Cheney and Obama Collide on Terrorism Policy

(By Brendan Smialowski -- Bloomberg News)
  Enlarge Photo    
By Kathleen Parker
Sunday, May 24, 2009

Listening to President Obama and former vice president Dick Cheney give their respective national security speeches Thursday put me in mind of John Gray, author of "Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus."

Different men, different planets. Or are they?

Obama, standing before the U.S. Constitution and speaking to members of the Judge Advocate General's Corps, was the calm voice of confidence, redeemer of reason. He spoke loftily of American ideals and invoked our better angels.

Reiterating his case for closing Guantanamo, voted down by the Senate a day earlier, he also said there's no guarantee that terrorists won't attack again or that Americans won't die as a result. But, we'll win anyway. How?

By being good people.

"Because the terrorists can only succeed if they swell their ranks and alienate America from our allies, and they will never be able to do that if we stay true to who we are; if we forge tough and durable approaches to fighting terrorism that are anchored in our timeless ideals."

Thus spake Venus.

And I thought: What a good man. This is what America needs.

Then came Cheney. Speaking at the American Enterprise Institute, he pulled no punches in his criticism of the Obama administration's security policies or in defending the Bush administration's.

His voice was also calm and reasonable, his remarks simultaneously sharp and blunt. Cheney said that he remains a strong proponent of enhanced interrogation techniques, which he said were used only on "hardened terrorists after other efforts had failed." The interrogations "were legal, essential, justified, successful, and the right thing to do."

Cheney was especially forceful in criticizing Obama's "selective release" of documents on the interrogation program without also releasing the intelligence those interrogations produced.

"The public was given less than half the truth," he said. "The released memos were carefully redacted to leave out references to what our government learned through the methods in question."

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2009 The Washington Post Company