Saturday, May 30, 2009
Yes friends, President Obama and First Lady Michelle had another of their famous "date nights" Saturday. Instead of clogging traffic in Washington, D.C. to visit a restaurant, they hopped on the Marine One helicopter to Andrews Air Force Base, jumped on Air Force One (a Gulfstream 500, not the 747) then flew up to New York City followed by TWO OTHER PLANES for staff and press (the 747 would have been cheaper).
Upon landing in New York several more helicopters, limos, vans, police, military and other staff were waiting to escort them to Blue Hill restaurant on Washington Place and later a Broadway play: 'Joe Turner's Come and Gone' at the Belasco Theater.
Imagine for a moment the "news" media reaction if President Bush had taken Laura out for a night in New York with half the Secret Service, the U.S. Military, New York's finest and the news media tagging along at taxpayer expense?
As it is, the only criticism one could find predictably comes from the Republican National Committee whose spokesperson, Gail Gitcho commented on the hard times facing Americans and the prospect of General Motors entering bankruptcy while the Obama's party it up. She added: "If President Obama wants to go to the theater, isn’t the Presidential box at the Kennedy Center good enough?”
It's bad enough that the taxpayers were left with a bill for hundreds of thousands of dollars for staff, security, military and police time. It's also the fact that all these people had to give up their Saturday night with their families to spend it so the Obamas could cause massive traffic jams all over New York inconveniencing thousands more.
But as we have all come to expect from Obama, what happens to the little people is of no consequence to him. After all, it's all about him isn't it?
This commentary in Pravda, the former official newspaper of the Soviet Communist Party has the leftward slide in the U.S. nailed!
American capitalism gone with a whimper
By Stanislav Mishin
It must be said, that like the breaking of a great dam, the American decent into Marxism is happening with breath taking speed, against the back drop of a passive, hapless sheeple, excuse me dear reader, I meant people.
True, the situation has been well prepared on and off for the past century, especially the past twenty years. The initial testing grounds was conducted upon our Holy Russia and a bloody test it was. But we Russians would not just roll over and give up our freedoms and our souls, no matter how much money Wall Street poured into the fists of the Marxists.
Those lessons were taken and used to properly prepare the American populace for the surrender of their freedoms and souls, to the whims of their elites and betters.
First, the population was dumbed down through a politicized and substandard education system based on pop culture, rather then the classics. Americans know more about their favorite TV dramas then the drama in DC that directly affects their lives. They care more for their "right" to choke down a McDonalds burger or a BurgerKing burger than for their constitutional rights. Then they turn around and lecture us about our rights and about our "democracy". Pride blind the foolish.
Then their faith in God was destroyed, until their churches, all tens of thousands of different "branches and denominations" were for the most part little more then Sunday circuses and their televangelists and top protestant mega preachers were more then happy to sell out their souls and flocks to be on the "winning" side of one pseudo Marxist politician or another. Their flocks may complain, but when explained that they would be on the "winning" side, their flocks were ever so quick to reject Christ in hopes for earthly power. Even our Holy Orthodox churches are scandalously liberalized in America.
The final collapse has come with the election of Barack Obama. His speed in the past three months has been truly impressive. His spending and money printing has been a record setting, not just in America's short history but in the world. If this keeps up for more then another year, and there is no sign that it will not, America at best will resemble the Wiemar Republic and at worst Zimbabwe.
These past two weeks have been the most breath taking of all. First came the announcement of a planned redesign of the American Byzantine tax system, by the very thieves who used it to bankroll their thefts, loses and swindles of hundreds of billions of dollars. These make our Russian oligarchs look little more then ordinary street thugs, in comparison. Yes, the Americans have beat our own thieves in the shear volumes. Should we congratulate them?
These men, of course, are not an elected panel but made up of appointees picked from the very financial oligarchs and their henchmen who are now gorging themselves on trillions of American dollars, in one bailout after another. They are also usurping the rights, duties and powers of the American congress (parliament). Again, congress has put up little more then a whimper to their masters.
Then came Barack Obama's command that GM's (General Motor) president step down from leadership of his company. That is correct, dear reader, in the land of "pure" free markets, the American president now has the power, the self given power, to fire CEOs and we can assume other employees of private companies, at will. Come hither, go dither, the centurion commands his minions.
So it should be no surprise, that the American president has followed this up with a "bold" move of declaring that he and another group of unelected, chosen stooges will now redesign the entire automotive industry and will even be the guarantee of automobile policies. I am sure that if given the chance, they would happily try and redesign it for the whole of the world, too. Prime Minister Putin, less then two months ago, warned Obama and UK's Blair, not to follow the path to Marxism, it only leads to disaster. Apparently, even though we suffered 70 years of this Western sponsored horror show, we know nothing, as foolish, drunken Russians, so let our "wise" Anglo-Saxon fools find out the folly of their own pride.
Again, the American public has taken this with barely a whimper...but a "freeman" whimper.
So, should it be any surprise to discover that the Democratically controlled Congress of America is working on passing a new regulation that would give the American Treasury department the power to set "fair" maximum salaries, evaluate performance and control how private companies give out pay raises and bonuses?... This only affects companies that receive government monies, but it is retroactive and taken to a logical extreme, this would include any company or industry that has ever received a tax break or incentive.
The Russian owners of American companies and industries should look thoughtfully at this and the option of closing their facilities down and fleeing the land of the Red as fast as possible. In other words, divest while there is still value left.
The proud American will go down into his slavery with out a fight, beating his chest and proclaiming to the world, how free he really is. The world will only snicker.
Friday, May 29, 2009
From the Washington Times:Readers may recall the political firestorm which descended on President Bush when he fired three U.S. Attorneys. Will there be a similar firestorm for the direct political interference in this case to protect voting rights of people who might not vote for Obama?
Justice Department political appointees overruled career lawyers and ended a civil complaint accusing three members of the New Black Panther Party for Self-Defense of wielding a nightstick and intimidating voters at a Philadelphia polling place last Election Day, according to documents and interviews.
The incident - which gained national attention when it was captured on videotape and distributed on YouTube - had prompted the government to sue the men, saying they violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act by scaring would-be voters with the weapon, racial slurs and military-style uniforms.
The career Justice lawyers were on the verge of securing sanctions against the men earlier this month when their superiors ordered them to reverse course, according to interviews and documents. The court had already entered a default judgment against the men on April 20.
People directly familiar with the case, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity because of fear of retribution, said career lawyers in two separate Justice offices had recommended proceeding to default judgment before political superiors overruled them.
Tensions between career lawyers and political appointees inside the Justice Department have been a sensitive matter since allegations surfaced during the Bush administration that higher-ups had ignored or reversed staff lawyers and that some U.S. attorneys had been removed or selected for political reasons.
The complaint said the three men engaged in "coercion, threats and intimidation, ... racial threats and insults, ... menacing and intimidating gestures, ... and movements directed at individuals who were present to vote." It said that unless prohibited by court sanctions, they would "continued to violate ... the Voting Rights Act by continuing to direct intimidation, threats and coercion at voters and potential voters, by again deploying uniformed and armed members at the entrance to polling locations in future elections, both in Philadelphia and throughout the country."
To support its evidence, the government had secured an affidavit from Bartle Bull, a longtime civil rights activist and former aide to Sen. Robert F. Kennedy's 1968 presidential campaign. Mr. Bull said in a sworn statement dated April 7 that he was serving in November as a credentialed poll watcher in Philadelphia when he saw the three uniformed Panthers confront and intimidate voters with a nightstick.
