a tale of two speeches
“Obama’s is the speech of a young senator who was once a part-time law professor–platitudinous and preachy, vague and pseudo-thoughtful in an abstract kind of way. […] He’s president. He’s not just a guy participating in a debate. But he’s more comfortable as a debater, not as someone who takes responsibility for decisions. […] Cheney’s is the speech of a grownup, of a chief executive, of a statesman. He’s sober, realistic and concrete, stands up for his country and its public officials, and has an acute awareness of the consequences of the choices one makes as a public official and a willingness to take responsibility for those choices.” ~ William Kristol
Fleetingly, I thought I should just write: ROTFLMAO but it seemed too trite. Something this vapid and delusional deserves more of a response than mere internet jargon can provide. Obama’s speech is here, and Cheney’s here. Read them both – and bear in mind, Josh Marshall’s quip as he live-blogged Cheney’s oratory – “11:45 AM … Wondering how long it took Bill Kristol to write this speech.”
My questions are manifold. Why are the Republicans letting Cheney shoot off his “sober, realistic and concrete” mouth? Hasn’t anyone learned yet that within the ranks of either party there simply does not exist a public speaker who can take on the President? This person does not (yet) exist. Any attempt to outshine or counter Obama will fall short, and this is only a magnified truth when the speaker in question is Dick Cheney, a man who is – despite the adoration of 21% of the American populace – despised even more than his former boss by the vast majority of Americans. As Greenwald notes, Cheney’s speech was “just the same recycled, extremist neoconservative pablum that drove the U.S. into the deep ditch in which it currently finds itself.” Just another sign of cancer in the fast-decaying conservative movement.
On the flip side, I don’t really share Andrew’s enthusiasm over Obama’s admittedly much, much finer speech. Once again, I’m mightily impressed with our current President’s rhetorical skills, his intellect, his ability to pronounce words properly, but beyond this there is a little too much of the old, Bushy hawkishness there, or, as digby puts it:
We are still in a “war” against a method of violence, which means there is no possible end and which means that the government can capture and imprison anyone they determine to be “the enemy” forever. The only thing that will change is where the prisoners are held and few little procedural tweaks to make it less capricious.
David Frum writes:
[W]hat we have in Obama in other words is not so much a change of direction, but a reset and rebranding of existing policies that received their real modification in 2004 and 2005.
I’ve mentioned before that one of the greatest threats to liberty is the imperial presidency. Once the executive gathers up power, it is – like any other human institution – loath to give it up. The irony of course is that all this talk of “limited government” means nothing if the presidency and its extension in the military/national security apparatus aren’t checked. The genius of our government and our constitution was never so much in the limiting of the welfare state or the limiting of the federal government, but rather in the checks and balances between the different branches of government. Far more vital is our protection of those checks and balances than in some artificial “limiting” of the welfare state.
How can spending on domestic projects – bridges, roads, rails, health care – even compare to spending on a massive, overblown military which operates almost totally outside the check of a congress devoid of any independence? Far too much power is placed in the hands of the president and his advisers.
I have high hopes for Obama, and I want him to succeed. I’m a fan, I admit it. But nothing in either speech made me feel any better about the ever expanding role of our Commander in Chief or the entrenched national security state we have erected. The imbalance of power should be sobering to conservatives and liberals alike. Obama is a softer, cuddlier figure than Vader Cheney, but that doesn’t make him any less dangerous.