[Pre-gaming...] I have just flipped on the live coverage of The One's speech on national security and my goodness - peevish Obama seems really irritated with us for expecting him to deal with these issues. As a good (and now abashed) citizen I almost want to send him some sort of apology note. Almost.
I will need to wait for a transcript but the line that struck me was something like 'I have no interest in spending all of our time relitigating the policies of the past eight years.' That sort of came with the job, though, didn't it?
MORE: Obama's defense of the release of the OLC memos is utterly phony. He argues that the memos don't give terrorists any useful information about how to resist US interrogation since Obama has already banned the techniques described in the memos. That makes a mockery of the panel he created (as part of the Executive Order establishing the Army Field Manual as the basis for all interrogations, including the CIA) that is studying the possibility of alternative techniques for the CIA; the panel is meant to report back in July.
Come July, the panel will recommend the alowance of certain enhanced techniques other than waterboarding, and the terrorists will be well informed as to what those techniques are.
SPOKEN LIKE A LAW PROFESOR: Obama declares he will run the Executive as a co-equal branch of government with Congress and the Courts. Another unilateral surrender!
CLOSING GITMO: Obama reiterates the pledge to close Gitmo, but I didn't hear any deadline. The Fierce Urgency of Someday.
DUELING CARICATURES: Obama characterizes the national debate as having divided us into two poles - the left believes that almost no national security issue takes precedence over transparency and the right has a view that can be summed as "Anything Goes".
Really? "Anything goes"? Did he actually read the OLC enhanced interrogation memos, which made it clear that lots of things wouldn't go?
As a rhetorical device, I am not sure how offending both sides is helpful.
And it gets better! President Answerman explains that 'these problems can easily be solved if we approach them with honesty, care, and common sense.'
So - are both lefties and righties lacking all three of those desirable qualities, or is it split somehow - maybe righties are dishonest but lefties lack common sense? Puzzling. Well, my common sense (and my WaPo) tells me that sometimes a rough interrogation can be both effective and fall short of torture - I guess I am either dishonest, careless, or foolish. Or all three!
DID I HEAR THAT CLOSE? In Obama's conclusion he says that national security must be a goal which unites all Americans. I don't think righties will quarrel with the goal, but I would have guessed that our friends on the left would have liked to see civil liberties get equal billing as a national priority.
MY SOUNDBITE: Lefties will loathe it, righties won't believe it. My caveat - "lefties" doesn't include a broad swath of the left. The Small Boys, Joe and Ezra Klein, will swoon, elevate, transport, or whatever they always do after an Obama speech. But I am betting Sully and Greenwald will fume.
[AFTER-ACTION: Sully is currently loving it - "At first blush, I find the balance near pitch-perfect - on detention, torture, interrogation and Gitmo". He wants a few days to ponder the gretness, and I can't wait for the second blush.
Greenwald opines that talk is cheap, which is troubling since talk is what Obama is all about:
Like all political officials, Obama should be judged based on his actions and decisions, not his words and alleged intentions and motives. Those actions in the civil liberties realm, with some exceptions, have been profoundly at odds with his claimed principles, and this speech hasn't changed that. Only actions will.
CHENEY'S SPEECH: The text is here. Visually, this is the expected mismatch. What bright light put Cheney in a death-black suit, or was that a deliberate Darth Vader tribute?
Cheney pounds the table for the release of the memos that marked the successes of the enhanced interrogation program, insisting we have only heard half the story. I see another Obama climbdown coming.
On enhanced interrogation, Cheney delivers the defense of the program and the CIA professionals who implemented it that the CIA would like to hear from Obama, but won't. A flavor:
Those are the basic facts on enhanced interrogations. And to call this a program of torture is to libel the dedicated professionals who have saved American lives, and to cast terrorists and murderers as innocent victims. What’s more, to completely rule out enhanced interrogation methods in the future is unwise in the extreme. It is recklessness cloaked in righteousness, and would make the American people less safe.
SOMEONE LIKED THIS:
But in the fight against terrorism, there is no middle ground, and half-measures keep you half exposed.
Moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!
Critics of our policies are given to lecturing on the theme of being consistent with American values. But no moral value held dear by the American people obliges public servants ever to sacrifice innocent lives to spare a captured terrorist from unpleasant things. And when an entire population is targeted by a terror network, nothing is more consistent with American values than to stop them.
As a practical matter, too, terrorists may lack much, but they have never lacked for grievances against the United States. Our belief in freedom of speech and religion … our belief in equal rights for women … our support for Israel … our cultural and political influence in the world – these are the true sources of resentment, all mixed in with the lies and conspiracy theories of the radical clerics. These recruitment tools were in vigorous use throughout the 1990s, and they were sufficient to motivate the 19 recruits who boarded those planes on September 11th, 2001.
The United States of America was a good country before 9/11, just as we are today. List all the things that make us a force for good in the world – for liberty, for human rights, for the rational, peaceful resolution of differences – and what you end up with is a list of the reasons why the terrorists hate America. If fine speech-making, appeals to reason, or pleas for compassion had the power to move them, the terrorists would long ago have abandoned the field. And when they see the American government caught up in arguments about interrogations, or whether foreign terrorists have constitutional rights, they don’t stand back in awe of our legal system and wonder whether they had misjudged us all along. Instead the terrorists see just what they were hoping for – our unity gone, our resolve shaken, our leaders distracted. In short, they see weakness and opportunity.
The enhanced interrogations of high-value detainees and the terrorist surveillance program have without question made our country safer. Every senior official who has been briefed on these classified matters knows of specific attacks that were in the planning stages and were stopped by the programs we put in place.
This might explain why President Obama has reserved unto himself the right to order the use of enhanced interrogation should he deem it appropriate. What value remains to that authority is debatable, given that the enemy now knows exactly what interrogation methods to train against, and which ones not to worry about. Yet having reserved for himself the authority to order enhanced interrogation after an emergency, you would think that President Obama would be less disdainful of what his predecessor authorized after 9/11. It’s almost gone unnoticed that the president has retained the power to order the same methods in the same circumstances. When they talk about interrogations, he and his administration speak as if they have resolved some great moral dilemma in how to extract critical information from terrorists. Instead they have put the decision off, while assigning a presumption of moral superiority to any decision they make in the future.
For all that we’ve lost in this conflict, the United States has never lost its moral bearings. And when the moral reckoning turns to the men known as high-value terrorists, I can assure you they were neither innocent nor victims. As for those who asked them questions and got answers: they did the right thing, they made our country safer, and a lot of Americans are alive today because of them.
Like so many others who serve America, they are not the kind to insist on a thank-you. But I will always be grateful to each one of them, and proud to have served with them for a time in the same cause. They, and so many others, have given honorable service to our country through all the difficulties and all the dangers. I will always admire them and wish them well. And I am confident that this nation will never take their work, their dedication, or their achievements, for granted.
Thank you very much.
THE SCORECARD: OK, lefties will loathe this speech since this is Dick Cheney, but righties will be enraptured.
Well, if Cheney can position this as Republicans defending the CIA against Democratic investigations and prosecutions, he will achieved one of his goals.
AFTERWARD: CNN ran dueling film clips on enhanced interrogation - Obama claimed that as Commander in Chief he has seen the intelligrnce and knows that the enhanced techniques were not necessary; Cheney defended them. Obama's obvious problem - he was dead-set against waterboarding before he was Commander in Chief with full access to the intelligence. What, is he a lucky guesser?