Last week’s pair of national-security speeches from President Obama and former Vice-President Cheney amounted to something of a debate. Like the Lincoln-Douglas debates, the participants spoke at length on a single topic, and did so back-to-back. With modern technology, a joint appearance was not necessary for the press to cover both speeches as a single event.
Since Cheney’s speech was scheduled first, and then the president decided to schedule his at the exact same time, the White House must have thought that a debate served their purposes. Perhaps that’s because he had the advantage of staging (setting his own speech at the national archives) and knew that the press would edit his remarks more favorably than Cheney’s. Nevertheless, the president seems to be losing the debate.
A new Rasmussen poll, out today (via Instapundit), indicates that the public disagree with the president decision to close the Guantanamo prison by a 49-38 margin, and disagree with the president’s contention that the prison has damaged national security by a 51-25 margin. By a 57-28 margin the public opposes moving the Guantanamo detainees to US prisons. The poll didn’t ask about releasing them in the United States (as proposed by the Attorney General), but given these numbers it seems safe to assume that public opinion would be overwhelmingly against it.
Support for the president’s position has been steadily eroding since Inauguration Day. In January 42% supported keeping the prison open. The number has risen to 46% in April, and then to 49% today. Meanwhile, the number who believe the prison will “very likely” be closed has dropped to 15%, down from 49% last November.
I’m delighted to see a real debate take place in American politics. The events that we call “debates” with their two-minute statements are truly shabby affairs, designed for sound bites rather than substance. In a real debate, the strength of the case is paramount. I wish this would happen more often.
POSTSCRIPT: In a related item, another poll seems to show “the more Dick Cheney talks, the more Americans seem to like him.” (Via Instapundit.)