Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 21, 2009

A NOUN, A VERB, AND 9/11.... Now that it's over, Dick Cheney's speech on national security was clearly a mistake. It's been easy for the former vice president to show up on various news programs and attack the president, but today's appearance at a conservative think tank put Cheney in a position in which he had to present an actual vision. He would have been better off repeating talking point to Hannity and Limbaugh.

Note, for example, that Cheney referenced 9/11 25 times. It was enough to make Rudy Giuliani blush.

For that matter, the speech was striking in its lack of anything new or compelling. Even casual political observers probably could have sketched out the framework of the speech in advance, and been pretty close to the actual thing. Looking at counter-terrorism as a law-enforcement matter is a mistake; Obama, Democrats, and the New York Times are putting us at risk; except for all of the spectacular failures, Cheney's approach to national security was effective; torture is good, but releasing torture memos is bad; the rule of law is "an elaborate legal proceeding"; Obama is only worried about impressing Europe; and someday, historians will agree that Bush/Cheney was just terrific.

It's almost as if Cheney just grabbed a couple of copies of the Weekly Standard from January and pasted them together.

One of the concerns that stood out for me, though, was Cheney's frequent references to "euphemisms."

"Behind the overwrought reaction to enhanced interrogations is a broader misconception about the threats that still face our country. You can sense the problem in the emergence of euphemisms that strive to put an imaginary distance between the American people and the terrorist enemy.... In the category of euphemism, the prizewinning entry would be ... It's one thing to adopt the euphemisms that suggest ... "

Since when does Cheney find "euphemisms" so offensive? We are, after all, talking about the leader of an administration that came up with some doozies in the euphemism department.

"Terrorist surveillance program" is euphemism for warrantless wiretaps. "Enhanced interrogation program" is a euphemism for torture. Indeed, the previous administration used euphemisms as the basis for an entire national-security strategy: "war on terror," "weapons of mass destruction," and "mushroom clouds" were standards for quite a while.

Cheney probably thought it would raise his stature to speak after the president on the same subject. The strategy was half-successful -- he got the media to characterize this as some kind of showdown between relative equals. But the other half was a humiliating failure -- Cheney came across as a small, petty man, trying a little too hard to undermine the nation's elected leadership while salvaging some shred of personal credibility.

He failed.

Steve Benen 1:10 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (42)

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god damn dick cheney's shit-filled soul to hell.

liar
thief
mass-murderer
war criminal
torturer
criminal agst humanity
betrayer of his country

Posted by: neill on May 21, 2009 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

Steve Benen wrote: "Cheney came across as a small, petty man, trying a little too hard to undermine the nation's elected leadership while salvaging some shred of personal credibility."

Cheney comes across as a former government official who committed war crimes, and knows it, and is hoping to bamboozle his way to staying out of prison.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on May 21, 2009 at 1:16 PM | PERMALINK

But will media coverage call it a failure?

Posted by: howie on May 21, 2009 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

steve wrote that dick said "In the category of euphemism, the prizewinning entry would be .." but doesn't finish the sentence...what WAS the prizewinning euphemism??

Posted by: dj spellchecka on May 21, 2009 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

Note, for example, that Cheney referenced 9/11 25 times.

Why not? The so-called "liberal media" have given Cheney and Bush a free pass for the incompetence and fecklessness that led to the attack.

Posted by: Gregory on May 21, 2009 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

May the maggots of a thousand flies feast on the rotting, rancid carcass of this evil man for an eternity of anguish in the hottest place in hell.

Posted by: citizen_pain on May 21, 2009 at 1:20 PM | PERMALINK

"...trying a little too hard to undermine the nation's elected leadership..."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Yes, but the elected leader is a secret Communist Muslim that hearts terrorists. It's Cheney's patriotic duty to undermine Obama. Bill Kristol will tell you all about it.

Posted by: steve duncan on May 21, 2009 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

It's almost as if Cheney just grabbed a couple of copies of the Weekly Standard from January and pasted them together.

Cheney spewing boilerplate neocon bullshit? You don't say.

Posted by: Gregory on May 21, 2009 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

Good call, SA.

The next time Cheney sits down with the press can we hope his interviewer behaves like an actual journalist and asks him some questions about quail-hunting, Valerie Plame, no-bid contracts and falsified evidence, instead of letting him prattle out his stale self-serving falsehoods without challenge?

