A Tale of Two Speeches

by: Chris Blask

Fri May 22, 2009 at 13:34:55 PM EDT

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going the other way.

Other than that, President Obama and Dick Cheney were in complete agreement in their speeches yesterday on torture and Guantanamo Bay.

Chris Blask :: A Tale of Two Speeches
After opening with a statement about the steps being taken to keep America safe from the set of enemies who presented themselves on 9/11/2001, President Obama said the following:

But I believe with every fiber of my being that in the long run we also cannot keep this country safe unless we enlist the power of our most fundamental values.  The documents that we hold in this very hall -- the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights -- these are not simply words written into aging parchment.  They are the foundation of liberty and justice in this country, and a light that shines for all who seek freedom, fairness, equality, and dignity around the world.

The President went on to give his thoughts on how we lost sight of these values.  He did so in a way that put responsibility for that loss on all of us, while lending understanding to all of us for this failure:

And during this season of fear, too many of us -- Democrats and Republicans, politicians, journalists, and citizens -- fell silent.

In other words, we went off course.  And this is not my assessment alone.  It was an assessment that was shared by the American people who nominated candidates for President from both major parties who, despite our many differences, called for a new approach -- one that rejected torture and one that recognized the imperative of closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay.

The President was not all conciliatory, he placed blame for the choices made squarely on the shoulders of the people at the helm in the previous administration but he did not demonize them.  He spoke with firmness and conviction, took responsibility for the safety of the country, laid out his plans for unwinding Gitmo including some issues that aren't going to make anyone happy and then took responsibility for those decisions, too.

In response to this, former Vice President Cheney began by joking about the overly-long 19-minute speech by the President then launched into a 34-minute accusation of idiocy, cowardice and treason on anyone who does not agree with him: including the sitting President, your humble author and hundreds of millions of American citizens.  The thesis of Mr. Cheney's speech is summed up well in this paragraph:

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 ... and not sufficient to justify a sustained wartime effort.

No, Mr. Cheney, this very much is not the debate.   In fact, to cast the debater as a "Those Who Love
America vs. Those Who Hate America cage-match" is incredibly insulting and not worthy of any person who has ever held your former office.  You are not insulting the President of the United States, you are insulting at least one hundred million American citizens who strongly believe that torture is not necessary or permissible in our efforts to defend our country (and who believe that what you did was in fact torture).  You dishonor at least another hundred million Americans who are deeply conflicted about how far is too far to go in efforts to defend their country.  You even condescend to those Americans who agree with your methods by assuming that they will be incapable of discerning that the debate was not as simple as whether or not their friends and family hate their country.  I voted for you once, Mr. Cheney.   You continue to make me feel dirty for doing so.

The speeches.

President Obama:

Mr. Cheney:

oops, sorry...

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I can't help but think (2.00 / 2)
that the media legitimizing Cheney's point of view has ended any chance we had of prosecuting him for torture. There is no doubt in my mind a prosecution would be spun as "Democrats trying to silence the opposition"

The media has told the country "It's ok to break the law, so long as you have a REALLY good reason"

He had a crap reason, and he explains it as well as Mike Tyson. (2.00 / 4)
I find it hard to believe that "you're a wimp" is held as being good rationale.

In 2004 it was a matter of choosing a great deal of change during a very weird time or, well, not.  I chose "not" though now I wish Kerry had done a better job convincing me.  Bush is just not as bad a person as Cheney, Cheney is a malignant and evil man.  If he had been the face of the ticket in 2004 I would have voted for almost anyone instead.

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
Too bad the media is portraying him (2.00 / 2)
as the loyal opposition and the criminal that he is.  

[ Parent ]
Dick is (2.00 / 5)
doing his best to spin this as a difference of opinion. He has to, otherwise, he may wind up with charges filed, and not just here. At this point, he's fighting not just a cause, but for his own ass.

