Experience Rules: Comments on the Obama v. Cheney Debate


I read through the speeches by Obama and Cheney. It was clear to me that Cheney outperformed Obama, in large measure, because Cheney knows what he is doing… 

The first thing I would say is that Cheney was perhaps too modest about the results of the tough on terrorist approach of the Bush administration.  Under their approach, Libya flipped to being a peaceful influence in the world and Iran dramatically slowed its progress on nukes. Unfortunately, I think it is sometimes difficult to claim credit for these successes, if only because we do not want to embarrass the folks who bent under U.S. pressure.  Nevertheless, it seems silly not to call attention to those who reacted positively to U.S. resolve now that Obama is charting a new, more dangerous course. In this vein, I do not think it is wrong to call attention to the two U.S. female journalists currently being held hostage in North Korea as evidence of Obama’s weakness. 

Next, Cheney was right to call attention to the persistence of terrorists who attacked U.S. interests prior to 9-11. The fact that we have been quite safe since 9-11 is remarkable evidence that the Bush administration did the right thing and that Cheney is right to suggest: “In the fight against terrorism there is no middle ground, and half measures keep you half-exposed.”

Third, Obama’s speech was timed to minimize the impact of Cheney’s words.  Cheney had scheduled the speech well in advance and Obama dropped right on top of it – on purpose – with the aim of lessening Cheney’s impact.  Obama’s effort looks all the more weak and defensive because of the role that Senate Democrats played in slowing down his plans to shut down the Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp by cutting off funding for that effort.  This was a huge embarrassment to Obama and he and his staff felt they needed to take public action.  Historically, this is similar to LBJ scheduling presidential announcements to undercut Sen. Robert Kennedy’s charisma, visibility, and campaign efforts. 

Finally, I was very pleased that Cheney used this brief moment of national attention to “leak” the truth about Speaker Pelosi.

“On numerous occasions leading members of Congress, including the current Speaker of the House, were briefed on the program and on the methods,” Mr. Cheney said.  He also pointed out: “Some members of Congress are notorious for demanding they be briefed into the most sensitive intelligence programs. They support them in private, and then head for the hills at the first sign of controversy.”  In my view, these comments show that Cheney is still on the job, protecting the United States.

Augustine 25 is the pseudonym for an award-winning political scientist.

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