Inexplicably, the government did not enter the affidavit in the court case, according to the files.
"In my opinion, the men created an intimidating presence at the entrance to a poll," he declared. "In all my experience in politics, in civil rights litigation and in my efforts in the 1960s to secure the right to vote in Mississippi ... I have never encountered or heard of another instance in the United States where armed and uniformed men blocked the entrance to a polling location."
Mr. Bull said the "clear purpose" of what the Panthers were doing was to "intimidate voters with whom they did not agree." He also said he overheard one of the men tell a white poll watcher: "You are about to be ruled by the black man, cracker."
He called their conduct an "outrageous affront to American democracy and the rights of voters to participate in an election without fear." He said it was a "racially motivated effort to limit both poll watchers aiding voters, as well as voters with whom the men did not agree."
Don't hold your breath!
Now that Obama owns General Motors and Chrysler a very odd thing is occurring. Of the thousands of auto dealerships being forced to close it turns out that most of them have contributed to Republican candidates. Dealerships which have contributed to Democrats seem immune. Doug Ross and Joey Smith have the story.
More work needs to be done before I would say there is anything but a strong and suspicious coincidence here between closed dealerships and support for the GOP but those of us who are acquainted with the Chicago pay for play way of punishing opponents wouldn't be at all surprised.
But one thing we do know for sure is that Obama is causing tens of thousands of people who work at the closed dealerships to lose their jobs. To put that in human terms, I present this letter from a Dodge dealer whose franchise has been taken away:
Letter from a Dodge dealer
May 19, 2009
My name is George C. Joseph. I am the sole owner of Sunshine Dodge-Isuzu, a family owned and operated business in Melbourne, Florida. My family bought and paid for this automobile franchise 35 years ago in 1974. I am the second generation to manage this business.
We currently employ 50+ people and before the economic slowdown we employed over 70 local people. We are active in the community and the local chamber of commerce. We deal with several dozen local vendors on a day to day basis and many more during a month. All depend on our business for part of their livelihood. We are financially strong with great respect in the market place and community. We have strong local presence and stability.
I work every day the store is open, nine to ten hours a day. I know most of our customers and all our employees. Sunshine Dodge is my life.
On Thursday, May 14, 2009 I was notified that my Dodge franchise, that we purchased, will be taken away from my family on June 9, 2009 without compensation and given to another dealer at no cost to them. My new vehicle inventory consists of 125 vehicles with a financed balance of 3 million dollars. This inventory becomes impossible to sell with no factory incentives beyond June 9, 2009. Without the Dodge franchise we can no longer sell a new Dodge as "new," nor will we be able to do any warranty service work. Additionally, my Dodge parts inventory, (approximately $300,000.) is virtually worthless without the ability to perform warranty service. There is no offer from Chrysler to buy back the vehicles or parts inventory.
Our facility was recently totally renovated at Chrysler's insistence, incurring a multi-million dollar debt in the form of a mortgage at Sun Trust Bank.
HOW IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA CAN THIS HAPPEN?
THIS IS A PRIVATE BUSINESS NOT A GOVERNMENT ENTITY
This is beyond imagination! My business is being stolen from me through NO FAULT OF OUR OWN. We did NOTHING wrong.
This atrocity will most likely force my family into bankruptcy. This will also cause our 50+ employees to be unemployed. How will they provide for their families? This is a total economic disaster.
HOW CAN THIS HAPPEN IN A FREE MARKET ECONOMY IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA?
I beseech your help, and look forward to your reply. Thank you.
George C. Joseph
President & Owner
Mr. Joseph asks "HOW CAN THIS HAPPEN IN A FREE MARKET ECONOMY IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA?" Sorry George, those days are gone!
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Shortly after President Obama announced his nomination of Sonia Sotomayer to fill the Supreme Court vacancy left by retiring Justice Souter the "news" media chirped in cheerful chorus the line about Sotomayor's "compelling life story." With all the gushing going on in the liberal media over Sotomayor's modest upbringing it's no wonder they didn't find the time to explore her background and inform readers and viewers about Sotomayor's controversial views and decisions.
Conservatives may recall how the "news" media ignored the dirt poor story of Clarence Thomas or the immigrant to greatness rise of Miguel Estrada, whom President Bush nominated to the Federal Bench and Democrats filibustered.
Slublog writing at Hot Air contrasts the treatment Sotomayor received from the NY Times editorial board to that given Clarence Thomas:
NYT: Political considerations, life experience only good if we like the resultsAll that launched at Clarence Thomas and you didn't hear Democrats worry that by opposing such a hard luck story they might suffer policitally.
May 27, 2009
The New York Times editorial board has nothing but praise for Judge Sonia Sotomayor today, plus a frank acknowledgment of the politics at play:If Judge Sotomayor joins the court, it will be a special point of pride for Hispanic-Americans — as it was for Jews, blacks and women before them to see one of their own take a seat on the highest tribunal in the land. It will also bring the paltry number of female justices back to two. And as Democratic Party strategists have no doubt calculated, the selection could give Mr. Obama and his party a boost with a key voting group.In October of 1991, the editorial board had a much different opinion of such political considerations:The fault, in the end, is not that of the nominee but of the man who nominated him, the patron of little-known, untested or inflammatory appointments for offices reaching up to the Vice Presidency. By nominating this black conservative, President Bush serves a narrow partisan interest when the public has a right to expect him to nominate a lawyer or judge of proven distinction.The Sotomayor editorial has great praise for how Sotomayor’s life experience has shaped her judicial rulings. The day after Clarence Thomas was nominated to the Supreme Court, the Times dismissed his life experience because they didn’t like how it influenced his judicial philosophy:As the nation waits to learn more about Clarence Thomas, the questions will concern not so much his talent but his character. Even his rise from poverty and racial isolation will be less interesting than how that experience has affected his regard for other Americans and whether he understands how their lives and rights are affected by law and official action.The Times editorial board does display a double standard, but at the same time an appalling consistency to the belief that one cannot be a member of a historically aggrieved class and hold conservative viewpoints. To do so, in the minds of too many on the left, means you are fair game for invasions of your privacy, hate mail and in the case of Thomas, death wishes.
E Pluribus Unum, writing at Red State answers the question as to why the separate treatement of the two:
Why was Clarence Thomas dragged through hell in his confirmation process? Why was he called an Uncle Tom? Why was Miguel Estrada left to rot for over 2 years in a confirmation process, and held up ultimately by filibuster?
Oh, simple, really.
Thomas and Estrada do not believe they have some amazing wisdom that exceeds that of James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Martin Luther King, Jr. They see justice as equal justice under the law and colorblind. They see the role of a judge as impartial, bound by the Constitution and duly enacted laws. They see their role as a humble one. They look at people who are white, black, Latino, or Oriental, and they see people.
The left sees themselves as brilliant, the Constitution as an annoyance, the law a tool to secure power and control people. They look at people, and they see classes, races, and divisions.
Therefore they love Sotomayor, and hate Thomas and Estrada.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Within 45 minutes of the July 1st announcement by President Reagan that he had selected Robert Bork to fill a vacancy on the Supreme Court Senator Ted Kennedy took to the Senate floor and unleashed this fireball of hate. The speech was telecast live on national TV:
SEN. KENNEDY: "Robert Bork's America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens' doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution, writers and artists could be censored at the whim of the Government, and the doors of the Federal courts would be shut on the fingers of millions of citizens for whom the judiciary is -- and is often the only -- protector of the individual rights that are the heart of our democracy... President Reagan is still our president. But he should not be able to reach out from the muck of Irangate, reach into the muck of Watergate and impose his reactionary vision of the Constitution on the Supreme Court and the next generation of Americans. No justice would be better than this injustice."Imagine if a GOP Senator dared to say anything so vile and inflammatory about Obama's nominee Sonia Sotomayer?
