All the radio talk yesterday was about the "showdown" between Dick Cheney and Barack Obama on national security matters. Sadly, it was one of those cases where one gets all of the commentary about the speech before hearing the actual speech. Limbaugh declined to even play excerpts from Obama's speech, reasoning that his listeners were more interested in hearing his reaction than in hearing the speech itself. It's a bit stomach churning to think that he was probably right.
You would never guess his reaction in million years: He thought Obama was arrogant and defensive. He thought Cheney was incisive and brilliant. Hannity had a different reaction: He thought Obama was defensive and arrogant; Cheney was brilliant and incisive. Actually, give Hannity a point or two for originality: He said Obama was "pathetic" and that Cheney "rocked."
I cannot confirm the accuracy of this analysis. When I finally did hear some excerpts from Obama's speech later on TV, he sounded reasonable but unexceptional. The excerpts from Cheney that Limbaugh and Hannity played sounded flat wrong.
Here was the first:
We hear from some quarters nothing but feigned outrage based on a false narrative. In my long experience in Washington, few matters have inspired so much contrived indignation and phony moralizing as the interrogation methods applied to a few captured terrorists.
I don't doubt that there might be some phony moralizing going on out there (What? The CIA lied to the speaker of the House?), but you would think that even Cheney would acknowledge that some Americans really do care about our history, our reputation and our ideals. We aren't all just faking it.
Here was the second:
But in the fight against terrorism, there is no middle ground, and half-measures keep you half exposed. You cannot keep just some nuclear-armed terrorists out of the United States, you must keep every nuclear-armed terrorist out of the United States.
It's true that we don't want nuclear-armed terrorists getting into the United States. But that misses a more important point: We don't want terrorists getting nuclear arms at all. That means that we have to keep them away not only from our own weapons but from the nuclear weapons of every other country in the world, including countries that are still trying to build some.
Since even Cheney might concede that we can't impose our will on every country out there, we are stuck with cooperation, negotiation and persuasion. And half-measures are the basis of international diplomacy. We can't just go around making demands; we have to work with people.
Maybe Cheney had things to say that made more sense, but when these are the excerpts chosen by two of his fans to demonstrate his brilliance, it sort of squelches the desire to seek out more excerpts.
SIDENOTE: Hannity also interviewed Oliver North. I don't much care what North has to say, but I was kind of interested because Hannity has been so upset over Nancy Pelosi's accusation that the CIA lied to Congress. I've been wondering lately why Hannity would be so upset over the charge, since North famously lied to Congress and became a right-wing hero as a result. So isn't Pelosi really just nominating the CIA for hero status?
But the issue never came up. Instead, Hannity tried, and failed, to get North to sing along on the first verse of "The Devil Went Down to Georgia." It was a low moment in radio history. When I switched to jazz on NPR, it had never sounded better.