President Obama's speech on national security, delivered at the National Archives this morning, has provoked much discussion.
At the risk of being Pollyannaish, though, I'd like to take a minute and enjoy how wonderfully well American civil society functions at times like these. On CNN right now, former Vice President Dick Cheney is giving a response to Obama's speech. As soon as Obama was done the picture switched seamlessly and instantly to Cheney, offering an uncensored, dissenting view from the official pronouncements of the most powerful man in the country. Cheney is speaking from the American Enterprise Institute, an institution that exists entirely free of government pressure, despite a tendency to muck around in partisan politics and policy. The speech is being transmitted on a private, for-profit television channel, broadcast on pay TV, also operating free of government interference.
This is free speech. This is a free society. These institutions—think tanks, news television—operate without fear of reprisal. It's easy to forget that a rich, multifaceted civil society is a tremendous luxury—and a rarity. Even in other developed nations, television stations are often owned by the state and/or subject to far more political restraint and government censorship.
Even if there's no other way you can enjoy a speech by Dick Cheney (or a speech by Obama, for that matter), try to take a deep breath enjoy today's spectacle from this somewhat meta point of view.