Former Vice President Dick Cheney was scheduled to speak yesterday on National Security. President Barack Obama then scheduled a speech as well. It provided for a great national security debate that never really occurred during the campaign. The Washington Post put together a great contrast video of the speeches.
Obama’s appearance at the National Archives had the feel of a campaign event, one aimed at convincing the American public and a recalcitrant Democratic Congress that strict adherence to the rule of law combined with an embrace of civil liberties is the most effective way to defeat America’s enemies. Although Obama has recently adopted some elements of his predecessor’s policies on terrorism trials and secrecy, he said that during the Bush administration, "too often we set those principles aside as luxuries we could no longer afford."
When is he going to stop being the Campaigner-in-Chief and be the Commander-in-Chief? When is he going to learn that his position on this manner is not in touch with the American people? The people through Congress rebuked his position on Gitmo. There will be a point in time when he is going to have to stop blaming the Bush Administration and take responsibility for his decisions.
Cheney also reminded us of the atmosphere and the threat that we faced. How soon we forget.
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.
That what was at stake, and still is at stake. President Obama has made some wise decisions regarding Afghanistan. Other National Security decisions, not so much. We need a leader, not a campaigner. When you compare the transcripts of the two speeches it becomes clear who lacks the expertise and wisdom regarding keeping us safe. It isn’t Vice President Cheney.