NBC and CBS Use Cheney and Obama Speeches to Jab at Cheney

Thursday's NBC Nightly News featured Andrea Mitchell chastising and correcting former Vice President Dick Cheney for his speech on fighting terrorism, but the network saw no need to correct anything asserted by President Obama in his address on the same topic while anchor Brian Williams asked if Republicans are "happy" to have Cheney as "their messenger?"

CBS delivered contrasting conclusions in their two stories: With Obama, stressing his rebuke of his critics; with Cheney, emphasizing his unpopularity
. Chip Reid ended his report on Obama by relaying Obama's charge that "opponents of closing Guantanamo Bay are using the politics of fear," but, moments later, Bill Plante concluded his look at former VP Cheney's address on fighting terrorism by highlighting "Republicans who fear that the high-profile criticism coming from someone as unpopular as Cheney isn't helping their party." The two conclusions on the May 21 CBS Evening News:

Chip Reid: "The President said opponents of closing Guantanamo Bay are using the politics of fear and he promised it will be closed."

Bill Plante: "The former Vice President has made it clear that he intends to continue speaking out, ignoring Republicans who fear that the high-profile criticism coming from someone as unpopular as Cheney isn't helping their party."

On the NBC Nightly News, Williams set up Andrea Mitchell to recount Cheney's supposed hypocrisy and errors before he raised Cheney's detractors:

BRIAN WILLIAMS: Andrea, you and I spoke earlier today. You concentrated on the Vice President's speech and, specifically, I heard you say some patterns in the way he delivered it.

MITCHELL: Well, for one thing, the Vice President cast himself as the chief defender of the CIA, which is an irony because all during the Bush years, he was a great attacker inside fighting all the time with the CIA. He did say that water-boarding was only used as a last choice when there was no other alternative. That was not the case with Abu Zubayda. He was water-boarded 83 times, producing no actionable intelligence. He did manage, though, to elevate himself into the chief sparring partner with the President of the United States. That's quite a political achievement. And as Chuck [Todd] was pointing out, the President failed to put out this firestorm [on closing Guantanamo] because his allies on the Hill still say he has not given them the details that they want.

WILLIAMS: And to David Gregory. David, it was clear today, we heard from the President, we're going to hear these talking points over and over. The mistake isn't closing it, it was opening it in the first place, we're cleaning up a mess here. But on the other side, do the Republicans think they have found an issue, and is everybody happy with their messenger here?

DAVID GREGORY: Not everybody's happy with the messenger, but it is interesting. A lot of Republicans I spoke to today said there was a rallying cry from Dick Cheney, a message to conservatives and to Republicans. This is the issue that we can win politically and we can win substantively, that this administration doesn't have its head on right with regard to the national security of the country. There's also legacy building here, and Dick Cheney is the one at the moment, not former President Bush, to begin the argument. And that is there was not a follow-on attack after 9/11 on the United States. That's where the Bush/Cheney team would like the legacy to be built.

- Brent Baker is Vice President for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center