Mark Steyn: “[Obama’s] arguing …if we ease up on the waterboard, …they won’t use the rusty scimitar when they’re decapitating [our troops]

You really ought to read both President Obama’s speech and Dick Cheney’s speech from yesterday on national security. I always advise reading speeches because it you can cut through all the meaningless fawning bull-crap like, “oh – what great oratory skills presenter X has…,” and get down to the content presented. In my view – once speech consisted of high sounding theoretics – while the other seemed practical and realistic – but that’s just me. You can read them and draw your own conclusions.

Here is some audio of Mark Steyn and Hugh Hewitt discussing some of the aspects of Obama’s speech:

Here is the transcript of the audio. I have emphasized certain parts.

Read the full interview – or listen to the full Podcast

HH: Watched the extensive news coverage of President Obama and Dick Cheney hurling thunderbolts at each other. And to discuss that and other matters, joined by Columnist To the World, Mark Steyn. You can read all of Mark’s work at www.steynonline.com. Mark, just generally, quite an extraordinary day on the national security front with these battling giants of the national security world.

MS: Yes. I thought the President’s speech was revolting and contemptible, and one that he really should not have given. In a sense, the Vice President, Dick Cheney, all he had to do, really, was say well look, whatever you feel about these policies, for eight years, they worked, whereas during the 90s, we had attacks on American targets routinely throughout the 1990s, leading up to 9/11. Now obviously, there’s an element of luck in that as the IRA famously said to Mrs. Thatcher, you have to be lucky every day, we only have to be lucky once. But when you’ve been lucky for eight years, I think clearly you’re doing something right. And there was no need for Obama to give this speech, and he should not have given it.

HH: He’s clearly feeling very defensive. And Dick Cheney’s speech today was so sober, so detailed, so specific in its rebuttal of the airy claims about what’s going on in the world that I think it leaves a huge mark. But let’s listen to the worst two passages among many from the Obama speech, cut number 12A:

BHO: All too often, our government made decisions based on fear rather than foresight. But all too often our government trimmed facts and evidence to fit ideological predispositions. Instead of strategically applying our power and our principles, too often we set those principles aside as luxuries that we could no longer afford. And during this season of fear, too many of us, Democrats and Republicans, politicians, journalists and citizens, fell silent.

HH: Mark Steyn, this is a deeply dishonest statement. It lacks the specificity that would allow people to rebut it, and it is an attempt to give himself credit for that which he does not deserve, the national security success of the last eight years, and to diminish that success.

MS: Yes, I think that’s true. I mean, let me say first of all, I think it’s entirely improper for him to be giving this speech. It’s far more specific, if you look for example at Jimmy Carter’s famous speech, again, saying that, I think in 1977, saying we were all far too hung up about communism, and we had “an inordinate fear” of it, even that speech, as ridiculous as that was, was not a specific assault on the immediate preceding government. Well, what happened on January 20th was not some coup, was not the successful conclusion of a war of liberation. It’s a two party system, and Party A is out of power, and Party B is in power. But the acts taken in the last year, as far as the world were concerned, were the acts of the government of the United States. And given that they were generally successful for the citizens of the United States, I think this would have been a perfectly understandable speech to give last summer when he was campaigning for president. But it’s a very weird speech, and a contemptible speech to give right now.

HH: Let’s get to the second cut, this on interrogation, cut number 14:

BHO: I know some have argued that brutal methods like waterboarding were necessary to keep us safe. I could not disagree more. As commander in chief, I see the intelligence. I bear the responsibility for keeping this country safe. And I categorically reject the assertion that these are the most effective means of interrogation. What’s more, they undermine the rule of law. They alienate us in the world. They serve as a recruitment tool for terrorists, and increase the will of our enemies to fight us, while decreasing the will of others to work with America. They risk the lives of our troops by making it less likely that others will surrender to them in battle, and more likely that Americans will be mistreated if they are captured.

HH: Mark Steyn, there so many falsehoods in this. Go ahead.

MS: Yes, there are, and I think first of all, one thing that is completely absurd is this idea that somehow American interrogation techniques act as a recruitment tool for al Qaeda. This is nonsense. What acts as a recruitment tool for the jihad in general is when it’s seen or perceived to be successful, and the jihadists are seen as the coming men. The idea that some guy in Waziristan or Yemen is encouraged to join the jihad because of waterboarding is preposterous. There’s no evidence for it whatsoever. He’s just concocted that out of his own head, and I think actually betrays either the naïveté of this president, which is one thing, or what’s worse, is the cynicism of him if he knows that this is nonsense and he’s saying it anyway.

HH: Well, the idea that we’re undermining the rule of law as he undermines the rule of law, by making an attack upon the legal conclusions and positions of a previous administration, and adopting what is in essence an ex post facto approach to people who participated in the war on terror. It’s really something I never expected out of someone who purports to have been a scholar of the Constitution. Mark Steyn, the idea also that our methods will increase the degree of bad torture on our troops when they’re caught, it’s absurd. They cut our heads off.

