Not-So-Scary Tactics

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Much as it pains me to defend Dick Cheney, it seems to me as though his alleged "scare tactics" vis a vis the threat of terror if we make the "wrong choice" on Election Day rest on a straightforward misreading of his statement. Here's what most of the articles I've seen are quoting:

Because if we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that we'll get hit again, that we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States.

Here's the full relevant statement from the transcript:

Because if we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that we'll get hit again, that we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States, and that we'll fall back into the pre-9/11 mind set if you will, that in fact these terrorist attacks are just criminal acts, and that we're not really at war. I think that would be a terrible mistake for us.

Most of the reports either omit the rest of the quotation entirely, or append it elsewhere, as though they weren't part of one long, multi-clause sentence. As I read this, he's not saying the danger is that if we elect Kerry, then the danger is that we'll be attacked. He's saying that if we elect Kerry and we're attacked, then the danger is that we'll treat it as a criminal act rather than an act of war. And in context, it's actually pretty transparent that this is what Cheney intended. So transparent once you look at the full transcript, in fact, that I wonder whether some of the misreading isn't deliberate, either as a partisan tactic or an attempt to generate a news story.

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  1. Everything else in his statement is predicated on if we make the wrong choice. That’s a necessary pre-condition for everything else he says. Could that “wrong choice” be a 9/10 mindset? No, since he covers that later in the quote as having occurred after making the “wrong choice.”

  2. Oh come on now! You mean to tell me that you don’t think Mr. Cheney INTENDED to be a little ambiguous there? Have you not heard a single speech this person has given in the past 4 years? If he wanted to make his message clear, all he would have had to say was “Because if we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that IF WE ARE HIT AGAIN…”

    Mr. Cheney wants you to think he said one thing while being able to deny it later.

  3. Yeah, it’s obvious that by “the wrong choice” he means electing Kerry, but again, if you read the whole paragraph and the surrounding material, it’s equally obvious that the result of the “wrong choice” he’s warning against IS the “pre-9/11” approach, not the attack itself.

  4. I thought about that–it’s certainly possible, and I would fit with a broader pattern of saying misleading but technically accurate or defensible things… but I also suspect most people in the audience who were following the whole train of discussion interpreted it in the way I did.

  5. I dunno…a lot of Bush supporters (see, e.g., Hugh Hewitt) seem to be interpreting it the same way as Bush detractors. On the other hand, you seem right to me.

  6. As Chomsky might diagram:

    – if [we make the wrong choice]
    then
    – the danger [is that we’ll get hit again]

    If I did something yesterday, there’s a danger that something might happen tomorrow as a result of [what I did yesterday].

    Everything else in the Cheney quote deals with the aftermath of being “hit again”.

    He no doubt knew how that sounded and if he meant something else he would have made an immediate clarification.

  7. When discussing war and terrorism, Cheney and Bush have frequently been careful to sound like they’re saying one thing while actually saying something else. That doesn’t relieve the listener of his or her responsibility to pay careful attention (in fact, it increases the responsibility), but it does suggest that these guys are rather skilled liars.

    Then again, the fact that they got so far in politics would also suggest that they’re skilled liars.

    (And yes, I know, Kerry is much worse. Just have to tack that on to keep some people here happy.)

  8. thoreau,

    Do you really think Kerry is much worse than Cheney, in terms of lying, I mean? I’m no fan of Kerry’s, don’t intend to vote for him, but I don’t know who beats Cheney in terms of outright lies, except maybe Clinton and Nixon.

  9. Well, he’s not speaking in symbolic logic. But consider:
    “If you don’t insure your house comprehensively, the danger is that your house will catch fire, that it’ll burn down, and that you’ll find yourself suddenly wiped out without enough resources to rebuild.” Same sentence structure, obvious that failure to insure isn’t being claimed to be a risk factor for your house burning. Again, it’s context more than the strict grammar of the sentence (which could be read either way) that make the meaning clear.

  10. Ok, let’s take your take on what Dick said.

    It’s still utter crap.

