Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

A Tale of Two Speeches

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.

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…


  1. nrafter530

    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”

  2. creamer

     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.  

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