Obama, Cheney & The Bright Shiny Thing
May 22, 2009
It couldn’t have
been planed more perfectly. President Barack Obama uses the power of the
presidential bully pulpit to show his dismay with anyone and everyone
who dares to question his version of morality where the war on terrorism
is concerned. Just moments later, former Vice President Dick Cheney
effectively rebuts the president and dismantles several of the
president’s talking points. The "impromptu” tele-debate made for great
television. What it didn’t do was move anyone to question what they
believe on the issues that were presented. In fact, it simply ensconced
each to his or her position.
The American public has long suffered from what I call a sitcom
attention span (I blame Norman Lear but I digress). Truth be told, the
limited attention span of the American people goes back to well before
the invention of television, having become an increasing problem ever
since the American Revolution. Politicians recognized this malady – or
opportunity as they see it – right off the bat and have been taking
incredible advantage of the public’s limited attention span for almost
as long as our country has been sovereign. It is for this reason that
troublesome reports, testimonies and declarations are usually released
after 2pm on Friday as Americans turn their brains off in preparation
for the weekend. Where they may be outraged at something on Friday at
2pm – if in fact they even become aware of it then – by Monday it is
just one more reason why all politicians can’t be trusted and anyway,
what are you going to do about it, right?
The politicians understanding of the capabilities of the American
attention span is also the reason why savvy politicians employ ex-media
operatives in their cabinets and administrations. It wasn’t an accident
that President Obama chose former Chicago political writer
David Axelrod as a senior advisor. As a product of the Chicago
Democrat Machine (The Daley Machine), Barack Obama understood the
importance of controlling the message. It is all important for a
politician. If you control the information that creates a news cycle
then you control that news cycle. If you control the news cycle then you
can always frame yourself in a light that is most flattering and that
turns into elevated approval ratings and that turns into votes.
This is where the "bright shiny thing” comes into play. What is the
bright shiny thing, you ask? Simple. It’s a distraction; a diversion.
Any sleight-of-hand artist, any illusionist will tell you, the bright
shiny thing makes all tricks, all illusions possible. While the audience
is looking at the bright shiny thing, the illusionist is performing the
tasks that makes the trick look like something magical has
happened...”Nothing up my sleeve, presto!” Truth be told, the bright
shiny thing tactic also works in politics and politically opportunist
government and every savvy politician knows it.
As President Obama stood in front of a display of the US Constitution at
the National Archives to perform his speech on terrorism, interrogation
techniques, American morality and Guantanamo Bay, the grand nature of
the setting and the emphasis he put on his preferred talking points
helped to distract from several things:
▪ The debate over whether the United States employed "torture” in the
waterboarding of three high-value al Qaeda detainees is an on-going one.
Many believe that classifying a harsh interrogation technique that is
also a part of our military survival training for pilots marginalizes
the claim that the procedure qualifies as "torture.” As I stated in a
prior article, worse things than waterboarding happen at the public
pool between roughhousing teenagers and at fraternity hazing rituals.
For the neo-Marxist Left, the anti-war crowd and the Liberal Democrats
to simply expect everyone to acquiesce to their definition of torture
simply because they "won the election” disqualifies their argument of
being correct when they were in the minority.
▪ President Obama, while stating "I banned the use of so-called enhanced
interrogation techniques by the United States of America,” continues to
reserve the prerogative for employing enhanced interrogation techniques
by virtue of the fact that his orders were issued exclusively to the
intelligence community. No executive order was issued that prohibits
elements of the total of the Executive Branch from employing enhanced
▪ While President Obama held the bright shiny thing of closing the
Guantanamo Bay detention facility in one hand, he vaguely brushed on the
fact that he will continue to use military tribunals to try enemy
combatants captured on the field of battle, tribunals that will – for
the most part – be conducted sequestered from public view. This is in
direct contradiction of his campaign promise to have all enemy
combatants captured on the field of battle tried in the US legal system.