Kennedy's speech above signaled the start of a new campaign by Democrats to actively oppose nearly all nominees by a Republican President. We all recall how Senate Democrats routinely obstructed President Bush's appeals court nominees and that then Senator Obama voted against both Justices Alito and Roberts even though he admitted they were well qualified.
Liberal groups even went so far as to demand that Democrats oppose the nomination of Miguel Estrada to the appeals court because "he is latino." Democrats went on to filibuster Estrada who after months of waiting finally withdrew his name for consideration.
No Democrat has ever paid a price for the "Borking" of a GOP nominee. None of their support in the Hispanic community was diminished by blocking the nomination of Estrada or any other GOP nominee.
I'm not suggesting that the GOP mount a filibuster of Sotomayor. It would likely fail. But I also see no point in allowing this nomination to proceed without raising the troubling issues her nomination entails.
Senator Schumer (D-NY) and the White House are both warning the GOP that we risk damage to our party by opposing Sotomayer. Considering that no Dem has ever been held accountable for the vile campaigns they have waged against Republican nominees I don't find their threat credible.
Let's have a fair debate that doesn't pull any punches. Surely Democrats aren't afraid the American people may learn some uncomfortable truths about Sotomayor or the President who nominated her?
Brit Hume Commentary on the High Value and Effectivenss of Former Vice President Cheney in Recent Debates
Well worth two minutes and thirty two seconds of your time:
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
You can already guess the confusion in the back rooms of those nameless "GOP strategists" the "news" media is always citing anonymously as the voice of reason within the GOP. No doubt the same gutless wonders who thought McCain would be the ideal candidate to appeal across party lines are fretting that an aggressive conservative opposition to the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Supreme Court will hurt the GOP's image with Hispanics, or women or moderates or some other splinter group the "strategists" think we should be pandering to.
As usual, they are WRONG. AGAIN!
The nomination of Sotomayor provides a perfect teaching moment for the GOP to illustrate once more the profound differences we have with Obama's plan to implement socialism with a smiling face in America.
Let Obama's minions scream that it's racist or anti-women to oppose a candidate whose views toward the judiciary are rooted in the soft bigotry of a New York socialist. GOP Senators must question her closely on her view that somehow an Hispanic or a woman from the housing projects in the Bronx of New York City would make a better judge than anyone who does not come from that experience.
But there are even more fundamental differences with Sotomayor which gives great advantage to the GOP. Sotomayor's claim that the courts are where "policy is made" is in direct contradiction to the U.S. Constitution.
Sotomayor's views apparently jive with Obama's judicial philosophy. He believes that judges should correct what he sees as the wrongs in society despite what the laws passed by Congress or the precedents of the courts would have us follow.
To sum up Obama's judicial philosophy in one phrase: he believes in judges that legislate from the bench. Republicans do not. And Americans in general share the GOP view. In at least one opinion poll 64% of Americans surveyed say U.S. Supreme Court decisions should be based on what is written in the Constitution not on some arbitrary, vague and extra-judicial idea of fairness. The idea that one could overlook the Constitution and impose personal opinions is a dangerous precedent to set for the Supreme Court. And it is a precedent that endangers the foundations of our freedom.
It's doubtful that Senate GOP leaders would want to mount a filibuster of this nominee, but if they did, they can cite the precedent set by then Senator Obama when he supported the filibuster against Justice Alito, even though he knew it would fail.
In fact, as a Senator Obama conceded that both Roberts and Alito were well qualified to be on the Supreme Court but he voted against them anyway on the grounds that he disagreed with their judicial philosophy.
This is a debate the GOP should welcome with open arms. And since Obama has proved what a winner it is to go against the political tide of the moment we should make full use of this opportunity to educate the majority of Americans as to what is really at stake.
We only lose if we fail to fight!
Obama played the race card, followed by the sex card and the liberal card today when he picked federal appeals judge Sonia Sotomayor as the nation's first Hispanic Supreme Court justice on Tuesday.
Was his choice a person to serve ALL Americans on the court or one specifically selected to advance the rights and agenda of specific groups and ideology? You decided:
- Curt posted the video of Judge Sotomayer declaring that courts are where "policy is made." That will be news to the Senators who review her qualifications.
- Sotomayer believes women are better judges. She said that women, particularly Hispanic women "would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male."
- Carrying that theme further she insisted that "gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging." She went on to add that "I wonder whether by ignoring our differences as women or men of color we do a disservice both to the law and society." So much for equality before the law!
This is only the start of what we know about her and there will certainly be more to come, both good and bad, in the days to come. For Republicans in the Senate the question will be: does she have the judicial temperament and qualifications to serve on the court? If so, most will likely vote for her. If not, they must oppose her vigorously.
Monday, May 25, 2009
Memorial Day first started as Decoration Day when citizens of the reunited Northern and Southern states began an annual observance of the 600,000 lives lost during the American Civil War. (history of the holiday here)
The Daniel Chester French Victory atop the Memorial to the First Division of the Army, the Big Red One, outside the White House (monument details here). Photo by Mike's America
So it is perhaps fitting that we take Lincoln's Gettysburg Address delivered at the dedication of the Soldiers' National Cemetery in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on the afternoon of Thursday, November 19, 1863 as the text for today. The battle at Gettysburg was the turning point of the Civil War and 7,500 lives were lost.
The invitation for Lincoln to speak was an afterthought to the organizers. They had already invited the famed orator Edward Everett to speak. Lincoln was invited to give just a few words after Everett spoke.
Everett's speech went on for two hours. (Remind you of anyone?) Afterwards Lincoln delivered these 272 words which history has remembered while Everett's speech is forgotten:
A few days later, Lincoln received a letter from Everett (original) which said:
The Gettysburg Address
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate... we can not consecrate... we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government : of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
--Abraham Lincoln, November 19, 1863
"I should be glad, if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes."Gettysburg Address read by Actor Sam Waterston:
Help Bugles Across America Honor Veterans
While you are enjoying the holiday, why not take a moment to honor veterans this Memorial Day with a contribution to Bugles Across America.
It's a group dedicated to making sure that veterans have an actual bugler at their funeral, and not a recording. They have volunteers in all 50 states ready to provide this service but they need help. Many of the expenses have been covered out of the bugler's own pockets. A donation will make it easier for them to continue providing this service now and in the future. (CNN interview here).
On Friday, President Obama told the graduates at the Naval Academy:
"We uphold our fundamental principles and values not just because we choose to, but because we swear to -- not because they feel good, but because they help keep us safe."It was the culmination of a week of high minded Obama talk about national security and how his make nice campaign with the world promised peace.
On Monday, the North Koreans did this:
NKorea says it has conducted a second nuclear testAs Americans celebrate Memorial Day we are reminded that freedom isn't free. Many thousands of Americans have died to keep this nation safe. We are also reminded that weakness invites aggression and encourages evil doers. Peace and freedom are best maintained by strength, not weakness.
By JEAN H. LEE
May 24 11:47 PM US/Eastern
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - North Korea announced Monday that it successfully carried out a second underground nuclear test, less than two months after launching a rocket widely believed to be a test of its long-range missile technology.