Posted by: henry lewis on May 21, 2009 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK


djspellchecka:

In the category of euphemism, the prizewinning entry would be a recent editorial in a familiar newspaper that referred to terrorists we’ve captured as, quote, “abducted.” Here we have ruthless enemies of this country, stopped in their tracks by brave operatives in the service of America, and a major editorial page makes them sound like they were kidnap victims, picked up at random on their way to the movies.

Posted by: Old School on May 21, 2009 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

The next time Cheney sits down with the press can we hope his interviewer behaves like an actual journalist and asks him some questions about quail-hunting, Valerie Plame, no-bid contracts and falsified evidence, instead of letting him prattle out his stale self-serving falsehoods without challenge?

SA will be the first to tell you that our "liberal" MSM will never do any such thing, and Cheney would never submit to an interview if he thought they would. They also let daughter do the same thing.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on May 21, 2009 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

The "media" should stick to what they do best: 'copter chases on the California freeway and Missing Blondes.

Won't you please come home, Walter Cronkite??????????????

Posted by: DAY on May 21, 2009 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

Cheney is a disgrace true, but to me the real disgrace is the media outlets who gave this terrible man an equal platform and (I think) more time to make his case than the President of the United States, who was elected in the biggest landslide in my lifetime. Cheney has not won the right to make such a display; why would they let him spew his bile for so long without interuption? I kept watching in fascination, waiting for someone to interupt him since he had nothing realistic or new to say. Of course I was watching CNN, so consider the source.

Posted by: Gracious on May 21, 2009 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

Now we all know the identity of the person to whom she was making a reference when Mrs. Checney said 'He is not a good man' after a Kerry Bush debate in 2004.

Thanks Dick for clearing that up.

Posted by: gregor on May 21, 2009 at 1:33 PM | PERMALINK

In the end, it will all blow up on him, he'll be exposed for the fraud he is.

He's exploiting the fear factor and speaks so simply "Do this or die" that it is quite appealing--


Much more so than Obama's 'Middle ground' approach which actually requires a brain
and perspective on what really works in the long run.

But Cheney is digging a deeper and deeper hole.

When Obama said he may lose his cool in the next 100 days, maybe he wasn't joking.

As in the campaign, he said he will not start any fights, but he certainly plans to be the last man standing in the boxer ring. (Or something to that effect). And that's precisely what happened.

Stay tuned.

Posted by: Insanity on May 21, 2009 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

speaking of euphemism, here's a good discussion of the Bush administration's use of this well worn rhetorical technique.

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/21199

Posted by: pacato on May 21, 2009 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

Let's see how our national papers of record are covering the speech of a popular sitting president and a former vice-president whose policies helped sweep an entire party out of office and into minority stauts in the span of two short years:

NYT Website: Obama as the main picture, with Cheney just below.

WaPo Website: Side-by-Side photos of Cheney & Obama playing up the feud.

Posted by: Shine on May 21, 2009 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

Cheney was not very visible during the Bush years.

Why? Because he was secretly setting up a miriad of ways to enhance profits for a select few, Halliburton for one.

He also deemed it crucial that NO ONE know how he crafted the Bush Energy Policy (or lack thereof!) because big Oil and Coal were making out like bandits.

He's basically saying that HE knows what's best for the US.

What will we do when an "event" created by the neo-cons scares us all back to Dick's Ways?

At this point, I just don't trust him.

And, he needs to be taken to task for being so mean to a sitting president.

Finally....Dick, you are out of power. And in your own immortal words...GFY!

Posted by: Tom Nicholson on May 21, 2009 at 1:42 PM | PERMALINK

Nature abhors a vacuum.

With Obama and the Democrats always on the defensive, a giant hole has been created in our political world and Cheney, the most offensive politician this country has created (nice try Joe McCarthy, you've met your match) has marched right in.

The President and the Dems had their moment, but now we are seeing the resurrection of all that is evil in American politics.

You want to get rid of Cheney? Name a special prosecutor and watch Rove and Cheney suddenly disappear from the scene. Keep playing these stupid "looking forward not backward" games and this is what you get.

Posted by: Joesbrain on May 21, 2009 at 1:44 PM | PERMALINK

mhr:

Though I don't comment much, I do read these boards regularly, and Political Animal commenters are more or less literate, even the trolls. We expect better trolls. Your "Hussein Obama" & "KSM" winning as a Democratic Senator are juvenile and generally weak. Son, you FAIL.

Now go back to what ever wingnut blog you came from.

