No matter how you look at it, a missile launched 35 miles off the coast of California is a huge story. If the Department of Defense had come out and said it was some sort of test they performed, it would be nothing, but what makes this so important is that the DOD does not yet know what happened. Assuming it was not a US military test, there are only a few possibilities. It could be a sub based launch of a ballistic missile by a foreign power, or it could be a launch of a privately built missile.
Throughout the cold war, and the time following the fall of the Soviet Union, one threat our nation has always been under is the possibility of a ballistic missile submarine launching missiles off of our coast while submerged, offering very little time for response. To counter this, we have vast arrays of sonar nets and fast attack submarines tracking the movements of adversarial nations subs, or at least we used to. If a nation like Russia or China decided to test our vigilance, security, response time, along with their own missile systems, launching a missile 35 miles from our coast would be one way to do it. Unfortunately for us, this launch shows a total failure on our part and a total success on their part. More importantly, this is the most aggressive act of provocation in our history.
Late 1962, our nation came very close to a nuclear exchange with the Soviet Union over the construction of missile sites being constructed 90 miles off of our coast in Cuba. We stayed tough and the Soviets backed down. We came to that point over missiles 90 miles away. This missile was launched 35 miles away, that is just slightly longer than my commute to work. If this proves to be a foreign launch, what will our response be. How can we possibly ignore this slap to our face. Thanks of the events that led us to conflict in the late 19th/20th centuries. "Remember the Maine" led to the Spanish-American war. The sinking of the Lusitania led to our involvement in World War 1. The firing on a ship in the Gulf of Tonkin, Vietnam, led to our open involvement in that conflict. I would say launching a missile in our front yard is worse than all of these.
Suppose this missile was launched by some private enthusiasts. If that is the case, all of the technology used to detect missile launches was all for not. The message that sends to our enemies is just as strong as if they had tested it themselves. Now, while I hope I'm wrong, I find this theory to be unlikely. It is hard enough for a civilian to build a missile of this magnitude, but I think it would be many times more difficult to launch a missile on the open seas. Think of the launch platform being tossed about in the ocean. Think of the complex guidance system this missile would have to have to counter the effects of the ocean. And why would it take this long to figure out who did it.
The truth is that this missile launching is a failure. To me, it is like having your blankets ripped off your bed on a cold night. The idea of comfort and security is removed and we are exposed to a shock of how vulnerable we really are.