Torture Round-up

I promise this blog will have content about something other than the torture — ahem, enhanced interrogation — debate, but here’s a quick round-up of what some people are saying today, following Obama and Cheney’s speeches.

From the Wall Street Journal’s blog, Capital Journal:

The reviews are rolling in after the great Barack Obama-Dick Cheney speech standoff over terrorism. First, though, Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin of Politico look at why the president gave the speech in the first place, and they say he did so because of pressure from Democrats in Congress. “It took some worried calls from Capitol Hill Democrats, congressional aides said, to convince him” that he needed to counter the attack that was being mounted by Cheney.

Those Democrats, Smith and Martin write, thought the president “needed to give a speech defending his plan for closing the terror prison at Guantanamo Bay, and rebutting Republican claims that the move would endanger Americans where they live. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and others made clear ‘that we’re going to need a lot more cover if we’re going to be able to deal with this issue,’ said one Democratic leadership aide.” Net result: “The most popular politician in the country found himself pushed up against a wall by one of the least popular in Cheney – the leading voice in a budding Republican attack on Obama over national defense, one of the GOP’s oldest (and most successful) cudgels against Democrats.”

And from yesterday’s Capital Journal:

Presumably, the president will make the case for his moderate course on these issues in his ‘Guantanamo’ speech [Thursday]. But it’s late–and, I suspect, that the Republicans will continue to play the fear card and the congressional Democrats will continue to squirm, no matter what Obama does.

These both struck me as a bit odd… Primarily because the 2008 election (and the 2006 Congressional ones before that) were supposedly referendums on the Bush administration, particularly its foreign policy. When the face of that foreign policy, Dick Cheney, is the voice of the opposition, shouldn’t that bode well for Democrats? I mean, if Bush was an unpopular president, then Cheney was a REALLY unpopular vice president.

But to an extent, as I discussed in a prior post, I think a lot of people are buying into what Cheney’s saying here. And the Democratic Congress is legitimately concerned about it. That points to a couple things. One is the fickle nature of public opinion: yeah, people wanted change, but the fear mongering reasoning of administrations past still has a sway with a lot of people, even some who voted for Obama. Another is the fickle nature of legislators. Closing Guantanamo by the end of the year is going to make it a hot topic just in time for 2010 fundraising and campaigning. And the last thing the more moderate senators want is to see a bunch of ads about how they let a bushel of terrorists go free.

In fact, the RNC’s already at it.

Also, here’s the Economist echoing some of my thoughts from the other day (emphasis mine):

This White House hasn’t blown it on too many issues, but it has blown it so far here, failing to communicate with partisans on the Hill and letting the argument get out of hand. Mr Obama has probably won back his base today, liberals outside of Washington who chose him over Hillary Clinton, in large part because of his moral clarity on terrorism. But he is unlikely to have won over his party in Congress, badgered every day by Republicans and reporters on whether they’d let terrorist prisoners back into their districts.


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About the Author

Brian Eason is a University of Missouri graduate with bachelor degrees in Journalism and Political Science. He has covered Congressional elections and local government for the Columbia Missourian and worked as a general assignment reporter for the State Journal-Register in Springfield, IL. Brian has also had articles published in Roll Call.

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