    For example, suppose we sustain a terrorist attack just like in Madrid: Multiple explosive events on transportation lines, leading to major loss of life. And its demonstrably done by a bunch of terrorists associated with the Madrid bombers, primarily (but not exclusively) from Morrocco

    Who do we declare war on? Who do we bomb? What else is possible to do but investigate, gather intelligence, and hunt dowm the people responsible. What we do with them might involve criminal trials, or something more abrupt, but in any case, doesn’t seem to be a job for the Army, Navy and Air Force.

    The situation post 9/11 in Afganistan gave us a legitimate military target. I don’t see any elsewhere.

  11. Les-

    On this forum I try to end most posts critical of the current administration with “Of course, Kerry would be much worse.” Otherwise certain posters just get on my case. Of course, as annoying as they can be, Kerry would be much worse 😉

    My screen name is thoreau, and I approve this message.

  12. John:
    That’s another story; I was trying to parse what Cheney was saying, not whether it was right.

  13. And in context, it’s actually pretty transparent that this is what Cheney intended. So transparent once you look at the full transcript, in fact, that I wonder whether some of the misreading isn’t deliberate,….

    Nah, y’think?

    Lonewacko, I don’t doubt that Chomsky would try to diagram it that way, but in fact, a comma in a list is a logical conjunct. So it should be read as

    if [make the wrong choice] AND [we’re hit again] AND [we fall back into a 9/10 mindset] AND [act as if it’s a crime and not an act of war]

    then [we’ll be making a terrible mistake].

    Actually, it’s probably better to analyze it as a conditional probability, but I don’t know how to get HTML to let me type set-theoretic operators.

  14. “… I wonder whether some of the misreading isn’t deliberate, either as a partisan tactic or an attempt to generate a news story.”

    Oh Julian! You may be an honest journalist, but please don’t assume that most others are like you. How can you wonder? Didn’t you go to university will all those journalism majors who, instead of wanting to report the truth, wanted to “change the world”? It seemed to me that most of them were more interested in their causes than the truth. As far as I can tell (as a person who gets his news from 50+ different sources and spends 30-50 hours per week doing so), the majority of journalists are either horribly ignorant or intentional prevaricators–Reason’s staff excluded. And to prove my respect for Reason’s staff, I will, after clicking the Post button, purchase a subscription to the mag.

    Anyway, I agree with your analysis, as well as the idea that Cheney is a brilliant twister of the truth.

    Funny note: A reporter for BBC world just stated that the Genesis capsule crashed with an impact speed of 193 million miles per hour. That’s almost 0.3c! I assume that was ignorance and not intentional.

  15. So how does Cheney intend to react if there’s another attack? Invade another country? Implicit in either intepretation is the idea that a) the Bush administration is more likely to prevent an attack and/or b) will react to another attack significantly differently than would a Kerry administration.

  16. If you’re trying to argue that other people’s cutting the quote down is misleading readers then perhaps your argument would be more convincing if you yourself quoted the entire sentence!

    It’s absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on Nov. 2, we make the right choice, because if we make the wrong choice then the danger is that we’ll get hit again and we’ll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States.

    The extra emphasis on it being “absolutely essential” that people vote for him certainly makes it clear that his point is “vote for me or else there will be terrorist attacks”. That’s the plain reading.

    And frankly I think it’s obvious that that’s the political point he’s trying to make. It’s just the same as the Daisy Girl ad. “Vote for me because the other guy’s policies will lead you astray and you’ll die in a nuclear war.”

    I think it was a particularly clumsy and poor way to phrase it. If it were outside the context of an election campaign it would sound like an implied threat. But really, only the conspiracy theorists need to worry about Cheney’s connections and will to arrange terrorist attacks. In the context of the election it’s clear he’s not saying he personally would arrange the attack, just that he thinks Kerry’s policies would lead to them.

    If policies against terrorism isn’t a valid subject for debate, then what is? And if they are, isn’t the risk that the policies would allow or the ability to prevent terrorist attacks the point?

  17. I think I disagree with everyone – I think that, in context, Cheney’s statement was defensible. (I also think he skated up to the line in order to get a headline, and keep the War on Terror in the news – his full comments have lots on taxes, the economy, health care, and so on.).