Posted by: Shine on May 21, 2009 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

When Truman fired MacArthur for repeatedly disobeying orders, advocating for an escalation of the Korean War into a nuclear conflict with the Red Chinese, and destroying the President's cease-fire efforts with an ultimatum to the Red Chinese MacArthur came back and made his "old soldiers never die, they just fade away" speech to congress. It was the highpoint of his career. Wingnuts were ecstatic and wanted him to run for president.

By the time the Republican convention came around in 1952 and he made the keynote address in support of Taft he was washed up. Cheney just made that second MacArthur speech. He ought to go back to Montana. Obama can build a Supermax prison next door to his ranch so he can keep an eye on terrorists if he likes.

Posted by: markg8 on May 21, 2009 at 1:47 PM | PERMALINK

I heard no less an important pundit than Mark Halprin say that Cheney won the "debate" because he was talking in soundbites and Obama was trying to something much more difficult -- lay out a case. We know that pundits like Halprin think in soundbites. If they had wanted to think in complete sentences and lay out cases they would have gone to law school.

Posted by: Ron Byers on May 21, 2009 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

He failed.

Which means that the media will report it as a strong and powerful rebuttal to the President.

Posted by: qwerty on May 21, 2009 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

While I didn't watch either speech, I was thinking it was a mistake based solely on TPM's live-blogging of them. The Cheney recap was much more fun to read, which is never a good sign when you're trying to scare people.

Overall, I think Cheney made the same mistake McCain did with his green screen speech (though, I'm assuming, not the actual greenscreen mistake.) McCain thought he could increase his stature by hyping an otherwise unimportant speech into a duel with the speech Obama gave when he clinched the Dem nomination; but instead, all he did was make himself look insignificant in comparison. And while the green screen was a dumb idea, the "duel" hype really drew more attention to it than it should have gotten. I think the over-hype is going to hurt Cheney too.

And the problem is that McCain and Cheney are old school and know how to sound authoritative and look impressive. But Obama is a great speaker who works on a much higher level and really knows what the hell he's talking about. So when you go toe-to-toe with him (or speech-to-speech), he's just going to embarrass you. These guys need to realize that it's not enough just to show-up; you've got to actually be able to compete. And the fact that they imagine their gravitas is enough to challenge Obama in a speech-giving contest is strong evidence as to how entirely delusional they are.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on May 21, 2009 at 2:02 PM | PERMALINK

"Mommy, Mommy, I learned a new word today!"

Posted by: buddy66 on May 21, 2009 at 2:03 PM | PERMALINK

I heard no less an important pundit than Mark Halprin say that Cheney won the "debate" because he was talking in soundbites and Obama was trying to something much more difficult -- lay out a case.

Oh, god. Will these people ever pay attention? I think Obama proved quite conclusively last November that voters can understand nuance and don't require dumbed-down bumpersticker phrases to know who to vote for. Now if the media could do the same, we might really get the government we deserve.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on May 21, 2009 at 2:08 PM | PERMALINK

he got the media to characterize this as some kind of showdown between relative equals.

***************************************

This is so fucking wrong .. he didn't get the media to do anything ... the corporate media invented this story from the beginning ... all by themselves .. led by the corporate nazi called wolf blizter who was masturbating in fevered glee as cheney spoke ..

Posted by: stormskies on May 21, 2009 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

I probably don't need to tell you that Bill Kristol thinks Cheney won his battle with Obama in a knockout.

Posted by: Steve M. on May 21, 2009 at 2:10 PM | PERMALINK

Steve - You should have titled this piece like one of your old carpetbagger reports:

"I watch Cheney talk so you don't have to"...

Posted by: Ohioan on May 21, 2009 at 2:17 PM | PERMALINK

I probably don't need to tell you that Bill Kristol thinks Cheney won his battle with Obama in a knockout.

Phew! I would only be concerned if Bill "Wrong-Way" Kristol had thought Obama gave the better speech.

Posted by: Mnemosyne on May 21, 2009 at 2:19 PM | PERMALINK

Oh, god. Will these people ever pay attention?

Halperin? No. SASQ.

Posted by: Gregory on May 21, 2009 at 2:37 PM | PERMALINK

I thought Cheney's speech was a good one.

Posted by: Duh on May 21, 2009 at 2:50 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder why the right-wingers wanted to build this up to an epic showdown. It seems counterproductive to the party. Maybe they've forgotten, but Cheney is very unpopular. I thought Republicans were hoping he'd go away and let other people lead. By setting up a "Clash of the Titans," they're simply reemphasizing that he's the leader of the Republican Party. He'll be the guy they go to whenever they need someone to give a counterpoint to what Obama said, and given how little he's trusted, that'll just help build Obama's case. I don't think they've thought this through (I know, big surprise, right?).

