Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 20, 2009

THERE'S NO COMPARISON.... Tomorrow will feature two speeches on national security, one of which will matter. This piece, from the Politico's Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei, frames the two speeches in an unhelpful way.

President Barack Obama will attempt to regain control of a boiling debate over anti-terrorism policy with a major speech on Thursday -- an address that comes on the same day that former Vice President Dick Cheney will be weighing in with his own speech on the same theme.

The dueling speeches amount to the most direct engagement so far between Obama and his conservative critics in the volatile argument over what tactics are justified in detaining and interrogating suspected enemy combatants.

Look, there is no "duel." Setting these addresses up as some kind of book-end speeches is silly.

President Obama is the Commander in Chief in a time of two wars. He'll be delivering a lengthy speech about U.S. national security, his recent decisions on matters like Gitmo and military commissions, and where U.S. policy is headed.

Dick Cheney used to hold office, but he's now a cranky private citizen, who's taken it upon himself to undermine the current administration. He'll be speaking at a think tank about how right he thinks he was, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, and why he'd like to see the White House's decisions fall in line with his own.

One of these speeches is consequential. The other will be delivered by Dick Cheney. He may have been vice president, but compared to Obama's address tomorrow, Cheney's thoughts on national security are about as relevant as my thoughts on the issue.

Update: Mark Halperin loves this "Obama vs. Cheney" dynamic, doing two items on this, characterizing the speeches as some kind of boxing match between competitive heavyweights. Sigh.

Steve Benen 9:55 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (31)

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Comments

Well I think Cheney's comments will be more relevant than your's, Mr. Benen. Dick Cheney represents a viewpoint that you and I don't: that of a demonstrable failure in the arena of national security policymaking. I think it will be a very useful counterpoint to hear what an abject failure would do in the current situation and compare that to what the president intends to do.

Posted by: reader on May 20, 2009 at 9:56 AM | PERMALINK

On the contrary, Steve, your thoughts on the matter are relevant. Political power derives from the ability to shepherd the masses. Cheney is relevant in this debate -- he still has the ability to influence national opinion.


Posted by: m on May 20, 2009 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

reader - a "relevant" viewpoint would come from someone who isn't accused of war crimes - someone who didn't deny the policies he had in place, only to defend them now.

That said, I'm guessing C-Span will show the Cheney address.

Posted by: Danp on May 20, 2009 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

Once again, Politico demonstrates why it represents the failure of Village journamalism in microcosm: the emphasis on process and macho conflict over substance. And that Mike Allen is a GOP operative.

Posted by: Lee Gibson on May 20, 2009 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

Why hasn't any nationally known Democrat stepped up to remind Cheney of his own statement just a few years ago, that criticizing the president is unpatriotic? Why can't Durbin, Leahy, Franks, Dodd, Boxer, Feinstein, Feingold or somebody publicly spank Cheney?

Are they really so afraid of what the polls say, that the GOP still has the lead on national security issues?

Posted by: Lifelong Dem on May 20, 2009 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

the real insight from the piece is that there is no wrong you can do after being a "serious" politician of the GOP persuasion that disqualifies your opinions. Other than Newt Gingrich, there is NO public speaker today who has failed more abjectly that Dick Cheney. (As for W, he is not speaking and, you could argue, that the failed W administration was really a failed Cheney administration).

eric

Posted by: eric on May 20, 2009 at 10:03 AM | PERMALINK

Cheney is trying to manipulate policy outside of office, pure and simple- why isn't he just enjoying his "retirement"? Usually innocent parties don't jump in front of the spotlight like an arsonist returning to watch a fire they started.

Posted by: johnnymags on May 20, 2009 at 10:07 AM | PERMALINK

Please don't discourage Mr. Cheney from talking. The more he talks the more he implicates himself. Trust Obama to run the country; focus on encouraging Cheney to keep producing rope.

Posted by: Johnny Canuck on May 20, 2009 at 10:14 AM | PERMALINK

He'll be speaking at a think tank about how right he thinks he was, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, and why he'd like to see the White House's decisions fall in line with his own.

The sad, frustrating, and enraging thing is that, with some minor exceptions and fluffier PR packaging, the Bush/Cheney national security policy (complete with Constitution shreddin') is now largely the Obama national security policy. And, for the most part, the administration is rapidly backpedaling even from those minor exceptions (like the post-inauguration closing of Gitmo and freeze on military commissions). Those making excuses for Obama are just refusing to acknowledge the harsh weight of the evidence. And don't read Glenn Greenwald or Dan Froomkin, who (with some others) have demonstrated admirable intellectual consistency since the change in administrations.