North Korea, incensed by U.N. Security Council condemnation of its April 5 rocket launch, had warned last month that it would restart it rogue nuclear program, conduct a second atomic test as a follow-up to its first one in 2006, and carry out long-range missile tests.
On Monday, the country's official Korean Central News Agency said the regime "successfully conducted one more underground nuclear test on May 25 as part of measures to bolster its nuclear deterrent for self-defense."
The regime boasted that the test was conducted "on a new higher level in terms of its explosive power and technology of its control."
Seismologists from the U.S., South Korea and Japan reported activity shortly after 9:50 a.m. in a northeastern area where North Korea conducted its first nuclear test in 2006.
The Japan Meteorological Agency measured the seismic activity at magnitude-5.3. Quake expert Gen Aoki noted that its depth was "very shallow."
"The area is not active seismically so it is highly possible that it could be an artificial quake," Aoki said in Tokyo.
In Seoul, the Korea Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources reported seismic activity in Kilju in North Hamgyong Province—the same area where North Korea carried out a nuclear test in October 2006.
Seismological measurements back North Korea's claim that the test was far stronger than in 2006.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
The big news story of last week was the contest of dueling speeches between President Obama and Vice President Cheney. Video and text highlights of Cheney's speech are found here.
I've already pointed out how Obama hastily announced his speech at the National Archives standing in front of a copy of the U.S. Constitution at the same time as Cheney's long planned address at the American Enterprise Institute. In the wake of Democrats in Congress refusing to grant Obama a blank check on the disposition of terrorists held at Guantanamo Bay, Obama was clearly in a weak position. Made even weaker by the comparison to Dick Cheney's steady, solid speech.
While the cheerleaders in the Obama "news" media were full of praise for Obama's speech, there was plenty of counterpoint. Some highlights are posted below. If you read only one, read Rich Lowry's:
By Rich Lowry
Real Clear PoliticsMay 22, 2009
Put Barack Obama in front of a teleprompter and one thing is certain - he'll make himself appear the most reasonable person in the room.
Rhetorically, he is in the middle of any debate, perpetually surrounded by finger-pointing extremists who can't get over their reflexive combativeness and ideological fixations to acknowledge his surpassing thoughtfulness and grace.
This is how Obama, whose position on abortion is indistinguishable from NARAL's, can speechify on abortion at Notre Dame and come away sounding like a pitch-perfect centrist. It's natural, then, that his speech at the National Archives on national security should superficially sound soothing, reasonable, and even a little put-upon (oh, what President Obama has to endure from all those finger-pointing extremists).
But beneath its surface, the speech - given heavy play in the press as an implicit debate with former Vice President Dick Cheney, who spoke on the same topic at a different venue immediately afterward - revealed something else: a president who has great difficulty admitting error, who can't discuss the position of his opponents without resorting to rank caricature, and who adopts an off-putting pose of above-it-all self-righteousness.Obama has reversed himself since becoming president on detaining terrorists indefinitely and on trying them before military commissions. Once upon a time, these policies were blots on our honor; now they are simple necessities. Between the primary and the general election, candidate Obama changed his mind and embraced Pres. George W. Bush's terrorist-surveillance program. In recent weeks, he countermanded his own Justice Department's decision not to contest a court decision that would have led to the release of photos of detainee abuse.
A less self-consciously grandiose figure might feel the need to reflect on the fact that his simplistic prior positions had not fully taken account of the difficulties inherent in fighting the War on Terror. Not Obama. On the commissions, he explicitly denied changing his view, instead trumpeting cosmetic changes he's proposed as major reforms that will bring them in line "with the rule of law."
For all his championing of nuance, Obama comes back to one source for every dilemma: Bush, as though without his predecessor every question about how a nation of laws protects itself from a lawless enemy would be easy. Under Bush, according to Obama, we set our "principles aside as luxuries we could no longer afford." Even now, there are those - are you listening, Mr. Former V.P.? - "who think that America's safety and success require us to walk away from the sacred principles enshrined in this building." What a shoddy smear.
Excoriating Bush is good politics for Obama, which is what makes his repeated exhortations to look ahead so disingenuous. In his speech, he rued that "we have a return of the politicization of these issues." In other words: Dick Cheney, please shut up. But when did the politicization of these issues end? Has the Left ever stopped braying about Bush's war crimes?
Obama bracingly politicized these very issues on the stump, staking out unsustainably purist positions because they suited his momentary political interest. Now that's he's president, he wants the debate to end. He's above the grubbily disputatious culture of partisans and journalists. And he's above contradiction because, as ever, he occupies the middle ground, one "obscured by two opposite and absolutist" sides: those who recognize no terrorist threat and those who recognize no limits to executive power.
And there Obama stands, bravely holding his flanks against straw men on all sides.
Charles Krauthammer also weighs in:
Obama's Deeds Vindicate Bush
By Charles Krauthammer
Real Clear Politics
May 22, 2009
Observers of all political stripes are stunned by how much of the Bush national security agenda is being adopted by this new Democratic government. Victor Davis Hanson (National Review) offers a partial list: "The Patriot Act, wiretaps, e-mail intercepts, military tribunals, Predator drone attacks, Iraq (i.e. slowing the withdrawal), Afghanistan (i.e. the surge) -- and now Guantanamo."
Jack Goldsmith (The New Republic) adds: rendition -- turning over terrorists seized abroad to foreign countries; state secrets -- claiming them in court to quash legal proceedings on rendition and other erstwhile barbarisms; and the denial of habeas corpus -- to detainees in Afghanistan's Bagram prison, indistinguishable logically and morally from Guantanamo.
The genius of democracy is that the rotation of power forces the opposition to come to its senses when it takes over. When the new guys, brought to power by popular will, then adopt the policies of the old guys, a national consensus is forged and a new legitimacy established.
That's happening before our eyes. The Bush policies in the war on terror won't have to await vindication by historians. Obama is doing it day by day. His denials mean nothing. Look at his deeds.
Jay Cost writing at the Real Clear Politics HorseRace Blog goes line by line through the Obama speech pointing out how the man who campaigned as a post-partisan ideal filled the National Archives speech with the same polarizing rhetoric and attack politics he used to complain about. It was bad enough when Obama made a subtle reference to those who disagree with him on enhanced interrogations as un-American. It got much worse:
OBAMA: And we will be ill-served by some of the fear-mongering that emerges whenever we discuss this issue. Listening to the recent debate, I've heard words that are calculated to scare people rather than educate them; words that have more to do with politics than protecting our country.Accusing the opposition of engaging in scare tactics for political gain is a new low from a man who has done just that on numerous occasions.
Cost also points out how a large section of Obama's speech was devoted to Obama's favorite topic: talking about himself. Cost asks "How many more times in the next four years do we have to hear this kind of shopworn sermonizing?"
Fred Barnes goes back to Obama's blame Bush theme:
Obama Blames Bush
And gets into a scrap with Cheney.
by Fred Barnes
The Weekly Standard
While insisting "we need to focus on the future," President Obama devoted much of his speech on terrorist detainees today to denouncing the policies of President Bush's administration. He faulted everyone in Washington for "pointing fingers at one another," yet pointed his own finger frequently, and critically, at the Bush administration. Obama said America's problems won't be solved "unless we solve them together"--in a divisive and partisan speech certain to alienate Republicans and conservatives.
If any president has gone to such lengths to attack his White House predecessor as Obama did today, I don't recall it. True, presidents have blamed the prior administration for problems they inherit, but I can't think of a president who did so as aggressively and with such moral preening as Obama.
