conceded that the airline security system had in fact failed, allowing a Nigerian man with explosive materials sewn into his underwear to board the plane.
Speaking his mind
Not afraid to speak his mind, King the night before called CNN, asking why the president hadn't yet appeared on TV to reassure the public. By the time Barack Obama emerged from his Hawaiian vacation Monday to pledge a full investigation in how Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, 23, managed to walk onto the plane even though he was on a terror watch list, he was playing catch-up with King's critique.
King said he isn't just tossing the partisan football and strongly supports Obama's approach in Afghanistan and Yemen. But as former chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee and now its ranking Republican, King has found a home on media speed dials as the most vocal, quotable advocate for the "war on terror."
That phrase, so often on the lips of former President George W. Bush, expresses a philosophy toward Islamic terrorism rejected by Obama, who commonly opts for the word "extremists." And as the president, one year into his term, has had to defer his campaign promise to shut down Guantánamo, King has forcefully argued to keep it open.
'A state of war'
"He is not afraid to call this what it is: . . . a state of war," said Jeffrey Addicott, founder and director of the Center for Terrorism Law at St. Mary's University in San Antonio, and a supporter of King's stance. "He certainly has essentially been the sole voice out there that is following the premise to its logical conclusion . . . that we're at war, let's use the war toolbox."
Tuesday morning, King was on the "Today" show to urge that the bombing suspect be tried by a military tribunal - a position opposed by the Democratic chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.). Later, King revived his call for religious profiling of air travelers, telling Newsday, "it's common-sense screening.
"If you're looking for the IRA, you go to Irish bars and Catholic churches; if you're looking for the Mafia, you go to Little Italy; if you're looking for the Ku Klux Klan, you don't go to Harlem," he said.
As for that Senate race: Weary King watchers note he has floated the idea of a run before - against Hillary Rodham Clinton in 1999, against Charles Schumer in 2003, and again last year, when Caroline Kennedy was the lead contender for Clinton's seat. But this week, he rated his enthusiasm for a race against Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand as a "2.5" on a scale of 1 to 10.
"It's extremely difficult because Peter is enormously popular here on Long Island, but will that popularity translate to the $20 million he would need as a Republican to run a statewide campaign?" asked GOP consultant Desmond Ryan, who is skeptical about the party's promises of support.
If all the TV jousting has pleased Republican leaders, pollsters say it has had little effect on King's standing with voters outside his home turf.
Still, last weekend, stopping at the Melville Costco, King found himself swarmed by supporters urging him to run. He's put off his decision by another week.
10 ways Rep. Peter King would change U.S. policy, followed by Obama administration positions.
1 OBAMA SHOULD TOUGHEN HIS LANGUAGE.
"Part of his liberal DNA is that he does not want to use the word 'terrorism' unless he absolutely has to. That sends the wrong signal."
The administration has sought to cool the international dialogue on terrorism, labeling al-Qaida "extremists." Administration officials have used the word "terrorist."
2 SUSPEND THE ORDER TO CLOSE GUANTÁNAMO.
"What they're trying to do is put a square peg in a round hole - they are trying to find countries to accept these detainees ... virtually no countries want them."
As a candidate, Obama pledged to close Guantánamo by the end of 2009, but he has been forced by vari-ous factors to postpone the move.
3 DON'T USE CIVILIAN COURTS TO TRY GUANTÁNAMO DETAINEES.
"I would be trying them in military tribunals ... not under the rules of criminal procedure."
Attorney General Eric Holder has vowed several top 9/11 suspects could be tried safely in New York. Obama predicted decision would be validated when 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed gets the death pen-alty.
4 HALT CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIONS OF CIA INTERROGATORS.
"That is having such a destabilizing and demoralizing effect in the intelligence community."
Attorney General Holder launched a criminal investigation of CIA interrogators after the release of a classi-fied report.
5 END POLITICAL CORRECTNESS.
Excessive concern about anti-Muslim discrimination has hobbled authorities, preventing them from taking action on disturbing communications by Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan - the alleged Fort Hood killer, King ar-gues.
At a service for Fort Hood victims, Obama never referred to the Muslim beliefs of the Army psychiatrist who opened fire on them. "But this much we do know: No faith justifies these murderous and craven acts," he said.
6 SEND A BIGGER SHARE OF HOMELAND SECURITY MONEY TO NEW YORK.
Federal formulas send too much of the money to places where it's not needed, King says.
Local congressional Democrats have also complained that the city has received too small a share. For ex-ample, on Dec. 9 the metro area was allotted about $200 million of an available $2.7 billion from the federal government.
7 USE ETHNIC AND RELIGIOUS PROFILING OF MUSLIMS.
"Odds are, a Scandinavian grandmother is not coming to bomb the U.S."
Obama made a campaign pledge to ban racial profiling by federal law enforcement agencies, and his Web site currently says he "will work to ensure that federal law enforcement agencies do not resort to" the prac-tice.
8 USE WATER BOARDING.
"We did it three or five times and got a lot of information out of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. ... that has saved hundreds if not thousands of lives."
Last April, Obama announced that he had banned the practice of water boarding and considered it "torture."
9 ADOPT FULL BODY SCANNING AT AIRPORTS.
"There is a brief violation of privacy with the full body scan, but on the other hand we can save thousands of lives."
In June, the House - including most of the New York delegation - voted 310 to 118 to bar widespread use of full-body scanning technology, after it was opposed by civil libertarians.
10 BE MORE SUSPICIOUS.
Only 14,000 are on the "selectee" list, a subset of the intelligence database that targets some for more care-ful searches at airports.
For security reasons, the government has not said how it decides who goes on "selectee" or "no fly" lists.