MS: Yes, and I suppose he’s arguing here that well look, if we ease up on the waterboard, then when our troops are captured, they won’t use the rusty scimitar when they’re decapitating them. This is completely preposterous, the idea that somehow what is happening at Guantanamo and other facilities, if we make nice with these fellows, they will suddenly start observing the rules of the Geneva Convention. No, if you’re the kind of target they’re looking for, and they capture you, they will saw your head off and release it as a snuff video on the internet. And nothing that Obama says is going to change that. Now as I said, either he’s a fool who simply cannot understand that not everybody sitting around the world looks at things the way an ACLU lawyer does sitting in Hyde Park, Chicago. But if he’s making that mistake, then he’s actually incapable of the so-called empathy that he prizes as one of his key qualities.

HH: The backdrop to the speech today, Mark Steyn, bad timing for the President, of course, the arrest of four would-be bombers of synagogues and shooter-down of airlines and airplanes in New York. And I don’t believe they converted to radical Islam in prison because of waterboarding being conducted on the jihadists.

MS: No, they didn’t, and in fact if he wanted to make a serious speech, he would have addressed the issue of Islamic recruitment and conversion in American and other Western prisons, which is really the same thing happened to Richard Reid, the shoe bomber. It’s actually by now a tried and tested formula for recruits. It’s a far more effective formula than running around the Middle East saying oh, have you seen, you know, the Americans are waterboarding some of us. This is actually an effective recruiting tool, what they’re doing in Western prisons. It’s sad to see someone with such a September 10th mentality trotting out these old lines.

Comparing Inaugural Addresses

In all honesty, I thought President Obama’s address yesterday was so-so. There were certainly good aspects to it, but then again, look at it in comparison to a couple other rather notable Presidential Inaugural Addresses:

President Barack Obama:

John F. Kennedy’s Address, a Democrat:

Republican Ronald Reagan, a Republican:

The President – on September 11, 2001

Regardless of your opinion of the man – I think that day, was one of his greatest:

Obama’s Speech in Berlin: Full Text

You can read his entire speech here.

In my opinion, it’s mostly generalities. Be sure to read it though and post a comment if you think something really stands out. Here are a few sections that stand out to me (my comments are in grey):

The fall of the Berlin Wall brought new hope. But that very closeness has given rise to new dangers – dangers that cannot be contained within the borders of a country or by the distance of an ocean.

[…]

As we speak, cars in Boston and factories in Beijing are melting the ice caps in the Arctic, shrinking coastlines in the Atlantic, and bringing drought to farms from Kansas to Kenya. (From what I hear, this is not only an extreme exaggeration – but likely, not true at all. It’s certainly not the case in the Antarctic. I mean – that’s a huge assumption that cars and factories are directly the cause of world droughts. Call me crazy, but I’d like to see the actual science linking the two.)

[…]

In Europe, the view that America is part of what has gone wrong in our world, rather than a force to help make it right, has become all too common. (Clarification: “To people of the left in Europe…the view that America is part of what has gone wrong in our world, rather than a force to help make it right, has become all too common.” This is a media driven myth in my opinion. If what Obama said was true, how was Nicolas Sarkozy, a huge supporter of America, elected in France of all places? The media in America refuses to show people around the world that do support America – mainly because, why would they bother? First, it’s not exactly newsworthy, and Second: it doesn’t support the news media’s narrative that George W. Bush has been the most heinously evil president in the history of the universe.)

[…]

This is the moment when we must come together to save this planet. Let us resolve that we will not leave our children a world where the oceans rise and famine spreads and terrible storms devastate our lands. Let us resolve that all nations – including my own – will act with the same seriousness of purpose as has your nation, and reduce the carbon we send into our atmosphere. This is the moment to give our children back their future. This is the moment to stand as one. (Here again with the catastrophic carbon = death predictions. The other day, our local news failed to predict the weather accurately for a mere 6 hours, and yet you have people making predictions about the climate systems of the entire Earth for the next 100 years… This whole thing just seems like a bit of hysteria to me. Mark Steyn said it best,

 

“…he can make the oceans subside, but will he be able to improve border security? I doubt it.”)

But I also know how much I love America. I know that for more than two centuries, we have strived – at great cost and great sacrifice – to form a more perfect union; to seek, with other nations, a more hopeful world. Our allegiance has never been to any particular tribe or kingdom – indeed, every language is spoken in our country; every culture has left its imprint on ours; every point of view is expressed in our public squares. What has always united us – what has always driven our people; what drew my father to America’s shores – is a set of ideals that speak to aspirations shared by all people: that we can live free from fear and free from want; that we can speak our minds and assemble with whomever we choose and worship as we please. (Now this is a decent section over all. He is extolling the concept of E Pluribus Unam – which is a great thing about America, as well as our sacrifice, and freedoms of speech and religion. The only odd bit is, ‘free from fear and free from want.’ Personally, I think it’s simply freedom, period.)

Anyway, I guess I just want a guy who is going to talk about Liberty. That’s what gets me stoked, and what I think makes American great. Here are a couple really good speeches in Berlin by men, who I feel, really earned the right to speak there:
Feel free to leave your own assessments.