There was a reason for this. His speech was a dodge because when it came to the issue at hand--what to do with the 240 remaining terrorists imprisoned at Guantanamo--he had no answer at all. Instead, the best he could do was elaborate on the five categories in which his administration has pigeonholed the detainees.
Obama attacked the Bush administration for having set up the prison at Guantanamo in the first place to house terrorists seized after 9/11. But he didn't present an alternative. He didn't say what he would have done with those prisoners had he been president at the time.
Why give the speech then? Obama wanted to counter criticism for having decided to shutter the prison before figuring out what to do with the prisoners. And his tack was simple: blame everything on the Bush administration and dwell on the tough interrogation tactics the administration used on captured terrorists, tactics Obama said amounted to torture. He described his role as "clean[ing] up the mess" left by Bush.
Not only that, Obama blamed the Bush administration for violating the Constitution, for setting American "principles" aside as "luxuries we couldn't afford," and for failing "to use our values as a compass." And that was only for starters.
The Bush war on terrorism "likely created more terrorists around the world that it ever detained," he said. He cited no authority for that claim.
And this from Michael Goodwin:
Obama gets schooled on terror: Cheney bests him in speech duel — by sticking to the facts
By Michael Goodwin
New York Daily News
Sunday, May 24th 2009
It was a tale of two speeches. One was clear, direct and powerful. Barack Obama gave the other speech.
It would have been heresy to write those words any other time, so commanding has President Obama been with the spoken word. But the real Mission Impossible was to imagine that wheezy old Dick Cheney would be the speaker to best Obama.
Yet that happened last week, and I predict it won't be a fluke. From here on out, results will increasingly trump the sensation of Obama's high-toned lectures every time.
Especially if they are as dreary as last Thursday's, which was so disingenuous and self-reverential as to be one of the low moments of his presidency. Besides not being able to clearly lay out his plan for Guantanamo detainees, Obama never mentioned what will happen to others we capture in Iraq and Afghanistan. Perhaps we will take no more prisoners?
Meanwhile, the occasion showed that Cheney, the darkest of dark horses, is emerging as a fact checker in exile. With Democrats holding all Washington power, the ex-veep's willingness to challenge Obama's narrative of the war on terror is a poor substitute for an institutional check-and-balance, but it's all we have.
In that sense, Cheney's ability to outduel Obama could mark a turning point in the debate on this and other critical issues. His TKO over the President recalls the three most important things in real estate: Location, location, location.
The key to Cheney's powerful performance: Facts, facts, facts.
After conceding terrorism presents unique challenges, Obama argued "the decisions that were made over the last eight years established an ad hoc legal approach for fighting terrorism that was neither effective nor sustainable - a framework that failed to rely on our legal traditions and time-tested institutions; that failed to use our values as a compass."
Whoa Nellie - are the terrorists going to hit us again or not? That's what people want to know, not whether a bunch of lawyers think we're being too tough on them.
Unfortunately, Obama was less than reassuring, saying: "Neither I nor anyone else standing here today can say that there will not be another terrorist attack that takes American lives."
That's a fact, of course, but it's also a fact that he's been warned his policies will make it more likely we will be hit again.
It's a warning he dismisses at America's peril.
Finally, Toby Harnden, the U.S. editor of the British newspaper, The Telegraph, attended the Cheney speech and counted "10 punches Dick Cheney landed on Barack Obama's jaw." Of the ten, #3 strikes at the heart of the matter:
3. "By presidential decision last month, we saw the selective release of documents relating to enhanced interrogations. This is held up as a bold exercise in open government, honoring the public's right to know. We're informed as well that there was much agonizing over this decision. Yet somehow, when the soul searching was done and the veil was lifted on the policies of the Bush administration, the public was given less than half the truth."The Obama Administration continues to block release of the memos which Vice President Cheney asserts show how enhanced interrogations saved lives. If Cheney is wrong, why not release the memos and prove it?
The release of the documents was a nakedly political move by Obama and Cheney called him on it. This passage from Obama's speech today came across as completely disingenuous: "I did not do this because I disagreed with the enhanced interrogation techniques that those memos authorized, and I didn't release the documents because I rejected their legal rationales -- although I do on both counts. I released the memos because the existence of that approach to interrogation was already widely known, the Bush Administration had acknowledged its existence, and I had already banned those methods."
Meanwhile, Obama gave another speech on Friday!
Obama Repeats the Big Lie at Naval Academy Graduation
Upholding values will shield US from terror: ObamaObama has often suggested, without offering a shred of evidence, that places like the terrorist detention facility at Guantanamo Bay was a recruiting tool for terrorists. Close Gitmo he says and we will be safer.
Obama used the backdrop of the US Naval Academy graduation ceremony to argue that founding US ideals must guide the future battle against terrorism, a day after trying to quell raging debate over Guantanamo Bay in a major speech.
"We uphold our fundamental principles and values not just because we choose to, but because we swear to -- not because they feel good, but because they help keep us safe," Obama told 30,000 graduating navy cadets and family members.
"When America strays from our values, it not only undermines the rule of law, it alienates us from our allies, it energizes our adversaries and it endangers our national security and the lives of our troops."
Has anyone bothered to point out to him that ALL of the major terrorist attacks against this country occurred BEFORE Guantanamo Bay was open and all but the September 11th attacks occurred before the Bush Administration took office?
Once again, Obama's speech at Annapolis is yet another example of how the big lie gets told over and over and is accepted as fact by those who clearly don't dig too deeply for the truth!
Friday, May 22, 2009
Sobbing Kindergarteners Snubbed for Steelers?Can you imagine the press reaction if President Bush's White House had done this?
Kids locked out of White House; officials say they were too late
By ANNE REYNOLDS
Fri, May 22, 2009
Thursday was supposed to be the highlight of the year for more than 100 kindergarteners from Stafford County, Va. They got up early and took a chartered bus to the White House for a school field trip. But when they arrived, all the 5-year-olds got was a lesson in disappointment.
The buses from Conway Elementary arrived at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue a little later than planned, and they were locked out.
"We were going to the White House, but we couldn’t get in so I felt sad," 5-year-old Cameron Stine said.
Parents say they were just 10 minutes late for their scheduled tour. School officials say White House staff said they needed to get ready for the president's luncheon with the Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers, so they couldn't come in.
"I was angry cause they were disappointed," parent and chaperone Paty Stine said.
Parents say they tried to make it on time, but their chartered buses hit heavy traffic that slowed them down substantially. They thought they were supposed to show up by 10:15, but they say they arrived at 10:25 instead, and couldn’t get in.
"The person who headed this White House trip up came out and said, 'I’m sorry, the White House tour's off.' There were a lot of crying kids," parent Barbara Stine said.
"Here we have President Obama and his administration saying, 'Here we are for the common, middle class people,' and here he is not letting 150 5- and 6-year-olds into the White House because he’s throwing a lunch for a bunch of grown millionaires," Stine said.
Thursday night the White House released this statement: "The President and First Lady are dedicated to opening the doors of the White House to the public, and it is unfortunate to see young people miss a tour. The visitor’s office is already working to reschedule the group."
Parents say it's probably too late. The school year ends in a few weeks and they doubt the tour can be made up in that time.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Once again, it's important to note that former Vice President Cheney's speech had been scheduled weeks ago and Obama suddenly decided to give his adddress at the National Archives using a copy of the U.S. Constitution as a backdrop at the exact same hour Cheney's speech was scheduled.
For those short of time, a 3 minute review by Jim Angle of Fox News gives you the highlights (see right). Video of the entire Cheney speech follows with text excerpts posted after that.