    Anyway, where I part company with our host is that I think the key to the context is in the bit that precedes the commonly quoted excerpt:

    We made decisions at the end of World War II, at the beginning of the Cold War, when we set up the Department of Defense, and the CIA, and we created the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and undertook a bunch of major policy steps that then were in place for the next 40 years, that were key to our ultimate success in the Cold War, that were supported by Democrat and Republican alike — Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower and Jack Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon and Gerry Ford and a whole bunch of Presidents, from both parties, supported those policies over a long period of time. We’re now at that point where we’re making that kind of decision for the next 30 or 40 years, and it’s absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on November 2nd, we make the right choice. Because if we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that we’ll get hit again…

    Before that, Cheney had been talking about the importance of being on offense,and that defense alone can’t work:

    If you think about it, if we’re successful 99.9 percent of the time on defense, if they get through one-tenth of 1 percent of the time, that’s enough to do enormous damage — given the scale of the threat that we’re forced to deal with here. So going on offense has meant using U.S. military force to go after the terrorists wherever they plan and train and organize. It also has meant going after those who support terror.

    My (sympathetic) summary of Cheney’s point – Cheney believe in defense offense; his assessment of Kerry’s 20 year record is that Kerry believes in defense; if we make the wrong choice in eight weeks, the long term outlook is bad.

    I think he meant pretty much what he seemed to say – Kerry will make our country less safe.

  18. thoreau,

    I understand. I find myself instinctively doing the same with Clinton as I raise my hands and smile nervously.

  19. I think it’s pretty clear Cheney meant:

    1) The War on Terror will be a long term diffuse conflict like the Cold War.

    2) We are presently at the same stage in WOT as policy makers the architects of America’s Cold War strategy were in the late 40’s.

    3) Our current choice is between a mindset that views terrorism as a military problem and a 9/10 mindset that views terrorism as a limited problem best addressed by the criminal justice system.

    4) Choosing the criminal justice option will be disasterous long term.

    5) When the next attack occurs, how we respond to it will lay the foundation for the rest of the struggle.

    6) If we choose Kerry we are choosing the 9/10 option.

    Even if Cheney did mean that electing Kerry would increase the likelihood of an attack that in itself is a valid point. Strangely, it appears that Kerry and the press feel that saying that one’s political opponents policies will make America more prone to terrorist attack is an unfair and hysterical criticism.

    I mean, isn’t that precisely what the debate is about?

    Bizarre.

  20. The situation post 9/11 in Afganistan gave us a legitimate military target.

    The situation pre-9/11 made Afghanistan a legitimate military target. We didn’t strike them because we were, at the time, treating terrorism as a law enforcement matter — there was a warrant out on Osama, but we weren’t willing to send in the Marines to serve it.

    I don’t see any elsewhere

    Well, obviously — there haven’t been any other attacks yet. You posit an attack from Morocco. Ok. Now supposing they refuse to hand over the terrorists responsible — presto, Morocco instantly becomes a valid military target.

    Then, of course, there’s the question of who funded the attacks. There are many terrorist groups out there with specific national ties, such as to Syria or Iran. An attack on the United States by one of those groups would, naturally, make the country that sponsors them a valid military target.

    What we don’t want is a repeat of the pre-9/11 situation where a terrorist whackjob could kill some Americans and then go enjoy a relaxing vacation in Iran or Iraq or some other Nth-world nation while the US Attorney General impotently waved a subpoena at him.

  21. Cheney was elaborating on his (Cheney) taking Kerry out of context about being “sensitive” to terrorists.

    The sad facts are Republicans want a never-ending war, while Democrats want a never-ending police action with a presumption of guilt.
    Which party will do some examination of grievances and do some arbitrating?

  22. Some of the commas in Cheney’s speech reflect pauses.

    All programming languages have something like an “if-then-else” construct. For instance, let’s say we want to turn a light bulb on if it’s off and off if it’s on:

    if
    the_light_bulb_is_on
    then
    turn_the_light_bulb_off
    else
    turn_the_light_bulb_on

    That said, “If you don’t insure your house comprehensively, the danger is that your house will catch fire,” isn’t a correct analogy.