Posted by: Marlowe on May 20, 2009 at 10:17 AM | PERMALINK

Rethug hacks. One of the presenters has a direct financial interest in keeping America afraid.

Posted by: SteveA on May 20, 2009 at 10:21 AM | PERMALINK

Cheney is relevant in this debate -- he still has the ability to influence national opinion.

..only because a Republican-wired media supports and encourages that influence. As with all things of this nature, if the situation were reversed we could hardly expect the breathless coverage of a former Democratic executive giving a similar speech.

It's their world, and we're just dying in it.

Posted by: Terraformer on May 20, 2009 at 10:27 AM | PERMALINK

Actually one of my frustrations during the time that Dems were in the minority was that views of the minority got little press. On the other hand, one of my frustrations today is that the views of the majority are getting little press (with the exception of when Obama himself speaks).

To date, the corporate press hasn't had much success with tidal wave of right-wing commentators and pundits, so they're now seking to dilute the power of the bully-pulpit by equating speeches by Republican leaders with speeches by the President. (e.g. Notice all the press that Michael Steele received with his speech to the RNC?)

This is desperation on the part of the corporate media, and until we stop watching them, it appears that they're going to continue to ignore the views that are now held by the majority (as well as the facts supporting these views).

Posted by: Chris on May 20, 2009 at 10:35 AM | PERMALINK

Mark Halperin loves this "Obama vs. Cheney" dynamic . . .

Mark Halperin is an absolute tool.

Posted by: Lifelong Dem on May 20, 2009 at 10:47 AM | PERMALINK

Speaking of framing news to create nonexistent conflicts, how about this doozy from an article in today's WSJ about the ape-fossil discovery:

Nonetheless, the latest fossil find is likely to ignite further the debate between evolutionists who draw conclusions based on a limited fossil record, and creationists who don't believe that humans, monkeys and apes evolved from a common ancestor.

Yep, the most widely read national daily really printed that sentence. Tomorrow I guess they'll cover the active debate over the flatness vs roundness of the Earth.

Posted by: Basilisc on May 20, 2009 at 10:59 AM | PERMALINK

I rather wish it was a duel between Cheney and Obama--who do you think is likely to win such a duel, given their relative skills at public speaking?

Posted by: rea on May 20, 2009 at 11:01 AM | PERMALINK

This piece, from the Politico's Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei, frames the two speeches in an unhelpful way.

You don't say.

Posted by: Gregory on May 20, 2009 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

And let us not forgot how different was the village response to Al Gore when, after waiting almost two years before offering comment on the administration that didn't actually win the 2000 election, but nonetheless was ushered into office by the Supreme Court and a supine media, gave the first cogent critique of the Bush insistence that an invasion of Iraq was the next logical step in his war on terror.

Al Gore was the fool, the fat fool, the sweaty fat fool - and let us not forget that among the media stars to do the framing was none other than Frank Rich, who wrote a column about Gore's reappearance on the national stage that managed not to mention his stance against the Iraq war and interpreted everything about Gore in all the Republican inspired tropes the media ran with during the election in what Sommerby has rightly called the war against Al Gore. And the later series of speeches Gore gave analyzing everything that was wrong with Bush's expansive definition of presidential power were treated with ignorant contempt by the village. Gore's anger was sweaty and crazed. Nor has a single one of these jerks ever offered a single word of apology or even of recognition that Gore was so far ahead of any of them in seeing through the corrupt incompetence of the Bush/Cheney administration.

Let's face it; Dick Cheney is their kind of guy - a fat head fool who thinks far too well of himself, a certified coward when it came to fighting a war of which he approved, who thinks that toughness is defined by a willingness to break laws and then lie about it. Cheney holds the mirror up to our media villagers, and damn, if they don't like what they see.

Posted by: Leah on May 20, 2009 at 11:18 AM | PERMALINK

Wasn't it Cheney some years ago that said the public gets their say every 4 years, implying it was time for the public input to cease, or that it was unpatriotic for the public to question the lunacy being presented to it?

Hey Cheney, find yourself a bunker with a big screen TeeVee; sit down, strap yourself in, shut up and hang on. You have been given more than your share of airtime and your time has expired. Enjoy retirement.

