Today the American people were treated to an unusual spectacle today..what amounted to dueling speeches on national security.
President Obama's speech today was obviously a response to ex- VP Dick Cheney's defense of the Bush Administration's tactics after 9/11, the controversy over the closing of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and his selective release of previously classified memos detailing the enhanced interrogation techniques used to gather intelligence from terrorists like Khalid Sheikh Muhammed after 9/11. It was also a naked attempt to throw some red meat at his leftist base without having to actually do anything concrete.
The whole framework of the speech involved harsh attacks on the Bush Administration, whom he bluntly accused of breaking the law and came within a hair of accusing of treason. And after all that, he hypocritically said that he rejected the idea of 'truth commissions' and trials and wanted to `move forward'.
His speech began with the same old time-tested lie he used during the campaign, claiming that he 'for the first time since 2002' was taking the fight to 'the extremists who attacked us on 9/11 in Afghanistan and Pakistan.'
I can't imagine who he imagines our warriors issued a decisive defeat to in Iraq if not al-Qaeda. And the news that the war if Afghanistan hasn't been fought until now would certainly be news to our warriors who have performed so valiantly there.
The president went on to claim credit for energizing 'a global non-proliferation regime to deny the world's most dangerous people access to the world's deadliest weapons.' That would be news to Iran and North Korea, and an argument could be made that President Obama's ineffectual policies have done a great deal to encourage the spread of those deadly weapons to dangerous people.
As a matter of fact, as I remember, the last real progress in getting nukes out of the hands of potential terrorists came when Qaddaffi voluntarily terminated Libya's nuclear weapons program right after US forces in Iraq tossed Saddam Hussein into prison, and Qaddaffi was worried about being next.
Oh, but wait - didn't that happen under the evil Bush and Cheney regime?
Obama's central premise in the speech was that the Bush Administration 'lost its way' and 'went off course' in its efforts to save the country from another terrorist assault and thus violated our moral values, US Law and the Constitution.
He then went on to justify his policies on closing Guantanamo, releasing selective bits of classified intelligence memos, transforming military tribunals into ACLU circuses, handcuffing the executive branch by introducing new oversight and 'transparency' to the State Secrets Act and of course, banning enhanced interrogation techniques - although as Dick Cheney pointed out, he took care to reserve those techniques for his own use, just in case his assessment of the Bush Administration's security policy is mistaken, his outreach to the Muslim world doesn't quite work out like he planned and bodies start falling in the street again.
It was a blatantly political speech and an exercise in hypocrisy designed to play to his leftist base and alienate conservatives even further. The president criticized politicians in Washington for constantly He "pointing fingers at one another," but that's exactly what most of his speech was about - pointing fingers at the Bush Administration. It was one of the most despicable exhibitions I've ever observed in politics, a speech suited to the campaign trail but beneath the dignity of a sitting president.
So what did ex Vice President Dick Cheney have to say to all that? His full response is here , delivered in a non-polished plain spoken way that somehow worked better and rang truer than a polished orator constantly swiveling his head to read his stereo teleprompters.
Here are a couple of juicy excerpts:
Cheney is essentially calling Obama's bluff.As far as he's concerned, America's moral values never were compromised in the least.
You want to close down Club Gitmo? what exactly are you planning on doing with these people, and the ones we might capture in the future?
Looking for a middle ground in fighting terrorism? There is none, and half-measures end up in you being half exposed.
You want to hurt the country's security by selectively releasing classified memos? Fine, since that damage is already done,release the whole memos, so the American people can see the intel we obtained using these techniques and judge for themselves whether we were effective or not. What was that about transparency again?
Cheney put the terms of the debate succinctly:
Well over seven years into the effort, one thing we know is that the enemy has spent most of this time on the defensive - and every attempt to strike inside the United States has failed.
So we're left to draw one of two conclusions - and here is the great dividing line in our current debate over national security. You can look at the facts and conclude that the comprehensive strategy has worked, and therefore needs to be continued as vigilantly as ever. Or you can look at the same set of facts and conclude that 9/11 was a one-off event - coordinated, devastating, but also unique and not sufficient to justify a sustained wartime effort. Whichever conclusion you arrive at, it will shape your entire view of the last seven years, and of the policies necessary to protect America for years to come.
That's exactly it, in a nutshell. If you believe that America's ultimately to blame for 9/11, if you believe in your heart that we're not at war and that messy incidents like the World Trade Center bombings are 'man made disturbances' and best solved as a law enforcement problem, you look at it one way.
If you think that America is a force for good, that we were attacked by a vicious enemy because of whom we are rather than anything we've done and that we're involved in an ongoing war in which we have been supremely lucky not to suffer further terrorist attacks on our soil, you look at it another.
Or to put it another way, on the one hand we have a president in constant campaign mode looking to pacify his base while essentially voting 'present' and blaming any messy problems on his predecessors.
On the other , we have an ex-politician with a lifetime of service behind him and no further political ambitions addressing what he sees as serious lapses in policy that endanger the country.
History and events will prove one of them right.