I did not view either speech but have now read both the president’s and Dick Cheney’s remarks. As a preliminary matter I wonder what the president was hoping to accomplish. Who is his audience and what was his message? He seemed desperately to want to stop the recriminations (and who wouldn’t after a month of watching his party being beaten about the ears?) but he has no substantive response to the issue on everyone’s mind: where are the detainees to go? I don’t see how this stops the frenzy or puts either Congress or Americans’ minds at ease.
Dick Cheney’s message was clear: this is what was done, here is why it was done, and here is the folly in undoing what was done. Agree or not, it had a theme and purpose and substantial evidence to support it.
In a very real sense the president’s address was not a serious one, not one of a leader. As a grad student paper it might rate a B-. Unfortunately, he could not resist the temptation to “face off” against Cheney, who isn’t interested in pleasing the Ivy League faculty. Who had more gravitas and who furthered his rhetorical aims today? No contest.