Since most Americans are not likely to see or hear more of Cheney's speech than a few selected soundbites, I highly recommend sending this link to family and friends who may be less well informed on what truly are matters of life and death for every American.
President Obama delivered a hastily scheduled speech on national security this morning at the exact time that former Vice President Cheney had long planned a similar address. Obama wrapped himself in the aura of the National Archives standing in front of the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence and delivered yet another tiresome blame America, blame Bush justification for his own weakness.
For now, I'll cite just these few paragraphs from Obama's speech:
OBAMA: After 9/11, we knew that we had entered a new era - that enemies who did not abide by any law of war would present new challenges to our application of the law; that our government would need new tools to protect the American people, and that these tools would have to allow us to prevent attacks instead of simply prosecuting those who try to carry them out.What absolute rubbish! Did the American people vote to release terrorists into the United States? Did we vote to close Guantanamo? Did we vote so that our elected officials, who were too busy to read the bills they were voting on, could instead spend thousands of hours wailing about the waterboarding of JUST THREE TERRORISTS?
Unfortunately, faced with an uncertain threat, our government made a series of hasty decisions. And I believe that those decisions were motivated by a sincere desire to protect the American people. But I also believe that - too often - our government made decisions based upon fear rather than foresight, and all too often trimmed facts and evidence to fit ideological predispositions. Instead of strategically applying our power and our principles, we too often set those principles aside as luxuries that we could no longer afford. And in 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 recognized the imperative of closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay.
I could go on and on, but instead I'll let former Vice President Cheney respond by posting his remarks in their entirety. Emphasis on particular sections added by me:
As prepared for deliveryCheney's Poll Numbers Rising
Vice President Cheney
Remarks at the American Enterprise Institute
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Thank you all very much, and Arthur, thank you for that introduction. It’s good to be back at AEI, where we have many friends. Lynne is one of your longtime scholars, and I’m looking forward to spending more time here myself as a returning trustee. What happened was, they were looking for a new member of the board of trustees, and they asked me to head up the search committee.
I first came to AEI after serving at the Pentagon, and departed only after a very interesting job offer came along. I had no expectation of returning to public life, but my career worked out a little differently. Those eight years as vice president were quite a journey, and during a time of big events and great decisions, I don’t think I missed much.
Being the first vice president who had also served as secretary of defense, naturally my duties tended toward national security. I focused on those challenges day to day, mostly free from the usual political distractions. I had the advantage of being a vice president content with the responsibilities I had, and going about my work with no higher ambition. Today, I’m an even freer man. Your kind invitation brings me here as a private citizen – a career in politics behind me, no elections to win or lose, and no favor to seek.
The responsibilities we carried belong to others now. And though I’m not here to speak for George W. Bush, I am certain that no one wishes the current administration more success in defending the country than we do. We understand the complexities of national security decisions. We understand the pressures that confront a president and his advisers. Above all, we know what is at stake. And though administrations and policies have changed, the stakes for America have not changed.
Right now there is considerable debate in this city about the measures our administration took to defend the American people. Today I want to set forth the strategic thinking behind our policies. I do so as one who was there every day of the Bush Administration –who supported the policies when they were made, and without hesitation would do so again in the same circumstances.
When President Obama makes wise decisions, as I believe he has done in some respects on Afghanistan, and in reversing his plan to release incendiary photos, he deserves our support. And when he faults or mischaracterizes the national security decisions we made in the Bush years, he deserves an answer. The point is not to look backward. Now and for years to come, a lot rides on our President’s understanding of the security policies that preceded him. And whatever choices he makes concerning the defense of this country, those choices should not be based on slogans and campaign rhetoric, but on a truthful telling of history.
Our administration always faced its share of criticism, and from some quarters it was always intense. That was especially so in the later years of our term, when the dangers were as serious as ever, but the sense of general alarm after September 11th, 2001 was a fading memory. Part of our responsibility, as we saw it, was not to forget the terrible harm that had been done to America … and not to let 9/11 become the prelude to something much bigger and far worse.
That attack itself was, of course, the most devastating strike in a series of terrorist plots carried out against Americans at home and abroad. In 1993, they bombed the World Trade Center, hoping to bring down the towers with a blast from below. The attacks continued in 1995, with the bombing of U.S. facilities in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; the killing of servicemen at Khobar Towers in 1996; the attack on our embassies in East Africa in 1998; the murder of American sailors on the USS Cole in 2000; and then the hijackings of 9/11, and all the grief and loss we suffered on that day.
Nine-eleven caused everyone to take a serious second look at threats that had been gathering for a while, and enemies whose plans were getting bolder and more sophisticated. Throughout the 90s, America had responded to these attacks, if at all, on an ad hoc basis. The first attack on the World Trade Center was treated as a law enforcement problem, with everything handled after the fact – crime scene, arrests, indictments, convictions, prison sentences, case closed.
That’s how it seemed from a law enforcement perspective, at least – but for the terrorists the case was not closed. For them, it was another offensive strike in their ongoing war against the United States. And it turned their minds to even harder strikes with higher casualties. Nine-eleven made necessary a shift of policy, aimed at a clear strategic threat – what the Congress called “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States.” From that moment forward, instead of merely preparing to round up the suspects and count up the victims after the next attack, we were determined to prevent attacks in the first place.
We could count on almost universal support back then, because everyone understood the environment we were in. We’d just been hit by a foreign enemy – leaving 3,000 Americans dead, more than we lost at Pearl Harbor. In Manhattan, we were staring at 16 acres of ashes. The Pentagon took a direct hit, and the Capitol or the White House were spared only by the Americans on Flight 93, who died bravely and defiantly.
Everyone expected a follow-on attack, and our job was to stop it. We didn’t know what was coming next, but everything we did know in that autumn of 2001 looked bad. This was the world in which al-Qaeda was seeking nuclear technology, and A. Q. Khan was selling nuclear technology on the black market. We had the anthrax attack from an unknown source. We had the training camps of Afghanistan, and dictators like Saddam Hussein with known ties to Mideast terrorists.
These are just a few of the problems we had on our hands. And foremost on our minds was the prospect of the very worst coming to pass – a 9/11 with nuclear weapons.
For me, one of the defining experiences was the morning of 9/11 itself. As you might recall, I was in my office in that first hour, when radar caught sight of an airliner heading toward the White House at 500 miles an hour. That was Flight 77, the one that ended up hitting the Pentagon. With the plane still inbound, Secret Service agents came into my office and said we had to leave, now. A few moments later I found myself in a fortified White House command post somewhere down below.
There in the bunker came the reports and images that so many Americans remember from that day – word of the crash in Pennsylvania, the final phone calls from hijacked planes, the final horror for those who jumped to their death to escape burning alive. In the years since, I’ve heard occasional speculation that I’m a different man after 9/11. I wouldn’t say that. But I’ll freely admit that watching a coordinated, devastating attack on our country from an underground bunker at the White House can affect how you view your responsibilities.
To make certain our nation never again faced such a day of horror, we developed a comprehensive strategy, beginning with far greater homeland security to make the United States a harder target. But since wars cannot be won on the defensive, we moved decisively against the terrorists in their hideouts and sanctuaries, and committed to using every asset to take down their networks. We decided, as well, to confront the regimes that sponsored terrorists, and to go after those who provide sanctuary, funding, and weapons to enemies of the United States. We turned special attention to regimes that had the capacity to build weapons of mass destruction, and might transfer such weapons to terrorists.
