Panetta versus Cheney? Media loses its collective minds...
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Does Vice President Cheney really want another attack on the US?
A stupid statement? Yes. But that's not stopping those in the media from running with it and losing their collective minds this afternoon.
Comments made by CIA Director Leon Panetta to The New Yorker have created so much media-stoked drama that reporters are breathlessly hyping an imaginary battle between Panetta and Cheney.
Sure, on its face without any examination or thinking, Panetta's statements could look controversial. It could -- again without the use of thought -- could appear as though Panetta believes the former vice president is at home with a giant foam "we're number one" finger on his hand cheering for the Taliban.
They also beg for context. Beg. Like Panetta was talking to the New Yorker's reporter right after President Obama and Vice President Cheney gave back-to-back speeches on national security last month. (By the way, that context was provided in the full article).
It would surprise no one that the Obama administration doesn't agree with the former vice president's conclusions. After all, Cheney believes that the US is less safe under the new administration and has been very candid with his criticism.
So when asked about Cheney's speech, Panetta said, "I think he smells some blood in the water on the national-security issue. It's almost, a little bit, gallows politics. When you read behind it, it's almost as if he's wishing that this country would be attacked again, in order to make his point. I think that's dangerous politics."
Because the media went crazy with the statement (seeming to ignore Panetta's words "it's almost as if"), Vice President Cheney chimed in without the hype, without the emotion, without the breathlessness.
"I hope my old friend Leon was misquoted," Cheney said. "The important thing is whether the Obama administration will continue the policies that have kept us safe for the past eight years."
Although apparently not misquoted, Panetta's office offered some context to the remarks this afternoon. And not just a CYA-type context (extraordinarily prevalent in politics). Context that's believable.
"The Director does not believe the former Vice President wants an attack," a spokesman told CNN. "He did not say that. He was simply expressing his profound disagreement with the assertion that President Obama's security policies have made our country less safe. Nor did he question anyone's motives."
If there's one person in the Obama administration that really could stray off message keeping the controversy alive for weeks (if not the entire administration), it's Vice President Biden. But not even he did that.
When asked about Panetta's comments yesterday, Biden blandly said, "I think Dick Cheney's judgment about how to secure America is faulty. I think our judgment is correct. I don't question his motive."
"I'm not going to get into motivations. That's not what our business is. The president's concern is keeping the American people safe," he said.
But don't worry. If controversy is what you want, just watch any of the networks tonight. Of course, the best places to watch the imaginary feud are MSNBC and FOX. But don't count out the other networks. They've proven more than once they can keep up with hype...
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