    The correct analogy would be: “If you don’t insure your house comprehensively, then the danger is that your house will catch fire”

    if
    not_insured
    then
    house_afire
    else
    presumably_house_not_afire

  23. Some of the confusion here may stem from the fact that people may be working with different transcripts. As noted at the end of this Washington Post article, the administration has revised the transcript after it was initially released. The original transcript, as released to reporters, had a period between “the danger is that we’ll be hit again” and the section about treating terrorism as a criminal act rather than an act of war, whereas the revision merges the two sentences. A minor change, no doubt, but certainly significant in the sort of linguistic analysis we’re trying to do here.

  24. Programmer Jim, you left out the comments in Cheney’s code:

    If Horrible_Attack Then
    If Kerry_Wins Then \ YOU WILL DIE!!!!!
    Candlelight_Vigil()
    Else
    Eternal_Peace()
    EndIf
    EndIf

  25. I awoke to to the local news station on my radio. They said that an airplane had crashed into some building in New York. Hmmm, maybe there’s something on TV.

    Click, there was! Smoke out the side of a BIG building. News crews setting up, wondering what happened, just like me.

    Then, an airliner entered the frame. Making its now-famous crash into the New York skyline. I knew in that instant — we were at war.

    Apologies to the many that still do not get it, but the rest of world has to provide for its survival. Please do not hinder our efforts, thank you.

  26. I basically agree with Julian’s parsing of Cheney’s speech, but I think everyone is over-analyzing the grammar. This was a SPEECH, not a white paper or an exercise in symbolic logic. We should interpret its meaning based on the context and overall language, not on a comma or a period.

    I think it’s quite clear that Cheney is saying we face a fundamental policy choice, analogous to the one we faced at the beginning of the Cold War, as to how to deal with the threat of terrorism. Who we elect as President this November will shape our basic direction, perhaps for decades and through many administration of both Republicans and Democrats. Cheney believes there is a high risk that Kerry would make the wrong choice and view further acts of terrorism as law enforcement issues, whereas Bush will treat such attacks as war-related actions in an integrated global struggle.

    That is a very fair argument and serious political position to take (whether or not it is correct). And it reflects extremely poorly on the Democratic campaign that all Kerry and Edwards can do is whine about it rather than engage Cheney in substantial debate on the issue.

    As to the separate question of what military action is possible, as opposed to a law enforcement-type response, that will depend upon the nature of a future terrorist attack. An uncoordinated attack by a single or small number of individuals WILL be dealt with through law enforcement means (e.g., the Beltway Sniper shootings). Whereas another major Al Queda attack on a scale similar to 9/11 will evoke a massive military response aimed at any nation which provides sanctuary to terrorist groups. Efforts will be made to identify the staging area(s) for the attack, and any nation harboring the attackers will be given an ultimatum to hand them over and halt their activities, or (if the nation can’t do it itself) allow the U.S. to come into that country and clean out the nests. Failure to comply will result in the obliteration of that regime, much as the Taliban regime was eliminated.

  27. Bitter:

    Please just stop is exactly what the news reports did when they ended Cheney’s quote before the part about it referring to Kerry’s pre-9/11 stance on terror being the mistake.

    The only do-over is what the media’s printed take has made it, run with and amplified by hypersensitive crybabies who can’t/won’t debate policy choices because their policies don’t stand up to the slightest scrutiny or are nonexistent.

    This is like taking statements such as “We applaude JKF’s service in Vietnam, but his judgment is wrong” and turning it into “questioning his patriotism”, or turning , “Iraq is not yet an imminent threat, but we can’t afford, post-9/11, for it to become one” into “Bush said Iraq was an imminent threat!”

    Do the media think Americans don’t remember what they’ve heard or believe their own ears?

  28. The statement follows as such:

    1. If we make the wrong choice
    2. Then the danger is that we’ll get hit again

    The rest of it is just fluff. That is the argument that cheney made. The cut the papers have made is correct. Just because they cut out the rest does not immediately make it a misquote.

    The argument is isolated from the secondary statements, connected by an ‘AND.’ It’s not as if the secondary statement is an explanation of the primary argument. It’s additional information. It doesn’t detract from the main argument (that we will be hit if Kerry is elected).

    There are two arguments going on. The media has seemed to portray it as ad lib. I’m not sure. It was either phrased very well or very poorly and on purpose or not. Time will tell for the former and we’ll probably never know about the latter.