We did all of these things, and with bipartisan support put all these policies in place. It has resulted in serious blows against enemy operations … the take-down of the A.Q. Khan network … and the dismantling of Libya’s nuclear program. It’s required the commitment of many thousands of troops in two theaters of war, with high points and some low points in both Iraq and Afghanistan – and at every turn, the people of our military carried the heaviest burden. Well over seven years into the effort, one thing we know is that the enemy has spent most of this time on the defensive – and every attempt to strike inside the United States has failed.
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 – coordinated, devastating, but also unique and not sufficient to justify a sustained wartime effort. Whichever conclusion you arrive at, it will shape your entire view of the last seven years, and of the policies necessary to protect America for years to come.
The key to any strategy is accurate intelligence, and skilled professionals to get that information in time to use it. In seeking to guard this nation against the threat of catastrophic violence, our Administration gave intelligence officers the tools and lawful authority they needed to gain vital information. We didn’t invent that authority. It is drawn from Article Two of the Constitution. And it was given specificity by the Congress after 9/11, in a Joint Resolution authorizing “all necessary and appropriate force” to protect the American people.
Our government prevented attacks and saved lives through the Terrorist Surveillance Program, which let us intercept calls and track contacts between al-Qaeda operatives and persons inside the United States. The program was top secret, and for good reason, until the editors of the New York Times got it and put it on the front page. After 9/11, the Times had spent months publishing the pictures and the stories of everyone killed by al-Qaeda on 9/11. Now here was that same newspaper publishing secrets in a way that could only help al-Qaeda. It impressed the Pulitzer committee, but it damn sure didn’t serve the interests of our country, or the safety of our people.
In the years after 9/11, our government also understood that the safety of the country required collecting information known only to the worst of the terrorists. And in a few cases, that information could be gained only through tough interrogations.
In top secret meetings about enhanced interrogations, I made my own beliefs clear. I was and remain a strong proponent of our enhanced interrogation program. The interrogations were used on hardened terrorists after other efforts failed. They were legal, essential, justified, successful, and the right thing to do. The intelligence officers who questioned the terrorists can be proud of their work and proud of the results, because they prevented the violent death of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of innocent people.
Our successors in office have their own views on all of these matters.
By presidential decision, last month we saw the selective release of documents relating to enhanced interrogations. This is held up as a bold exercise in open government, honoring the public’s right to know. We’re informed, as well, that there was much agonizing over this decision.
Yet somehow, when the soul-searching was done and the veil was lifted on the policies of the Bush administration, the public was given less than half the truth. The released memos were carefully redacted to leave out references to what our government learned through the methods in question. Other memos, laying out specific terrorist plots that were averted, apparently were not even considered for release. For reasons the administration has yet to explain, they believe the public has a right to know the method of the questions, but not the content of the answers.
Over on the left wing of the president’s party, there appears to be little curiosity in finding out what was learned from the terrorists. The kind of answers they’re after would be heard before a so-called “Truth Commission.” Some are even demanding that those who recommended and approved the interrogations be prosecuted, in effect treating political disagreements as a punishable offense, and political opponents as criminals. It’s hard to imagine a worse precedent, filled with more possibilities for trouble and abuse, than to have an incoming administration criminalize the policy decisions of its predecessors.
Apart from doing a serious injustice to intelligence operators and lawyers who deserve far better for their devoted service, the danger here is a loss of focus on national security, and what it requires. I would advise the administration to think very carefully about the course ahead. All the zeal that has been directed at interrogations is utterly misplaced. And staying on that path will only lead our government further away from its duty to protect the American people.
One person who by all accounts objected to the release of the interrogation memos was the Director of Central Intelligence, Leon Panetta. He was joined in that view by at least four of his predecessors. I assume they felt this way because they understand the importance of protecting intelligence sources, methods, and personnel. But now that this once top-secret information is out for all to see – including the enemy – let me draw your attention to some points that are routinely overlooked.
It is a fact that only detainees of the highest intelligence value were ever subjected to enhanced interrogation. You’ve heard endlessly about waterboarding. It happened to three terrorists. One of them was Khalid Sheikh Muhammed – the mastermind of 9/11, who has also boasted about beheading Daniel Pearl.
We had a lot of blind spots after the attacks on our country. We didn’t know about al-Qaeda’s plans, but Khalid Sheikh Muhammed and a few others did know. And with many thousands of innocent lives potentially in the balance, we didn’t think it made sense to let the terrorists answer questions in their own good time, if they answered them at all.
Maybe you’ve heard that when we captured KSM, he said he would talk as soon as he got to New York City and saw his lawyer. But like many critics of interrogations, he clearly misunderstood the business at hand. American personnel were not there to commence an elaborate legal proceeding, but to extract information from him before al-Qaeda could strike again and kill more of our people.
In public discussion of these matters, there has been a strange and sometimes willful attempt to conflate what happened at Abu Ghraib prison with the top secret program of enhanced interrogations. At Abu Ghraib, a few sadistic prison guards abused inmates in violation of American law, military regulations, and simple decency. For the harm they did, to Iraqi prisoners and to America’s cause, they deserved and received Army justice. And it takes a deeply unfair cast of mind to equate the disgraces of Abu Ghraib with the lawful, skillful, and entirely honorable work of CIA personnel trained to deal with a few malevolent men.
Those personnel were carefully chosen from within the CIA, and were specially prepared to apply techniques within the boundaries of their training and the limits of the law. Torture was never permitted, and the methods were given careful legal review before they were approved. Interrogators had authoritative guidance on the line between toughness and torture, and they knew to stay on the right side of it.
Even before the interrogation program began, and throughout its operation, it was closely reviewed to ensure that every method used was in full compliance with the Constitution, statutes, and treaty obligations. On numerous occasions, leading members of Congress, including the current speaker of the House, were briefed on the program and on the methods.
Yet for all these exacting efforts to do a hard and necessary job and to do it right, we hear from some quarters nothing but feigned outrage based on a false narrative. In my long experience in Washington, few matters have inspired so much contrived indignation and phony moralizing as the interrogation methods applied to a few captured terrorists.
I might add that people who consistently distort the truth in this way are in no position to lecture anyone about “values.” Intelligence officers of the United States were not trying to rough up some terrorists simply to avenge the dead of 9/11. We know the difference in this country between justice and vengeance. Intelligence officers were not trying to get terrorists to confess to past killings; they were trying to prevent future killings. From the beginning of the program, there was only one focused and all-important purpose. We sought, and we in fact obtained, specific information on terrorist plans.
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.
The administration seems to pride itself on searching for some kind of middle ground in policies addressing terrorism. They may take comfort in hearing disagreement from opposite ends of the spectrum. If liberals are unhappy about some decisions, and conservatives are unhappy about other decisions, then it may seem to them that the President is on the path of sensible compromise. But in the fight against terrorism, there is no middle ground, and half-measures keep you half exposed. You cannot keep just some nuclear-armed terrorists out of the United States, you must keep every nuclear-armed terrorist out of the United States. Triangulation is a political strategy, not a national security strategy. When just a single clue that goes unlearned … one lead that goes unpursued … can bring on catastrophe – it’s no time for splitting differences. There is never a good time to compromise when the lives and safety of the American people are in the balance.
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. Apparently using the term “war” where terrorists are concerned is starting to feel a bit dated. So henceforth we’re advised by the administration to think of the fight against terrorists as, quote, “Overseas contingency operations.” In the event of another terrorist attack on America, the Homeland Security Department assures us it will be ready for this, quote, “man-made disaster” – never mind that the whole Department was created for the purpose of protecting Americans from terrorist attack.