▪ As President Obama railed against the Bush Administration for
establishing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility in the first place,
as he spoke of the intense damage the existence of the facility has done
to the US’s reputation around the world, he failed to admit that the
original criticism of the Guantanamo Bay facility did not originate
overseas, rather, it originated with the American anti-war movement and
was picked-up on as a political tool by the disingenuous political Left
(remember that goal of controlling the message?). Further, the
contention that "torture” was taking place at Gitmo was debunked by one
of President Obama’s most ardent allies, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) who
after his 2006 visit to the detention facility
"...the men and women in uniform
who are serving us in Guantanamo have been the best – steadfast,
professional, often heroic, working in a very difficult place – bleak
and barren, hotter than the hinges of hell. They go to work every day to
watch these detainees and try to derive information...They're not using
To acknowledge these truths is
to acknowledge that anti-war Democrats and Democrat political
opportunists politicized the Guantanamo Bay facility in an effort to
score political points with the electorate and, in doing so, marketed
the United States as morally deficient to the world community. The
reputation of the United States was not besmirched by the activities
that took place at Gitmo, it was besmirched by the political opportunism
of the Left coupled with an insane hatred for George W. Bush.
▪ And as President Obama advanced the bright shiny illusion that the
implementation of harsh interrogation techniques served as a
"recruitment tool” for jihadis worldwide, well, former Vice President
said it best:
"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.
"Critics of our policies are given to lecturing on the theme of being
consistent with American values. But no moral value held dear by the
American people obliges public servants ever to sacrifice innocent lives
to spare a captured terrorist from unpleasant things. And when an entire
population is targeted by a terror network, nothing is more consistent
with American values than to stop them.”
So, as the mainstream media
fawns over President Obama’s performance – and that’s what his
grandstanding teleprompter events amounts to – and as
Bob Beckel fumes about former Vice President Cheney’s "slanderous,
disgraceful performance,” remember, all the staging, all the punditry,
all the grandiose pomp-and-circumstance is all meant to distract you
from the facts as they exist, and the facts are these:
▪ We are at war with an enemy – radical Islamist jihadis and the
organizations that fund, train and employ them – that has declared war
on the United States and Western Civilization, having declared it not
once but twice.
▪ President Obama has done little to deviate from the national security
practices of the Bush Administration where the war on terrorism is
concerned because now that he is privileged to the most guarded of
intelligence he realizes there is little else he can do.
▪ While President Obama talks a great game, with regard to his
intentions, he fails regularly in actually putting those intentions into
practice and establishing them as reality.
Yes, the tele-debate today, as it was produced by the Obama team, was
great political theater. But it failed to persuade anyone to take-up Mr.
Obama’s position. Instead, it fed the base its daily requirement of
talking-point propaganda achieving only the status quo: Those who think
that waterboarding is torture still do; those who believe Guantanamo Bay
was a torture chamber remain convinced; and those certain that George W.
Bush is the anti-Christ still believe so.
I, on the other hand, find more truth, more substance and more reality
in what former Vice President Cheney had to offer. I believe we are
smack-dab in the middle of a struggle for the survival of our country
and Western Civilization. In the event that the former vice president
and I are wrong, well, I’d rather be judged by twelve than carried to my
funeral plot by six.
the Executive Director and Director of Terrorism Research for
a non-profit, non-partisan, 501(c)(3) research and education
initiative. His writing has been recognized by the US House
International Relations Committee and the Japan Center for
Conflict Prevention. His organization, BasicsProject.org,
partnered in producing the original national symposium series
addressing the root causes of radical Islamist terrorism. He is
a member of the
International Analyst Network.
He also serves as the managing editor for The New Media Journal.
Mr. Salvato has appeared on The O'Reilly Factor on FOX News
Channel, and is a regular guest on talk radio including on The
Captain's America Radio Show airing on AM1220 WSRQ and on the
Internet catering to the US Armed Forces around the world and on
The Roth Show with Dr. Laurie Roth syndicated nationally on the
USA Radio Network. His
opinion-editorials have been published by The American
Enterprise Institute, The Washington Times & Human Events and
are syndicated nationally. He is occasionally quoted in The
Federalist. Mr. Salvato is available for public speaking