  29. The statement follows as such:

    1. If we make the wrong choice
    2. Then the danger is that we’ll get hit again

    That’s good as far as it goes. Cheney, however, was not speaking from a written text. If he meant to place an IF before that we’ll get hit… he may have mumbled it, or just have constructed his sentence poorly on the fly. That is easy enough to do in ex tempore public speaking. Only Cheney knows if he meant “electing Kerry will invite more frequent attacks than reelecting Bush.”

    Kevin

  30. Maybe the plan was to provoke a hysterical response from the New York Times and the rest of the Kerry campaign. Whether or not Cheney said it one way or the other, the question of whether Kerry will properly fight the war on terror will now be a point that is discussed by the pro-Kerry media. I think it is the central question of the election. The hysterical reaction from the Kerry campaign kind of makes Cheney’s point, whichever way he meant it.

  31. Lori,

    My take exactly. We got the internet and we can fact check yer ass.

    We have 50+ more days of this. By about day +35 from now it will become so obvious to all America that I believe it will add significantly to the Bush numbers.

    Americans don’t like being told by their “betters” how to vote. There will be a backlash.

    –==–

    Why is the DoD checking on Kerry’s Medals? Because tampering with Military Records is a Federal Crime.

    Stolen Honor

  32. class BushCheney {
    public void fightTerrorism() {
    for ( int i = 1; i < 100000000000; i++ ) {
    disruptTerrorists();
    protectBorders();
    makeSpeeches();
    discreditMilitantIslamicEnemies();
    }
    }
    public int makeSpeeches() {
    Runtime.getRuntime().exec( “cat speech.txt” );
    return 34;
    }
    private void protectBorders() {
    // TO DO
    }
    private void disruptTerrorists() {
    // TO DO
    }
    private void discreditMilitantIslamicEnemies() {
    // TO DO
    }
    private BushCheney() {}
    }

    Welcome Instapundit readers!

  33. Only Cheney knows if he meant “electing Kerry will invite more frequent attacks than reelecting Bush.”

    Whether or not Cheney said it one way or the other, the question of whether Kerry will properly fight the war on terror will now be a point

    Yes. Again, thank you for admitting the filthy truth. It doesn’t matter what Cheney “really meant” to say. He said it. (And when did Kerry stop beating his wife anyway?)

    Since this is just an innocent little miscommunication, I’m sure he’ll be making a clear public statement to disavow the horrifying anti-democratic implications?

    After all, the Republicans are disavowing the politics of fear and are trying to run on the issues…

  34. Because tampering with Military Records is a Federal Crime.

    ummmm…

  35. All this energetic speculation is beside the point. Either way it’s (mis)interpreted, Cheney’s statement is correct. Kerry represents the America which can be attacked with impunity. He sometimes talks tough, but it’s not fooling anybody, including America’s enemies.

  36. The main clause in that statement says unequivocably that if we make the wrong choice (elect Kerry) we will get hit again and that Kerry will treat it as a crime and that we’ll fall back into a 9/10 position. You can’t parse it to mean anything else. . .STOP MAKING SENSE out of something that’s bullshit!

  37. Almost every speech the Vice President gives indicates that the U.S. will be attacked again no matter who is President. He frequently is quoted as saying that “a future attack in inevitable.” He is not now changing direction and saying that only a Kerry-Edwards Administration would suffer such an attack. That would be silly. He is instead quoting Sen. Kerry’s past statements that the war on terror should be addressed as a law enforcement matter, and suggesting that a wholly defensive approach to terror is inappropriate.

  38. The main clause in that statement says unequivocably that if we make the wrong choice (elect Kerry) we will get hit again and that Kerry will treat it as a crime and that we’ll fall back into a 9/10 position.

    So where’s the problem? It’s true. Why is it that the only way to determine the truth anymore is to wait until Kerry’s camp reacts? If they complain bitterly then the truth of the charge is proven. Cheney said what he said and he meant it. And it is true. Stop whining. The Republicans did not pick the Democrat candidate – the Democrats did and now they are stuck trying to defend a 60’s era peacenik with a proven record of anti-war positions and appeasing ways. That is why they will lose and they determined their fate in Iowa. Deal with it.