He and his justified a great deal of wrong, and not for the sake of country, but for power, and for the handfuls of cash that would result to hand out to friends and fellow travelers. Calling it anything else belittles the sacrifice of so many, and only does his work for him: to spin this in a light that makes him into a folk hero to those who were gulled.

Nothing more. And certainly, nothing less.

[ Parent ]
Yeah and the media is buying into it (2.00 / 1)
If there was any justice in the world, the media wouldn't be giving him this attention and helping him save his ass.

But they are.

[ Parent ]
Some in the media are treating him seriously (2.00 / 3)
but others are calling it differently. David Brooks, for example, doesn't cut Cheney any slack in  his latest column.

If there was any justice in the world, the media wouldn't be giving him this attention and helping him save his ass.

That's one way to see it. Another way to view it is that the media is giving him enough rope to hang himself. I kind of like looking at it the second way.

Cheney has basically been reduced to the argument that torture works. That's all he has left. Unfortunately for him, that isn't all there is to the argument. I think he is mistaken if he believes a majority of the American people will agree that the ends justify the means.  

This is not a recession. It's a robbery.

[ Parent ]
But the majority of American people (0.00 / 0)
do agree that the ends justify the means, we've already seen in polling 50% agree with Bush's actions.

[ Parent ]
Would that be the 50% that voted for McCain? (2.00 / 3)
Oh, wait...

This is not a recession. It's a robbery.

[ Parent ]
Regardless, it's still 50% (2.00 / 1)
There's a huge number of people in this country who agree with Cheney...even his favorabilites have risen dramatically.

There's a danger here for us to think that people are just going to do the right thing and reject Cheney's point of view. This idea has hurt us for a long time. People are not just going to suddenly realize what's right and what's wrong and the more Dick Cheney and this minions are out there and the more they try to put a rational face on these policies, the less likely it is the American people are going to permanently reject them...nevermind support prosecutions.

[ Parent ]
Yeah, Cheney's favoribility has improved. (2.00 / 2)
Now he's viewed only slightly more negatively than Cuba. Woo hoo! I will be willing to bet that 90% of the improvement in Cheney's numbers comes from Republicans and the rest from conservative independents.

This is not a recession. It's a robbery.

[ Parent ]
At the end of the day (0.00 / 0)
the media is presenting his ideas and not criminal and rational and legitimate. This is a problem for anyone who thinks we can prosecute.

Basically, we're being told that it's sometimes ok to break the law

[ Parent ]
I don't understand this.... (2.00 / 4)
From everything I've seen, as people are given more information about what really has gone on in Gitmo, Abu Ghraib and all the other dark places of torture and rendition, they seem to be more appalled by it.

This is principle that cannot be parsed by one poll (let's not forget that 73 per cent and more approved of the Iraq invasion). Public opinion is only some kind of court of judgement over the long run, when all the information is out.

Regardless, this is a constitutional as well as moral issue. Something can be wrong even if a majority don't think it is.

My quick read of the videos: Obama is taking on the toxic heritage of Cheney, and fighting the battle of ideas: Cheney looks pretty shaky and uncomposed in comparison.

I think he's desperately trying to cover his ass. That tells me he's got a whole load more to cover up.  

The p***artist formerly known as 'Brit'

[ Parent ]
I've witnessed the opposite (0.00 / 0)
I told this story before...I was in a college classroom when the Abu Gihrab pictures came out and everyone in the room laughed and made jokes.

[ Parent ]
Anecdotes don't make history (0.00 / 0)
I'm sure there were douchebags who celebrate My Lai.  

The p***artist formerly known as 'Brit'

[ Parent ]
Pretty much (2.00 / 2)
This is a fella who never imagined that folks would actually call him on his crap. He never imagined that anyone other than Hillary would win--and he and his have enough on her, that she was a known quantity, and relatively easy to counter. Obama's win came as a rude awakening.

Right now, he HAS to be active in covering his ass, and moving the debate--because he can hope that it looks vindictive when investigations are called. He can try to wrap himself in the flag--and hope that people are dumb enough to fall for it.

