Cheney vs Obama on Guantanamo
Posted by dorian on May 22, 2009
A ‘Freer’ Cheney Makes Case (With Dual Focus)
WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Dick Cheney made clear on Thursday his disdain for President Obama’s “presumption of moral superiority” and the “contrived indignation” from liberal critics of the interrogation techniques he is so strenuously defending.
But there was also a culprit that went unmentioned in his speech: the Bush administration, which in its later years began shifting away from some of the policies the former vice president viewed as central to a strong national defense.
Then, Mr. Cheney was duty bound to stay silent when he disagreed.
Not now, as he indicated at the start of his remarks at the American Enterprise Institute, where he declared himself a “freer man.”
Speaking in the monotone that has come to define him in the public imagination, Mr. Cheney was highly critical of Mr. Obama’s plan to close the United States detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. But Mr. Cheney’s former boss, President George W. Bush, had publicly vowed to close Guantánamo as well, a declaration known to have rankled Mr. Cheney, who successfully worked internally — and quietly — against any plan to move detainees held there to United States soil.
In discussing Mr. Obama’s plan to close Guantánamo, Mr. Cheney spoke derisively of the way it has won “applause in Europe,” a reflection of his longstanding wariness of European engagement at the expense of American prerogatives. But as his influence ebbed and that of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice grew, the Bush administration increasingly partook in multinational efforts Mr. Cheney so traditionally disdained — a sentiment he could not express at the time.
“When you’re a political appointee, you have whatever opportunity you have inside an administration to make your case, and you ought to be able to make it fully,” said John R. Bolton, an ambassador to the United Nations under Mr. Bush whose later criticism of the administration was often viewed as being in line with Mr. Cheney’s own thinking. “The other side of that deal is when a higher authority makes a decision, you have to advocate that position publicly.”
Mr. Bolton noted that when he left the administration he was free to speak out in a way that “was an option not open to Cheney as vice president.”
The White House on Thursday was only too happy to seize on the idea — raised on the Web site of The Atlantic and in comments Mr. Obama made last week to Newsweek — that Mr. Cheney’s real argument was with Mr. Bush. At his daily press briefing, the White House press secretary, Robert Gibbs, contended that Mr. Cheney’s address was “the continuation of a debate that happened inside the administration over the course of many years.”
But Mr. Cheney is playing for now as much as he is playing for history.
And his supporters say he is having the sort of influence from outside Mr. Obama’s administration that his detractors say he failed to show in his last days inside Mr. Bush’s. Though the White House denies that Mr. Cheney’s campaign of some weeks to influence the national security debate has played a role, Mr. Cheney’s supporters point to Mr. Obama’s reversal of a decision to release photographs documenting abuse of American-held detainees as evidence that the former vice president is having an impact.
“Cheney is seriously the only person who’s gotten the White House to change its policy,” said Dan Senor, a former foreign policy adviser in the Bush administration who remains friendly with Mr. Cheney’s daughter Liz.
Officials at the American Enterprise Institute suggested that Mr. Obama’s speech was itself an example of a reaction from the White House, which scheduled the president’s address after Mr. Cheney had scheduled his.
Mr. Gibbs denied that, but added, “There was an awareness that he was speaking.”
Obama’s Speech on Closing Guantanamo:
Cheney’s Rebuttal to Obama:
Readers, what do you think should be done about Guantanamo?