Posted by: Jurgan on May 21, 2009 at 3:11 PM | PERMALINK

"So?"

Posted by: beep52 on May 21, 2009 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

Benen says: "Cheney came across as a small, petty man, trying a little too hard to undermine the nation's elected leadership while salvaging some shred of personal credibility."

So this is the new left-wing talking point? More personal attacks and the false notion that Cheney is trying to "undermine" the administration?

Apparently you didn't read the speech, because in it it cleary states why Cheney was speaking. He made it clear that the Administration is not being forthright and honest with the American people by releasing certain (redacted) memos, and failing to release others, that would prove the point of the whole exercise.

Nothing illegal was done. In fact, despite numerous attempts from Eric Holder to FIND something illegal, he comes up empty-handed. Because THERE.IS.NOTHING.

What fuels the left on this issue is pure vitriol and hatred for people who hold opposing political viewpoints. And that is NOT a basis for legal action...they are policy disagreements.

That's why this is a dead political issue for progressives.

But you keep trying to prove that America was wrong for interrogating three of the most dangerous terrorists in the world. Good luck with that one.

Posted by: Antwerp on May 21, 2009 at 3:45 PM | PERMALINK

""I wonder why the right-wingers wanted to build this up to an epic showdown. It seems counterproductive to the party""

Obama could end this today, if he releases ALL of the relevant memos.

But he won't, not on his own accord anyway. They would blow the whole "interrogations were wrong" argument right out of the Potomac.

Posted by: Antwerp on May 21, 2009 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

Steve,
You should really rethink the implicit trust you put in JournoList. They will make you look like a fool everytime.

Benen writes: "Cheney probably thought it would raise his stature to speak after the president on the same subject. The strategy was half-successful -- "

Cheney's speech was scheduled long before Obama scheduled his, so, in fact, this whole "comparison" dustup is Obama's fault. WTF was he thinking?

Posted by: Grimm on May 21, 2009 at 3:58 PM | PERMALINK

Yep, SA nailed it; DickHead is going on the stump to stay out of prison. Antwerp, thanks for driving by; try to add something next time.

As a Buffalonian, I cringe when WBlitzer comes on; oh, for the days of Tim Russert.

Posted by: Ken on May 21, 2009 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

President Obama should now realize that, despite his desire to move forward, Dick Cheney is not going to allow that to happen. The gloves are off. Cheney's speech today in front of his conservative friends at AEI displayed the true character of the man-- deceitful, disgraceful, destructive, disrespectful, dark, and delusional.

The wheezing, gasping, coughing, snarling Prince of Darkness seemed hell bent to continue to defend his paranoia, lies, and crimes. Cheney is a zealot who preyed on the post 9/11 fears and anxieties of the American people to defy the Constitution and the Geneva Conventions, bend our laws, and destroy our system of checks and balances in order to advance the conservative agenda. These actions violated our moral authority and values and made America less safe. He continues to lie about an Iraq/al Qaeda connection and Hussein's WMD/BMD. For years, he lied about rendition, detention, and torture and still insists that torture produced valuable intelligence. Clearly, Dick the Torturer is a sick, pathetic, warped and dangerous human being.

It's time to require Cheney and the rest of the Bush/Cheney cabal to testify UNDER OATH. No more protection under executive immunity or national security. It's time for the Senate investigation to be completed and released. It's time for Eric Holder to appoint a special presecutor to investigate the crimes of the Bush administration.

Posted by: Carol A on May 21, 2009 at 6:24 PM | PERMALINK

ewwww. i've wandered into some sort of conspiracy theory nuthouse.

must get out before the crazies realize i'm not one of them.

ahhh they've spotted me!!!

ummmm... cheney!! contrails!! halliburton!! inside job!! fascist!! war criminal!! underground bunker!! human rights!! pro-choice!! darkness spreading!! hope!! change!! yes we can!!

Posted by: bobby oshea on May 21, 2009 at 6:59 PM | PERMALINK
what WAS the prizewinning euphemism?? Posted by: dj spellchecka on May 21, 2009

"President" Bush

Posted by: MarkH on May 21, 2009 at 8:15 PM | PERMALINK

The thing you miss is that Dick resonates something fierce -- which is exactly why Obama lined up right next to a speech that had been planned for over a month.

and, btw, keep on hating him. Dick appreciates your hatred. He truly does.

Posted by: ellen on May 22, 2009 at 1:49 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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