[queue waterboarders]

Posted by: Kevin on May 20, 2009 at 11:41 AM | PERMALINK

Steve, you obviously have this country confused with some other country -- one that has an infinitely more responsible press corps.

Posted by: Steve M. on May 20, 2009 at 12:00 PM | PERMALINK

Mark Halperin loves this "Obama vs. Cheney" dynamic, doing two items on this, characterizing the speeches as some kind of boxing match between competitive heavyweights.

It appears that political reporters are just wanna-be sports reporters that aren't good enough for the big leagues.

Posted by: qwerty on May 20, 2009 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

...who do you think is likely to win such a duel... -rea

Well, if the weapon of choice is shotguns, I'm going with advantage Cheney.

Posted by: doubtful on May 20, 2009 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

"This piece, from the Politico's Mike Allen and Jim VandeHei, frames the two speeches in an unhelpful way."

Not necessarily. If Cheney is artificially elevated to the position of Opposition Leader, I think that is a win for mankind.

Posted by: Ohioan on May 20, 2009 at 1:06 PM | PERMALINK

Sure didn't take long to see the bias unfold.

"Washington Monthly - A Must-Screed!"

And they can quote me on that, along with the other quotes they seemingly find necessary to rotate under their name. Methinks thou doth profess too much.

Posted by: Pocono Joe on May 20, 2009 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

"... all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding..." ??? I would say there is no contrary evidence; Cheney is correct, we have not been attacked since 9-11, Bush and Cheney's methods worked. Waterboarding is not illegal, torture is illegal.
By the way, Down with Socialism!!!

Posted by: Voteno on May 20, 2009 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

The author of this article flaters himself. Cheney has knowledge of classified information, so there is no comparison whose opinion (the author's of Cheney's) has more weight. Also, this is not a banana republic, as some liberals hope to make it. It is a representative democracy. As much as they want to silence dissent, 47% of the country did not vote for the Socialist-In-Chief. Cheney represnets an important voice for those who do not want to give Democrats carte blanche in running the country into the ground.

Posted by: riddy_d on May 20, 2009 at 3:01 PM | PERMALINK

To: M. Linburn,

Republicans Bush and Cheney failed to keep our nation safe on September 11, 2001.

Republicans Bush and Cheney failed to keep us safe after September 11, 2001 from anthrax attacks.

Republicans Bush and Cheney failed to keep us safe from two nuts with a gun sniping American citizens.

Republicans Bush and Cheney failed to keep our allies safe after 2001.

Republicans Bush and Cheney lied US into the Iraq War FUBAR.

Republicans Bush and Cheney misled American troops out of Afghanistan (where the September 11 attackers staged their attack) and into a country that didn't have WMD, was NOT part of the September 11 attacks, and was NOT a serious threat to US.

Because Republicans Bush and Cheney misled American troops out of Afghanistan, the September 11 attackers were able to reconstitute and metastasize into nuclear armed Pakistan.

Because of Republicans Bush and Cheney the September 11 attackers are now infecting a country with REAL WMD, not the fantasy WMD that Bush and Cheney used to lie US into the wrong war.

Republican Bush and Cheney's use of torture war crimes increased the September 11 attackers ability to recruit more militant extremists.

REPUBLICANS BUSH AND CHENEY'S WAR POLICIES HAVE INCREASED THE THREAT OF TERRORISM.

Republican Cheney's use of fear mongering is nothing more than domestic terrorism.

Republican Cheney is doing nothing but trying to keep out of prison for the torture war crimes he and Republican Bush's administration authorized.

Anyone that takes Republican Cheney seriously is a fool.

Posted by: News Reference on May 20, 2009 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

Cheney has knowledge of classified information

That argument would be more convincing if we hadn't seen Cheney use his so-called "knowledge of classified information" to fraudulently sell the Iraq war, and have it all turn out to be bougs.

Posted by: Gregory on May 20, 2009 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

Rea wrote: "I rather wish it was a duel between Cheney and Obama--who do you think is likely to win such a duel, given their relative skills at public speaking?"

I think if the teleprompter doesn't misfire then Obama wins. If he has to make comments from his head he's toast. I have to admit, he's the best reader I've ever seen.

I recall the press bashing Reagan because he had notecards. However, there is no questioning about having to read speeches verbatim, time after time after time?

Let me explain further. I don't recall who Obama was speaking to, but he had to stop his comments because the 'prompter repeated a section of his speech ("I've already done that part...move it forward..."etc) while that "idiot" Palin did her entire convention speech, being in front of millions for the very first time, while the prompter was malfunctioning and useless.

