Pulpit Bulls

Policy, Politics, and What's In Between

Shoot the Messenger, Before He Shoots You in the Face

Posted by gregoryholmes on May 24, 2009

This week we witnessed President Barack Obama on the defensive for the first time in his presidency.  The news cycle has, for the last couple of weeks, been dominated by Republican criticisms over torture, the closure of Guantánamo, and national security, culminating in the resounding defeat of the president’s request for $80 million in funding to transfer Guantánamo detainees to supermax prisons here in the States.

With the writing on the wall, Democrats on the Hill called in their big gun to end the debate and shift the discussion back in their direction.  President Obama and his team surveyed the field and placed a last minute speech on national security right before former Vice President Dick Cheney’s scheduled speech at the American Enterprise Institute.  The talking points of both sides in this debate over civil rights and national security are as old as democracy itself, but the important thing was that the public perception was that this was a debate between Obama and Cheney.

This is important because Obama’s approval ratings are still at 62% while Cheney’s disapproval ratings are at 57%.  And when the public perception of this debate is that it is between someone as trustworthy as Santa Claus and the self-styled “Prince of Darkness,” the perceived result of that debate is a foregone conclusion.

Now the Democrats can shift the public discussion back to their legislative agenda, and we owe it partly to the immense unpopularity of the spokesman for the Republicans, and partly to the shrewdness of the White House in picking the GOP spokesman for them.

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