Less than two weeks ago, the media eagerly hyped a national security showdown between President Obama and former Vice President Cheney. The hotly-anticipated dueling speeches laid out divergent visions for American security policy moving forward and offered opposing assessments of the previous administration’s record.
One of Obama’s biggest applause lines touted his decision to shutter the Guantanamo Bay detention facility within one year:
The second decision that I made was to order the closing of the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay…There is also no question that Guantanamo set back the moral authority that is America’s strongest currency in the world… So the record is clear: rather than keep us safer, the prison at Guantanamo has weakened American national security. It is a rallying cry for our enemies.
Cheney directly countered those assertions during his effective rebuttal.
The [Obama] administration has found that it’s easy to receive applause in Europe for closing Guantanamo. 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. The ones that were considered low-risk were released a long time ago. And among these, we learned yesterday, many were treated too leniently, because 1 in 7 cut a straight path back to their prior line of work and have conducted murderous attacks in the Middle East. I think the President will find, upon reflection, that to bring the worst of the worst terrorists inside the United States would be cause for great danger and regret in the years to come.
He also attacked the Left’s ‘recuitment tool’ paradigm, under which American efforts to combat terrorism are said to merely inflame our enemies and imperil our safety. (Cheney’s comments to this end dealt primarily with enhanced interrogation techniques, but also apply to the Guantanamo debate):
This recruitment-tool theory has become something of a mantra lately, including from the President himself. And after a familiar fashion, it excuses the violent and blames America for the evil that others do. It’s another version of that same old refrain from the Left, “We brought it on ourselves.” It is much closer to the truth that terrorists hate this country precisely because of the values we profess and seek to live by, not by some alleged failure to do so. Nor are terrorists or those who see them as victims exactly the best judges of America’s moral standards, one way or the other.
The two speeches received heavy coverage in the mainstream press, as well in the partisan media. Conservative talk radio devoted hours to playing and applauding Cheney’s remarks, while Keith Olbermann offered viewers a lengthy screed hammering the former VP. (Cheney is “as insane as any terrorist,” according to Olbermann).
Now that the public has had ample time to digest the cases articulated by the two leaders, average Americans appear to have chosen sides and picked a winner–at least on the Guantanamo issue. And it’s not The One.
According to a USA Today poll out today:
By more than 2-1, those surveyed say Guantanamo shouldn’t be closed. By more than 3-1, they oppose moving some of the accused terrorists housed there to prisons in their own states…
In the survey, Americans were inclined to accept the argument by Cheney and former president George W. Bush that the detention center had made the United States safer. By 40%-18%, they said the prison had strengthened national security rather than weakened it.
These results mirror a similar Rassmussen survey published last week:
Forty-nine percent (49%) of voters nationwide now disagree with President Barack Obama’s decision to close the prison camp for suspected terrorists at the Guantanamo Naval Base in Cuba. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey, conducted after the President’s speech on Guantanamo last week, shows that 38% agree with his decision.
Just 25% share the President’s view that the Guantanamo camp weakened national security. Fifty-one percent (51%) disagree with that perspective.
And, by a 57% to 28% margin, voters oppose moving any of the suspected terrorists to prisons in the United States.
It was billed as a heavyweight rhetorical bout between a wildly popular new president and a deeply unpopular former vice president on the topic of national security policy. And the winner by (at least) a 2-1 decision, in the Right corner, is the much-maligned No. 2.
Is the MSM capable of writing the headline, “Cheney Wins”?