Posted by: Dwight on May 20, 2009 at 4:41 PM | PERMALINK

riddy_d: Cheney has knowledge of classified information...

Really? Dick Cheney, former vice president has classified information that the current president doesn't have? And Cheney "represnets [sic] an important voice"? While 47% of voters in the country didn't vote for Obama, the last I checked Cheney's approval rating, arguably a gauge of the number of Americans his worldview represents, was in the teens.

Dude, you can believe everything Cheney says if you want to, but you owe it to yourself to at least try to use a little reason now and then.

Posted by: chrenson on May 20, 2009 at 4:46 PM | PERMALINK

You have got to be kidding. Does everyone know that the United States of America under Dick Cheney was instituting a policy of torture that is equivilent or worse than anyone in human history?

We used modern medicine, the most advanced medicine in history, to keep these men alive so these mastubatory sadistic evil torture practices could continue the next day.

The argument Cheney and his minions made was that we torture our own troops in "SERE" training. That's it. That's the argument.

So, let me make this perfectly simple for your folks. The debate does not exist because the argument doesn't exist.

In "SERE" training:

1) Do we forcefully SHOVE feeding tubes down troops nose into their stomach with no Anasthesia, and then rip them out as hard as they can so the prisoner passes out from indescribable pain?

No.

2) Waterboarding was invented in medieval times. The victim suffers permanent brain damage. Permananet psychological damage. Broken bones. Lung damage. Liver damage. It goes on for 20-minutes or more.

Do you know how long our big brave troops last during "SERE" training?

How long -- answer the question dumb ass. 14 SECONDS on average.

With modern doctors and psychologists observing and monitoring the victim, these prisoners are kept artifically alive to endure it hundreds of times. Do you have any idea how sick this makes or medical establishment?

Do you realize even the CIA agents said this was torture but Dick Cheney told them to continue?

3).... what about the other torture methods we used? Breaking noses repeatedly. Beating people to near death for having an extra cup in their cell. Flushing their heads in the toilet again and again and again... Smearing shit from other prisoners on their faces again and again.

And by the way, a few years back one of our brave troops in "SERE" training tried the beating thing from our THUG SQUADS. He was told to cry out "red" to stop them when he had enough. They beat him so bad he has permanent brain damage and sued Dick Cheney. Remember? Hey war hawks... remember that one????? (*f-ing coward basards!)


My 3rd point can go on for page after page... but even if we stop here, it's torture. It's monsterous. And with the blessing of psychologists, lawyers and doctors, it's the worst we've ever been as humans. Worse than the Nazis.

Now, you're telling me this monster Dick Cheney is going to debate our sitting president. (The one whose Boy Karl Rove stole 6 million votes from and was going to electronically flip if that judge in Ohio didn't drag his now murdered buddy Mike Connell the computer hack that flipped elections for Cheney and Rove since 2000.... THAT MONSTER????

Folks if you serious support Dick Cheney you WORSE MUCH WORSE than the Germans in 1930's who allowed Hitler to retain power. You are so much worse and your God is very very very mad at you,.

Arrest Cheney. UN, please step in if Obama is too weak to follow the Constitution. ARREST HIM NOW.

Posted by: raaa on May 20, 2009 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

"Are they really so afraid of what the polls say, that the GOP still has the lead on national security issues?"
Posted by: Lifelong Dem on May 20, 2009 at 10:02 AM

There are possible alternative explanations, including but not limited to:

...as several posters have pointed out, the media are the propaganda arm of the same corporatocracy that owns and operates the Republican party. Giving that organ any means by which to take down Congressional Democrats and replace them with Republicans is genuinely risky, and the risk will increase if, G-d forbid, an act of terror fomented by extremist fundamentalist Muslims were to take place on American territory (as the Rethugs are clearly hoping).

...it's a truism that "money is the mother's milk of politics" (Jesse Unruh) -- and the money advantage is very likely still with the war profiteers.

A theory I haven't yet seen suggested elsewhere is that the Congressional Dem's are suffering from "learned helplessness." (If you took an intro psych course, you might remember the cute little kitten in the basket that couldn't control its own movements, and thus learned to be utterly passive even when unconstrained?) Details:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learned_helplessness

Finally, it's entirely plausible that Democratic pol's are just congenital punks.

Posted by: smartalek on May 21, 2009 at 3:46 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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