Obama: Unfortunately, faced with an uncertain threat, our government made a series of hasty decisions. I believe that many of
these decisions were motivated by a sincere desire to protect the American people. But I also believe that all too often our government made decisions based on fear rather than foresight; that all too often our government trimmed facts and evidence to fit ideological predispositions. Instead of strategically applying our power and our principles, too often we set those principles aside as luxuries that we could no longer afford. And during this season of fear, too many of us -- Democrats and Republicans, politicians, journalists, and citizens - fell silent.Cheney: ... 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.
The other thing that stuck out to me about both speeches was that the question of the effectiveness of Enhanced Interrogation Techniques is unanswered. Obama makes the assertion that they are ineffective but offers no proof to back it up:
Obama: I know some have argued that brutal methods like waterboarding were necessary to keep us safe. I could not disagree more. As Commander-in-Chief, I see the intelligence. I bear the responsibility for keeping this country safe. And I categorically reject the assertion that these are the most effective means of interrogation...
Cheney on the other hand, makes asking for this information an important part of his speech:
Without the answer to whether or not EITs worked or not, the subject is open to debate and conjecture. Clearly, the Obama administration doesn't want us to know that answer for sure, because there is probably good reason to believe it does not help his argument. We can safely draw that conclusion because if there was no harm in releasing the memo detailing the techniques we use, then what is the harm in releasing the results?
Cheney: 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.
I was particularly galled by this statement in Obama's speech:
Obama: ... We're cleaning up something that is, quite simply, a mess -- a misguided experiment that has left in its wake a flood of legal challenges that my administration is forced to deal with on a constant, almost daily basis, and it consumes the time of government officials whose time should be spent on better protecting our country.
Cheney: 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.
Cheney's sober speech showed us what was missing these last 100+ days and that is a certain level of maturity. There has been a complete lack of "grown ups" since January 20th. Instead we are treated to childish things like the blame game, flimsy excuses for unsuitable cabinet members, unsubstantiated assertions, rosy images pasted over bad situations and arrogance by the truck load.