Thursday, May 21, 2009


Leader Of The Opposition

Today, President Obama delivered his speech on Guantanamo Bay and the war on terror.

Today, former Vice President Dick Cheney delivered his speech on the war on terror.

Like him or not -- agree with him or not -- but Cheney give a much better "official response" to a presidential address than, um, Bobby Jindal.

Taking the two speeches together, this was a pretty amazing moment for the country. This isn't measly political jibing here. These are two professionals offering up a contrast of visions.

Democrats like to use Cheney's multiple appearances as a joke to undermine the GOP's lack of fresh faces, but there is a reality here that can't be ignored: Until the rest of the party gets its act together, on security matters, Dick Cheney is the leader of the Republican Party. It's up to the Democrats to actually engage him on the substance of his views, rather than just trying to dismiss him as relic to whom no one is listening. Cheney isn't Rush Limbaugh. He's not interested in "entertaining" people and merely saying things to play to an audience. He believes that he is right on these issues -- and he doesn't care what other people think.

Meawhile, as much as the broader mainstream media is supposedly "in the tank for Obama," it also likes likes a real good story. Good stories require a narrative with an antagonist and a protagonist (yeah, you can say "hero and villain" if you wish). Cheney is a beguiling antagonist -- as opposite Obama as you can imagine. That means that he will get the airtime to make his point -- and not just from Fox. If Democrats try to just dismiss him as a cartoon character is foolish -- and wrong to boot. And, oddly, Cheney's visibility has actually improved his poll numbers recently. And, whether because of -- or in spite of -- Cheney's criticisms, several of Obama actual national security decisions have notably "adjusted" in contrast to his campaign promises.

Today's speeches raised the stakes on Guantanamo Bay and moving forward on the war on terror in the post-Bush era. But while Democrats might do well to actually engage Cheney on the merits of his critique, Republicans could also just deal with the fact that Cheney is about the best thing they have going for them as a person of substance -- and act accordingly.

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