Just because someone says something, doesn't mean they mean it. Timothy McVeigh's stated motives were to strike a blow against a government he thought was corrupt, and while Cheney may try to invoke the flag to cover himself, it doesn't hide the fact that he shat all over the Constitution and the ideals that this nation was founded upon.  

[ Parent ]
Or maybe you meant this (2.00 / 2)
Obama's own job approval ratings on national security are even stronger.  Nearly two-thirds (64%) approve of the job Obama is doing on national security (31% disapprove).  These numbers are actually stronger than Obama's overall approval rating (58% approve, 33% disapprove).

Further, despite former Vice-President Cheney's claims, a majority (55%) feels Obama's policies have increased our national security (37% undermine). By contrast, a majority (51%) feels President Bush's policies undermined our national security (44% increased).  

This is not a recession. It's a robbery.

[ Parent ]
Actually I was talking about this (2.00 / 1)
Six in ten people questioned in a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Wednesday believe that some of the procedures, such as water boarding, were a form of torture, with 36 percent disagreeing.

But half the public approves of the Bush administration's decision to use of those techniques during the questioning of suspected terrorists, with 50 percent in approval and 46 percent opposed.

"Roughly one in five Americans believe those techniques were torture but nonetheless approve of the decision to use those procedures against suspected terrorists," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "That goes a long way toward explaining why a majority don't want to see former Bush officials investigated."

Fifty-seven percent of those questioned don't want Congress to investigate Bush officials who authorized those harsh interrogation procedures, with 42 percent calling for action by lawmakers. Fifty-five percent also don't want a similar investigation by an independent panel.

[ Parent ]
But, as I have said before, I think you are reading more pessimism into these numbers than is warranted. (2.00 / 3)
What percentage of those who don't want investigations have that opinion because they don't want to derail forward progress, as opposed to not wanting investigations because they like to know that people are being tortured?

Moreover, how many of the people who don't disapprove of "those techniques" have not obsessed with the issue enough yet to decide they really don't approve of them?

I fall into both of those categories (the former, still, the latter, up until a few weeks ago).

The vast majority of people are not political bloggers and they don't watch CNN all the time.  Most people still have a hard time picturing American interrogators torturing people, most people still haven't heard that we convicted Japanese prison guards for doing exactly what Cheney ordered.  Most of them have no idea what "waterboarding" means.

Again, if Americans (or humans in general) are mostly scum, as you seem to be arguing, then you would be better off arguing for centralized dictatorial powers of some sort than any kind of democracy.  If I felt that way, that's the side I would be on.

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
I actually thought (2.00 / 1)
back in 2002 and 2003 that if national security would continue to be the top issue, we would end up a dictatorship.

and I think if it ever returned to being the top issue, we would again.

[ Parent ]
Nah, have more faith my friend. (2.00 / 3)
People aren't stupid, it only looks that way from time to time.

The Mancow video (top of reclist at DKOS, interestingly) is a perfect example.  Most people just can't picture having water poured on their heads as being torture.  It's a matter of context that confuses the whole thing, and that no doubt played a big part in Cheney's decision to use the method:

"If we use thumbscrews those pansies at Amnesty International will have a field day, so let's just say we're splashing their faces with Perrier instead."

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
The Mancow dude not thinking having water "poured over his face" (0.00 / 0)
was torture reminded me of Limbaugh slapping himself on the face and saying he was torturing himself.  I bet he'd change his tune pretty quick, too, if those folks did to him what they did to the detainees.  He wouldn't think it was such a joke.

I do hope the Mancow video gets some play.

"When Fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in teh stupid and waving a gun" ~ Esteev on Wonkette

[ Parent ]
Americans are clueless (2.00 / 2)
Most of them have no idea what "waterboarding" means.

I find this amazing. A few days ago, I actually heard a woman asking her husband what all this waterboarding stuff was about. He explained that it involved dripping water on top of the head. As he spoke, I couldn't resist jumping in, and described what it really is, and how the involuntary spasms of the larynx could force a tracheotomy, etc. The husband -- a nurse! -- just sat there shaking his head....

