Foreign and Defense Policy, Terrorism

Obama v. Cheney Heats Up

So, the White House announced today that President Obama will deliver a “major” speech on antiterrorism policy tomorrow. The timing isn’t entirely clear, but MSNBC reports that it will be “about an hour” after former Vice President Dick Cheney delivers an address on the same topic here at the American Enterprise Institute.

The announcement of the former Veep’s address went out officially from AEI on May 12, though he had been asked to give a talk  a couple of weeks before. (We asked him because this is one of the most important national security issues of the day, and AEI is committed to informing and prompting a public debate consisting of more than sound bites.) President Obama’s speech was announced today. What do we think?  1) The Obama White House runs the savviest information ops of any White House in modern history. This is all about rebutting an increasingly effective exponent of aggressive counterterrorism policies.  2) Why do it? The simple answer is that the public is listening to Cheney on the issues, and if the Democratic Congress’s decision this week to deny funding to close Gitmo is any indication, finger-in-the-wind politicians are listening, too.

There’s another message in the former vice president’s efforts to rally the nation behind a robust policy: Americans know we are at war. They don’t want Gitmo’s denizens in their backyards. They aren’t embarrassed by their country, by their soldiers in the field, or by their public servants striving to keep them safe. Mr. President, take note: It’s not just about the air time. Leadership matters. Especially in times of war.

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