  39. It’s funny how so many can make so much of so little. Cheney doesn’t need to have his words
    previewed for consumption. He speaks from his
    well-scarred heart. Bush fights … Kerry talks.
    Either may result in another hit, but I’ll go
    with the fighter. Talkers say much but never
    act.

  40. Both interpretations are true, whether Cheney meant them or not.
    OBL said, regarding the Somalia skedaddle, that the US was weak and could safely be attacked. Perceived weakness invites attack and Kerry’s record (the Somalia skedaddle is a “record” of sorts but in deeds instead of words) shows weakness. Therefore, for those who think as OBL does–which is a lot of folks who are trying to decide what to do to us–Kerry’s election would be an encouragement.
    The clear meaning of Cheney’s statement is that if or more likely when we get hit next, the 9-10 mindset would be a disaster for us and Kerry looks like–has spoken as if he believes–the suite of responses used prior to 9-11 is all the clubs in the bag.
    Either way, Cheny is right, although it is clear that the latter is what he meant.
    How nice to be right in what you said, and right in what your enemies try to pretend you said. Those who are deliberately–nobody’s dumb enough to believe the misinterpretation–skewing what Cheney said somehow think there’s something out of bounds in saying that Kerry’s election would invite attack. It’s a legitimate point which ought to be discussed. Might be true, might not.
    Might not, hell.

  41. The point is that the Bush-hating press once again demonstrates the lengths it will go to get rid of him. It is sad that the mainstream media would purposefully truncate a quote to influence an election. This is why co-conspiritor Evan Thomas expected media help to boost Kerry’s numbers by 15%, he knows how his friends operate. However, he is still living in the pre-blog, pre-Fox news environment, where nobody got airtime to refute the bogus reports.

  42. Amazing how well Clinton trained everyone to examine every word – or, to put it another way, how cynical everyone has become toward those in politics with whom they disagree.

    The first question is “Text or extemporaneous?” Because people don’t speak the way they write – the standard for good grammar in the spoken word is decidedly less stringent.

    By the way, either formulation is defensible:

    1) “If Kerry’s elected and we’re attacked, the result will be bad for us because Kerry’s a 9/10 Democrat – he’ll try to have Edwards serve a summons on OBL.”

    or

    2) “If Kerry’s elected, then another attack becomes more likely – everyone knows his approach would be to have Edwards serve a summons on OBL, and they’re not afraid of a summons.”

    Bottom line – they know GWB will come after them; Kerry’s 35 year history suggests he’d do nothing of the sort.

  43. It seems that most people agree on the following: 1. A Kerry administration is inclined be less aggressive than President Bush in Iraq or on other offensive measures, and less willing to commit our resources (200 Billion etc.) to those overseas efforts; 2. that we will eventually get hit again no matter who is President, but 3. that the real question is whether the terrorists will have the wherewithal to hit us here (in the U.S.) with devastating effect. On the 3rd question, the seriousness of our antiterror measures abroad, and our offensive war, makes all the difference. Thus, the VP’s statement makes sense either way you read it. I suspect he meant to criticize Kerry for his “law enforcement approach” and that the Kerry folks though they had an opportunity to turn the issue around, so they leaped on it. Not sure that works, however. People realize this is time to be serious.
    In the end, Kerry is himself a symbol (by virtue of his VVAW role) of America’s weakest hour. And his current line — that he would redirect critical resources from our troops and war on terror to domestic needs — parallels that VVAW message. I’d think almost everyone would agree that this culture of retreat is a dangerous message to send the world. Indeed, Russia is now going in exactly the opposite direction after the horrific Breslan events.

