Kate Phillips blogged  the Obama-Cheney dueling national security speeches Thursday morning at nytimes.com. Phillips got her Cheney feedback from Times reporter Jim Rutenberg, who was listening to Cheney live at the American Enterprise Institute. Cheney began his speech right after President Obama had finished addressing an audience at the National Archives.
A double standard was soon evident. While thereporters reactedpassively to Obama's speech, simply relaying great chunks of it which went unchallenged, Phillips and Rutenberg peppered Cheney's speech with questions on several occasions or otherwise sniped at him (I've placed those questioning comments in italics and preserved the bold subheads from Phillips' live blogging). Some excerpts from the Times' live coverage of Cheney's speech:
Mr. Cheney Begins | 11:22 a.m. The former vice president steps up - and you know he's ad-libbing a little when he begins by saying that you can tell that President Obama was in the Senate, not the House, (where Mr. Cheney once served), because representatives have a five-minute rule on the floor for speeches.
Mr. Cheney began his speech by noting that he did not speak for former President Bush.
He also credits Mr. Obama for reversing the Pentagon's decision to release photos of abused prisoners, calling that and the president's strategy in Afghanistan "wise." But then he shifted immediately to their disagreements, saying that "when he faults or mis-characterizes the national security decisions we made in the Bush years, he deserves an answer."
Deserves is a very interesting word choice, no?
Cheney Defines the Debate | 11:34 a.m. Jim Rutenberg: Mr. Cheney outlines his view: "Here is the great dividing line in our current debate over national security. You can look at the facts and conclude that the comprehensive strategy has worked, and therefore needs to be continued as vigilantly as ever. Or you can look at the same set of facts and conclude that 9/11 was a 'one-off' event - coordinated, devastating, but also unique and not sufficient to justify a sustained wartime effort. Whichever conclusion you arrive at, it will shape your entire view of the last seven years, and of the policies necessary to protect America for years to come."
Has the Obama administration described Sept. 11 as a "one-off" event?
That's a double standard: The Times felt obliged to snipe at Cheney's characterization of Obama's 9-11 mentality. Yet the paper didn't question Obama's false characterization of the Bush administration's "anything goes" mentality about interrogations. This is what Obama said:
On the other end of the spectrum, there are those who embrace a view that can be summarized in two words: 'anything goes.' Their arguments suggest that the ends of fighting terrorism can be used to justify any means, and that the President should have blanket authority to do whatever he wants - provided that it is a President with whom they agree.
Rutenberg saved his most negative characterization for a moment near the end of Cheney's speech. Apparently bereft of a quality snipe to rebut a tough Cheney point, Rutenberg dismissed the former vice president as a Euro-hater:
Overseas Bashing | 11:48 a.m. Jim Rutenberg: Mr. Cheney really hates Europe. "The administration has found that it's easy to receive applause in Europe for closing Guantanamo," he notes. "But it's tricky to come up with an alternative that will serve the interests of justice and America's national security. Keep in mind that these are hardened terrorists picked up overseas since 9/11."
By contrast, the Times didn't put any of Obama assertions on the grill. Besides letting Obama's false "anything goes" claim slide, the reporters failed tochallenge Obama's apparent support for indefinite detentions, which he had opposed as a candidate: "Let me begin by disposing of one argument as plainly as I can: We are not going to release anyone if it would endanger our national security, nor will we release detainees within the United States who endanger the American people."