Obama vs. Cheney: The Reactions Are In

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We've brought you the side-by-side arguments of President Obama and former vice-president Cheney, and now the blogosphere is weighing in. In a completely unsurprising turn of events, conservatives and liberals do not see eye to eye on who won the day, but this debate seems even more starkly partisan than usual, with neither side apparently willing to acknowledge any positive points from the other side. Add to the lack of anything resembling a consensus the fact that both speeches are pretty long, cover a ton of ground, and aren't easily digested by the public, and we'd hazard to guess that, despite the importance of this morning's events, the national-security debate didn't change much today.

• Michael Crowley thinks Obama's speech "was characteristically thoughtful and elegant — if anything, perhaps even too nuanced for the soundbite culture to do it justice." He also notices that Obama "repeated some variation of the word 'safe' ('safety,' 'safer,' 'safeguard') sixteen times," demonstrating that he thinks he's vulnerable on the security issue. [Plank/New Republic]

• Joe Klein believes that from the start, Cheney, in demagogic fashion, "proceeded to mischaracterize, oversimplify and distort the views of those who saw his policies as extreme and unconstitutional, to say nothing of the views of the current Administration." Obama, meanwhile, "spoke with reason and dignity. He treated his audience — the American people — as adults, capable of assimilating a difficult argument. He presented the views of his opponents, on both sides, fairly. His speech acknowledged the difficulty in balancing our democratic values against our very real national security needs." [Swampland/Time]

• William Kristol thinks Obama was "platitudinous and preachy, vague and pseudo-thoughtful in an abstract kind of way." Cheney's speech was that "of a grownup, of a chief executive, of a statesman. He's sober, realistic and concrete, stands up for his country and its public officials, and has an acute awareness of the consequences of the choices one makes as a public official and a willingness to take responsibility for those choices." [Blog/Weekly Standard]

• Greg Sargent thinks Obama's speech "is a sign that he has returned to persuasion mode with a vengeance." His "aggressiveness and coherence today was a strong reminder of just how absent this sort of push-back has been in recent weeks and just how incoherent the Dem response has been." [Plum Line/Who Runs Gov]

• James Fallows finds Cheney's approach "ineffective not just because of its anger/contempt but also because what is billed as a response is in fact one cycle late, simply re-stating the claims Obama went out of his way to rebut (rather that [sic] keeping up with the cycle by answering anything Obama said)." [Atlantic]

• Jacob Heilbrun writes that Cheney "offered a deceptively consoling vision of an America that can't lose its moral bearings because any measures that are deemed necessary to protect it are, by definition, just and righteous. Why is anyone even listening to him?" [HuffPo]

• Jason Zengerle was "mostly impressed" with Obama's speech and was "particularly struck by his repeated linking of his policies to those of the late Bush administration." His basic point was: "Look, we've got to do something so if you don't like my idea, come up with a better one. But we can't keep doing the same thing." [Plank/New Republic]

• Josh Marshall whittles down Cheney's argument to: "If you don't agree with my torture policies, you don't take 9/11 seriously." [TPM]

• Kevin Glass claims that Obama "blame[d] the previous administration for every challenge we face today" and "whined that his critics expect too much from him." Cheney, meanwhile, "put forward a fierce, eloquent and powerful defense of Bush administration policies." [Town Hall]

• Taegan Goddard thinks Obama gave a "truly excellent speech" that "firmly framed his approach to combating terrorism in both American law and values." [Political Wire]

• David Frum wants Obama to respond to Cheney's "serious charge" that the president isn't releasing all the torture memos for political reasons. [New Majority]

• Michelle Malkin's Cliff Notes of Obama's speech read: "I blame Bush (but, uh, I will follow his 'lost way' on preventive detention. Just in a kinder, gentler, more, uh, moral way)." [Michelle Malkin]

• Adam Serwer believes that "[w]ith his soaring and sincere rhetoric, the president has done an incredible job of selling his kinder, gentler War on Terror, and ultimately, the American people will likely have his back, if only because they trust him." [Tapped/American Prospect]

• Abe Greenwald found Obama's tone "so defensive as to be nearly adversarial. But whose wouldn’t be if they were trying to convince the country that having no plan is better than using the plan that kept them safe for nearly eight years?" [Contentions/Commentary]

• Jennifer Rubin claims Obama's "address was not a serious one, not one of a leader. As a grad student paper it might rate a B-." Cheney clearly had "more gravitas" and "furthered his rhetorical aims." [Contentions/Commentary]

• Glenn Greenwald says Obama "made pretty points in rhetorically effective ways about the Constitution, our values, transparency, oversight, the state secrets privilege, and the rule of law. But his actions, in many critical cases, have repeatedly run afoul of those words." [Salon]

• Mike Madden calls the president's speech "classic Obama; he argued that his pragmatic approach was still the right way to uphold deeply held principles. It probably won't reassure anyone who wants the government to delve more deeply into what the Bush administration did. But it should go a long way toward answering the GOP's newly aggressive defense of those Bush-era tactics." [War Room/Salon]

• Steve Benen believes Cheney's speech "was clearly a mistake." He notes that Cheney "referenced 9/11 25 times ... enough to make Rudy Giuliani blush," and lacked "anything new or compelling. Even casual political observers probably could have sketched out the framework of the speech in advance, and been pretty close to the actual thing." [Political Animal/Washington Monthly]

• Jim Geraghty says that "Obama's speech was about theory, and even in this circumstance, where a foiled plot to blow up synagogues in the Bronx isn't even the biggest news of the day, it felt professorial, esoteric, abstract, and strikingly lacking in specifics." [Campaign Spot/National Review]

• Jay Nordlinger finds it "ridiculous" that Obama could assert that brutal interrogation methods make it "more likely that Americans will be mistreated if they are captured." [Corner/National Review]

• Katherine Mangu-Ward is just pleased at the "free speech" and "free society" on display today with the open airing of a speech dissenting against the president. "It's easy to forget that a rich, multifaceted civil society is a tremendous luxury — and a rarity." [Hit & Run/Reason]