  44. It seems that most people agree on the following: 1. A Kerry administration is inclined be less aggressive than President Bush in Iraq or on other offensive measures, and less willing to commit our resources (200 Billion etc.) to those overseas efforts; 2. that we will eventually get hit again no matter who is President, but 3. that the real question is whether the terrorists will have the wherewithal to hit us here (in the U.S.) with devastating effect. On the 3rd question, the seriousness of our antiterror measures abroad, and our offensive war, makes all the difference. Thus, the VP’s statement makes sense either way you read it. I suspect he meant to criticize Kerry for his “law enforcement approach” and that the Kerry folks though they had an opportunity to turn the issue around, so they leaped on it. Not sure that works, however. People realize this is time to be serious.
    In the end, Kerry is himself a symbol (by virtue of his VVAW role) of America’s weakest hour. And his current line — that he would redirect critical resources from our troops and war on terror to domestic needs — parallels that VVAW message. I’d think almost everyone would agree that this culture of retreat is a dangerous message to send the world. Indeed, Russia is now going in exactly the opposite direction after the horrific Breslan events.

  45. It seems that most people agree on the following: 1. A Kerry administration is inclined be less aggressive than President Bush in Iraq or on other offensive measures, and less willing to commit our resources (200 Billion etc.) to those overseas efforts; 2. that we will eventually get hit again no matter who is President, but 3. that the real question is whether the terrorists will have the wherewithal to hit us here (in the U.S.) with devastating effect. On the 3rd question, the seriousness of our antiterror measures abroad, and our offensive war, makes all the difference. Thus, the VP’s statement makes sense either way you read it. I suspect he meant to criticize Kerry for his “law enforcement approach” and that the Kerry folks though they had an opportunity to turn the issue around, so they leaped on it. Not sure that works, however. People realize this is time to be serious.
    In the end, Kerry is himself a symbol (by virtue of his VVAW role) of America’s weakest hour. And his current line — that he would redirect critical resources from our troops and war on terror to domestic needs — parallels that VVAW message. I’d think almost everyone would agree that this culture of retreat is a dangerous message to send the world. Indeed, Russia is now going in exactly the opposite direction after the horrific Breslan events.

  46. Cheney meant exactly what Julian thinks he meant. But even if he meant what the critics say he meant, so what? Has a day gone by this year when a high profile Democrat has not claimed that Bush has made us less safe? Does this mean something different from what the critics claim Cheney meant? And have Bush and Cheney whined like girlie men? No, this is the exclusive province of Kerry and Edwards, whining infantile brats. Every time they open their pie holes they prove themselves unfit as leaders.

  47. Thoreau:

    What lies have Bush or Cheney told? None.

    And what is “I was in Cambodia on Christmas Eve 1968” if not a lie?

  48. The idea that the response to a “devastating” terrorist attack would be to “fall back into the pre-9/11 mindset” is so idiotic that I can only conclude Cheney is being deliberately disingenuous. Recall, people, what changed the national mindset from pre-9/11 to post9/11? Whey, a devastating terrorist attack!

    It is not within the realm of possibility that Cheney is suggesting that another such attack will cause us to let down our guard and become less warlike. You’re wrong, Julian, he’s telling the audience that Kerry will let terrorists murder their children.

  49. On the law enforcement issue, the Vice President was QUOTING Senator Kerry’s statements of 2003 and of THIS YEAR. Those statements are obviously post 9/11. And there is now no avoiding Sen. Kerry’s statements that he would shift our war resources (200 Billion) to his domestic priorities. That is a retreat from our commitments in Iraq. There is only one nation who can defeat America in Iraq — America. A lack of resolve, or diminishing commitment at home are our true dangers. Sen. Kerry is trumpeting both. His whole new strategy is simply playing into the Republicans’ message. Foolish.

  50. Interesting–they changed the punctuation of the transcript. Earlier today on the WhiteHouse site it was:

    “Because if we make the wrong choice, then the danger is that we’ll get hit again. That we’ll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States, and that we’ll fall back into the pre-9/11 mind set if you will, that in fact these terrorist attacks are just criminal acts, and that we’re not really at war. I think that would be a terrible mistake for us.”

    (I am quite certain of this, because I pointed out the White House’s own punctuation in response to another site claiming Cheney was misquoted.)

  51. oops–missed that last comment. Sorry.

  52. I happen to think Cheney meant exactly what everybody wishes he didn’t. I also agree with him.

    Kerry will do his best to prove that Carter was right (maybe he’ll even bless us with a comment about being “free of that inordinate fear” of Islam or somesuch). It will embolden our enemies again, and our wishy-washy response to pressure and crisis will lead to our being struck in another severe attack.