And when you hear that there are no more, quote, “enemy combatants,” as there were back in the days of that scary war on terror, at first that sounds like progress. The only problem is that the phrase is gone, but the same assortment of killers and would-be mass murderers are still there. And finding some less judgmental or more pleasant-sounding name for terrorists doesn’t change what they are – or what they would do if we let them loose.
On his second day in office, President Obama announced that he was closing the detention facility at Guantanamo. This step came with little deliberation and no plan. Their idea now, as stated by Attorney General Holder and others, is apparently to bring some of these hardened terrorists into the United States. On this one, I find myself in complete agreement with many in the President’s own party. Unsure how to explain to their constituents why terrorists might soon be relocating into their states, these Democrats chose instead to strip funding for such a move out of the most recent war supplemental.
The administration has found that it’s easy to receive applause in Europe for closing Guantanamo. But it’s tricky to come up with an alternative that will serve the interests of justice and America’s national security. Keep in mind that these are hardened terrorists picked up overseas since 9/11. The ones that were considered low-risk were released a long time ago. And among these, it turns out that many were treated too leniently, because they cut a straight path back to their prior line of work and have conducted murderous attacks in the Middle East. I think the President will find, upon reflection, that to bring the worst of the worst terrorists inside the United States would be cause for great danger and regret in the years to come.
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.
It’s one thing to adopt the euphemisms that suggest we’re no longer engaged in a war. These are just words, and in the end it’s the policies that matter most. You don’t want to call them enemy combatants? Fine. Call them what you want – just don’t bring them into the United States. Tired of calling it a war? Use any term you prefer. Just remember it is a serious step to begin unraveling some of the very policies that have kept our people safe since 9/11.
Another term out there that slipped into the discussion is the notion that American interrogation practices were a “recruitment tool” for the enemy. On this theory, by the tough questioning of killers, we have supposedly fallen short of our own values. This recruitment-tool theory has become something of a mantra lately, including from the President himself. And after a familiar fashion, it excuses the violent and blames America for the evil that others do. It’s another version of that same old refrain from the Left, “We brought it on ourselves.”
It is much closer to the truth that terrorists hate this country precisely because of the values we profess and seek to live by, not by some alleged failure to do so. Nor are terrorists or those who see them as victims exactly the best judges of America’s moral standards, one way or the other.
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.
What is equally certain is this: The broad-based strategy set in motion by President Bush obviously had nothing to do with causing the events of 9/11. But the serious way we dealt with terrorists from then on, and all the intelligence we gathered in that time, had everything to do with preventing another 9/11 on our watch. 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.
Releasing the interrogation memos was flatly contrary to the national security interest of the United States. The harm done only begins with top secret information now in the hands of the terrorists, who have just received a lengthy insert for their training manual. Across the world, governments that have helped us capture terrorists will fear that sensitive joint operations will be compromised. And at the CIA, operatives are left to wonder if they can depend on the White House or Congress to back them up when the going gets tough. Why should any agency employee take on a difficult assignment when, even though they act lawfully and in good faith, years down the road the press and Congress will treat everything they do with suspicion, outright hostility, and second-guessing? 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.
As far as the interrogations are concerned, all that remains an official secret is the information we gained as a result. Some of his defenders say the unseen memos are inconclusive, which only raises the question why they won’t let the American people decide that for themselves. I saw that information as vice president, and I reviewed some of it again at the National Archives last month. I’ve formally asked that it be declassified so the American people can see the intelligence we obtained, the things we learned, and the consequences for national security. And as you may have heard, last week that request was formally rejected. It’s worth recalling that ultimate power of declassification belongs to the President himself. President Obama has used his declassification power to reveal what happened in the interrogation of terrorists. Now let him use that same power to show Americans what did not happen, thanks to the good work of our intelligence officials.
I believe this information will confirm the value of interrogations – and I am not alone. President Obama’s own Director of National Intelligence, Admiral Blair, has put it this way: “High value information came from interrogations in which those methods were used and provided a deeper understanding of the al-Qaeda organization that was attacking this country.” End quote. Admiral Blair put that conclusion in writing, only to see it mysteriously deleted in a later version released by the administration – the missing 26 words that tell an inconvenient truth. But they couldn’t change the words of George Tenet, the CIA Director under Presidents Clinton and Bush, who bluntly said: “I know that this program has saved lives. I know we’ve disrupted plots. I know this program alone is worth more than the FBI, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the National Security Agency put together have been able to tell us.” End of quote.
If Americans do get the chance to learn what our country was spared, it’ll do more than clarify the urgency and the rightness of enhanced interrogations in the years after 9/11. It may help us to stay focused on dangers that have not gone away. Instead of idly debating which political opponents to prosecute and punish, our attention will return to where it belongs – on the continuing threat of terrorist violence, and on stopping the men who are planning it.
For all the partisan anger that still lingers, our administration will stand up well in history – not despite our actions after 9/11, but because of them. And when I think about all that was to come during our administration and afterward – the recriminations, the second-guessing, the charges of “hubris” – my mind always goes back to that moment.
To put things in perspective, suppose that on the evening of 9/11, President Bush and I had promised that for as long as we held office – which was to be another 2,689 days – there would never be another terrorist attack inside this country. Talk about hubris – it would have seemed a rash and irresponsible thing to say. People would have doubted that we even understood the enormity of what had just happened. Everyone had a very bad feeling about all of this, and felt certain that the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and Shanksville were only the beginning of the violence.
Of course, we made no such promise. Instead, we promised an all-out effort to protect this country. We said we would marshal all elements of our nation’s power to fight this war and to win it. We said we would never forget what had happened on 9/11, even if the day came when many others did forget. We spoke of a war that would “include dramatic strikes, visible on TV, and covert operations, secret even in success.” We followed through on all of this, and we stayed true to our word.
To the very end of our administration, we kept al-Qaeda terrorists busy with other problems. We focused on getting their secrets, instead of sharing ours with them. And on our watch, they never hit this country again. After the most lethal and devastating terrorist attack ever, seven and a half years without a repeat is not a record to be rebuked and scorned, much less criminalized. It is a record to be continued until the danger has passed.
Along the way there were some hard calls. No decision of national security was ever made lightly, and certainly never made in haste. As in all warfare, there have been costs – none higher than the sacrifices of those killed and wounded in our country’s service. And even the most decisive victories can never take away the sorrow of losing so many of our own – all those innocent victims of 9/11, and the heroic souls who died trying to save them.
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.
So many on the left and even some in the GOP wish Dick Cheney would just shut up. As the speech above illustrates it is imperative that he continue to provide his sober, wise judgement on these critical issues that truly effect the life and death of Americans.
It's heartening to see that despite the hate campaign which was launched against him years ago and continues unabated to this day Americans have a more favorable opinion of him:
CNN Poll: Favorable opinion of Dick Cheney on the riseFormer Vice President Cheney speaks for millions of Americans who understand the complexity and seriousness of national security issues demand more than a campaign mode of thinking!
From CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser
May 21, 2009
WASHINGTON (CNN) — As Dick Cheney prepares to give a major speech on the battle against terrorism, a new national poll suggests that favorable opinions of the former vice president are on the rise.
Thirty-seven percent say they have a favorable opinion of Cheney, up eight points from January when he left office.
In the past two months the former vice president has become a frequent critic of the new Administration in numerous national media interviews.
His speech is also a perfect reminder of what it was like when adults were still in charge at the White House!