Barack Obama today followed the same script that has so far dominated his presidency: blame the previous administration for every challenge we face today. He whined that his critics expect too much from him and that others simply don't understand the "mess" that was left behind in the wake of George W. Bush:
Obama: [F]aced with an uncertain threat, our government made a series of hasty decisions... our government made decisions based upon fear rather than foresight, and all too often trimmed facts and evidence to fit ideological predispositions.
In dealing with this situation, we do not have the luxury of starting from scratch. We are cleaning up something that is - quite simply - a mess; a misguided experiment that has left in its wake a flood of legal challenges that my Administration is forced to deal with on a constant basis, and that consumes the time of government officials whose time should be spent on better protecting our country.
At the same time, Dick Cheney - a man who holds no political aspirations and who Barack Obama admitted has the best interests of America at heart - put forward a fierce, eloquent and powerful defense of Bush administration policies while Barack Obama was complaining of having to "fix" them:
Cheney: If fine speech-making, appeals to reason, or pleas for compassion had the power to move them, the terrorists would long ago have abandoned the field.
The serious way we dealt with terrorists from [September 11] on, and all the intelligence we gathered in that time, had everything to do with preventing another 9/11 on our watch. The enhanced interrogations of high-value detainees and the terrorist surveillance program have without question made our country safer.
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This might explain why President Obama has reserved unto himself the right to order the use of enhanced interrogation should he deem it appropriate. What value remains to that authority is debatable, given that the enemy now knows exactly what interrogation methods to train against, and which ones not to worry about. Yet having reserved for himself the authority to order enhanced interrogation after an emergency, you would think that President Obama would be less disdainful of what his predecessor authorized after 9/11. It's almost gone unnoticed that the president has retained the power to order the same methods in the same circumstances.
Along the way there were some hard calls. No decision of national security was ever made lightly, and certainly never made in haste. As in all warfare, there have been costs - none higher than the sacrifices of those killed and wounded in our country's service. And even the most decisive victories can never take away the sorrow of losing so many of our own.