    Fear-mongering? Divisiveness? Maybe the topic of discussion should be the reaction rather than the statement — we can’t even discuss the dangers of appeasement without appeasing to the weak? WTF!

  53. Strangely, it appears that Kerry and the press feel that saying that one’s political opponents policies will make America more prone to terrorist attack is an unfair and hysterical criticism.

    You know, you’re right. The sitting vice president suggesting that voting for an opponent will result in a devastating terrorist attack is not “hysterical.” It is more of an anti-democratic ploy designed to incite hysteria.

    But thanks for at least being honest enough to admit that this was Cheney’s ploy. The whole “what he was really trying to say” justification of his disgusting propaganda ploy was really pathetic.

  54. Lord, that’s a tortured defense and reading of Cheney’s statement. It requires someone to believe the clause “fall back into the pre 9/11 mindset” is predicated by “being attacked again”, rather than the more obvious, and frankly more accurate and gramatically correct, predicate of “if we make the wrong choice”.

    Cheney just made extemporaneous statements that came out awkwardly, and he’s paying the price. It’s not like the Kerry campaign doesn’t know about that…

  55. Has anyone thought this may be a Bush/Cheney ploy to throw something like this out about once a week or so and then watch ALL the Democrats go into “attack” mode. It’s working, just watch Edwards awaiting Bush to disavow the statement. The Democrats need to wise up.

  56. Reading and punctuation are my game (English major, editor, etc.) However, when I first heard the speech, I could tell exactly that Cheney meant that IF the voters choose Kerry AND (inevitably) a terrorist attack occurs THEN it will have been a bad choice based on Kerry’s prediliction to pre-9/11 arguments about terrorism.

    Cheney’s argument may not be logical (any terrorist attack would tend to alter the equation for whatever administration would be in power). But, however inelegantly, what Cheney was saying is, during the Cold War, Democrats and Republicans agreed on the “enemy” and the overall comportment toward that enemy. Cheney is saying that the Democrats do not accept the basic assumptions that the Bush administration is operating under about the nature of the threat and the basic agreements about our posture, defensively and offensively, toward that threat. Therefore, according to Cheney, choosing the team that continues to look at the threat through pre-9/11 glasses, would be a mistake. Can not all agree on that?

    Finally, I find it hard to ascribe evil motives to Cheney’s run-on sentence, but obvious that the mainstream media and Democrats are looking for boogeymen and ready to cry “unAmerican!” (see: Edwards) whenever a quote can be truncated for the desired effect.

  57. Try this If-Then-Else structure. It is a bit more logically constructed.

    If house_afire Then
    If NOT Insured Then
    MoveToMotherInLaws()
    Else
    Rebuild()
    EndIf
    EndIf

    like

    If Horrible_Attack Then
    If Kerry_Wins Then
    Miranda()
    Subpoenas()
    Candlelight_Vigil()
    Else
    DestroyInternationalTerrorism(no_restraints=TRUE;Boolean)
    EndIf
    EndIf

  58. Lord, I can’t believe the pixels wasted on this.

    He meant what he said. Kerry is weak on defense issues. Always has been, particularly in his legislative career (which he has gone out of his way to downplay – surely nobody will deny that).

    Weakness invites aggression. Ergo, electing Kerry will encourage terrorists to mount more frequent and devastating attacks.

    If the Kerryistas can’t deal with that kind of low key criticism without getting their panties all in a bunch, how are they going to deal with the bin Laden’s and Khameini’s and Kim’s of the world?

  59. however inelegantly, what Cheney was saying is, during the Cold War, Democrats and Republicans…

    Please. Just stop.

    What Cheney said was: if we make the wrong choice on Nov 2, we get hit again.

    Was it gaffe? Was it propaganda? Was it poor grammar? Was it overmedication? Was it alien implants? Was it a disfunctional logic diagram? Was it a fragment of an extended discourse on the progression of cold war collective paranoias into an individualistic and perhaps self-absorbed isolationism when the correct policy at this juncture is an engaged but non-negotiating form of pseudo-imperial outreach?

    Is this getting embarrassing yet?

    He said it.
    No take backs. No do-overs.

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