BTW, is there a link to a transcript of Cheney's speech? I watched the YouTube of Obama's, but I just can't listen to the Dick drone on for over half an hour.... Now that would be torture!


I love my country, but I think we should start seeing other people.

[ Parent ]
I should have made it more explicit (2.00 / 1)
but it is the "Dick Cheney" link in the diary (Obama's transcript is the link from his name).

But here it is as well:


John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
Conservative Talk Radio Host confirms: Waterboarding is torture. (2.00 / 3)

View more news videos at: http://www.nbcchicago.com/video.

In an effort to debunk the idea that waterboarding is torture, Eric "Mancow" Muller

"I want to find out if it's torture," Mancow told his listeners Friday morning, adding that he hoped his on-air test would help prove that waterboarding did not, in fact, constitute torture.

You're next, Mr. Cheney.

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

Better video (2.00 / 2)
HT to The Erratic Synapse at DKOS:

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
I caught Ridge's statements. (2.00 / 1)
Seems like an honest guy.

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
Many are not aware of all the facts. (2.00 / 3)
 Yesterday, I was walking past a pair of co-workers and I heard one decrying Democrats, (I quickly called out "thank God for Democrats). On my return trip I realized they were talking about torture. I called over that we executed Japanese for waterboarding after WWII, one tried to dismiss it, the other asked for details unaware that this was the case.
I suspect there are a lot of Americans who do not know all the facts who might consider this more partisan politics, and are just tuning it out.
  Cheney is appealing to the group of Americans who feel uncomftrable thinking ill of our country and really just want it to go away. If the Prsident doesn't decide to go after the criminals in a big way I think this will continue to be an issue for pundits and activist. The general public has too many things to worry about.  

Hardly anyone is aware of all the facts. (2.00 / 2)
Only political junkies - and of those pretty well only Dems (most Reps would not go out of their way to listen to arguments for the opposition) - have heard the most pertinent facts.  If most Americans could hear (clearly) just two points, I think this debate would be over:

o  We executed Japanese prison guards for waterboarding our airmen (and they deserved execution).

o  These guards were waterboarding our folks because they were trying to stop us from killing millions of their people and dropping nuclear weapons on them (and it still wasn't a good enough excuse for torturing people).

It doesn't matter what you are trying to stop - or whether it works or not - torture is unacceptable human behavior by American standards.

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
eh I don't know (2.00 / 1)
I used that reasoning before, along with others, and the answers I got were;

"But the Japanese did a lot worse things than waterboarding, so that wasn't the only reason"


"They deserved to be nuked, they were the bad guys"

There's an underlying problem here in that some people think anything goes for us because we're "the good guys"

[ Parent ]
Tell you what, I'll bet you $100 you're wrong. (0.00 / 0)
This is a long-term issue, but by the end of Obama's second term (yes, we're talking 2016) I'll bet that the issue is definitively decided in the court of public US opinion against waterboarding and torture.  I think it will be decided by the end of the first term, but I'm less sure it will move that quickly so I'll bet you $50 for that one if you like.  

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]
I'd actually be willing to take that bet (2.00 / 1)
I don't think there will be a consensus against waterboarding or torture ever.

[ Parent ]
What would you call a consensus? (0.00 / 0)
55-45? 60-40? 100-0?

This is not a recession. It's a robbery.

[ Parent ]
If by "consensus" (0.00 / 0)
You mean folks who have undergone or been trained, and those who have only passing knowledge and mistake it with the Chinese Water Torture, then yes, there will be folks who are ignorant. But that's true about just everything--ignorance happens.

But the real focus shouldn't be about the ignorant and those who know, but rather those who know, and choose to try to defend torture and shift the debate to cover their own crimes.  

[ Parent ]
You're on. Nov. 2016 look me up, (0.00 / 0)
I'm always chris@blask.org.  If I win you can send me a bottle of some local Roman indulgence. :~)

John Askren - "Never get into a pissing match with a skunk."

[ Parent ]

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