Obama, Cheney Clash over Gitmo Decision

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WASHINGTON - National security has become the focus of a heated debate in Washington this week.

On Thursday, both President Barack Obama and former Vice President Dick Cheney spoke on the topic offering very different perspectives.

The question at hand -- are Obama's policies making the country more safe or less safe?

Standing next to the U.S. Constitution, Obama came to the historical National Archives to defend why his policies will keep America safe.

"We uphold our most cherished values not only because doing so is right, but because it strengthens our country and keeps us safe. Time and again, our values have been our best national security asset," Obama said.

And that moral high ground philosophy has led the President to defend his ban torture and other enhanced interrogation techniques.

"We must leave these methods where they belong - in the past. They are not who we are. They are not America," Obama said.

He's also taken political hits for trying to close Quantanamo Bay. Critics say closing the military prison leaves open the question as to what the government will do with the suspected terrorists. The President went into full defense mode.

"We are not going to release anyone if it would endanger our national security, nor will we release detainees within the United States who endanger the American people," Obama said.

But the President did say Thursday that some will be tried in U.S. federal courts and housed in federal prisons. That may not go down well with Congress. The President also didn't give a concrete answer as to what he plans to do with prisoners who either can't be tried or turned loose. Instead, he blamed the Bush administration.

"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," Obama said.

Guantanamo has proved to be a major headache for Obama. This week, the Senate, controlled by his own Democratic party, voted overwhelmingly against his request for money to close down the controversial prison.

Congress wants to see a plan from the White House on what to do with the prisoners from Gitmo if it closes. So far, the White House hasn't offered one. The administration has also taken hits from the anti-war left who are upset that he won't release photos of U.S. soldiers abusing terrorist detainees.

"National security requires a delicate balance. Our democracy depends upon transparency, but some information must be protected from public disclosure for the sake of our security," Obama said.

While Obama defends his policies, a few blocks away, the former Vice President took his shots too. Dick Cheney has been very outspoken in condemning the President's policies and defending the Bush administration.

In what can only be called the political version of a WWF wrestling smack-down cage match, Cheney watched the President's speech at a conservative think tank nearby and then lowered the boom, citing what the terrorists must be thinking now.

"When they see the American government caught up in arguments about interrogations or whether foreign terrorists have constitutional rights they don't stand back in awe of our legal system and wonder whether they've misjudged us all along. Instead the terrorists see just what they were hoping for; our unity gone, our resolve shaken, our leaders distracted. In short they see weakness and opportunity," Cheney said.

 


 

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