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Obama versus Cheney in steel cage wrestling match today

By Jimmy Orr / May 21, 2009

Vice President Cheney and President Obama (not pictured) will give back to back speeches this morning on national security.

KARIN COOPER / CBS / AP

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Well, not literally...

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But they are going head-to-head. Not in the same space. Not on the same stage. But they are giving back-to-back speeches. And the news networks are blowing it up into the equivalent of a steel cage wrestling match.

The topics of the speeches are the same thing: National security and Guantanamo Bay.

President Obama will deliver his address at 10am ET while Vice President Cheney speaks 45 minutes later. You can catch the speeches on all the news networks.

In one corner

Look at the hype. This is how Today Show host Matt Lauer discussed it this morning:

"President Obama and former Vice President Cheney are going to square off over the president's plan to close down Guantanamo Bay detention center where some 240 terror suspects are being held."

Then NBC's chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd almost salivated over the prospects

"Vice President Cheney didn't run for president. It was a rarity -- in some 50 years we didn't have a sitting vice president run," he said. "So we didn't get that debate between candidate Obama and candidate Cheney..."
"While we won't get a debate today, we're going to get the next best thing."

Polls

Todd went on to say that politically speaking, it's not a fair fight because of the former vice president's approval ratings. While nowhere near President Obama's continuing high marks, Vice President Cheney's numbers are moving. Up.

A new CNN Opinion poll shows Cheney's approval numbers at 37 percent while 55 percent give him a thumbs down. On its face, it doesn't look good for Cheney.

Considering his approval ratings were 29 percent four months ago, the numbers are moving in the right direction. An 8 point jump isn't incidental. Especially when you consider all the air time the vice president has received and what he's been saying.

Political strategists might counsel their client not to choose Rush Limbaugh over Colin Powell, for example. Makes no difference to Cheney. He says what he thinks. Always has.

Further, he doesn't care about his approval ratings.

"I think we've established his complete magnificent indifference to his poll numbers," said former Bush White House Communications Director Nicolle Wallace on the Today Show. "He doesn't care if people approve of him politically or personally. He just wants to ensure this administration keeps us safe."

Carnival

John Amato over at Crooks and Liars wonders why Cheney is getting "elevated" to Obama's level. He says the former vice president doesn't deserve to be in the discussion.

"Cheney's speech is a side show at a carnival act because the Republicans would rather try to rebrand the Democratic party as socialists while President Obama's words impact the entire world, but the media heads are only looking for their favorite selling point: "Conflict", he writes.

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