Rachel Maddow Offers Speculation as Fact in Reporting on Gaza

Among President Barack Obama's abundant initial achievements -- bringing peace to Gaza by the mere specter of his looming presidency, at least according to Rachel Maddow.

Maddow's gooey reverence for Obama was on full display Monday night as her MSNBC show was broadcast live from the Mall in Washington.

Teasing an upcoming segment, Maddow made this confident assertion --

Coming up on part two of our very last Lame Duck Watch, NBC correspondent Richard Engel will join us live with the latest news from Gaza City, for the last legacy of the Bush administration abroad may be Israeli troops pulling out of Gaza literally on the occasion and because (forefinger raised for further emphasis) Barack Obama is being inaugurated tomorrow.

The man hasn't even taken office and we're already witnessing retreat.

In the next segment, Maddow introduced Engel, who responded with the same coiled civility of Pam the receptionist greeting Michael Scott in "The Office." As for Maddow's previous finger-raised assertion, whaddya know, it soon got muddied --

MADDOW: Israeli troops continue to withdraw from the Gaza Strip after a three-week campaign of airstrikes and ground assaults that have killed 1,300 people in an effort to clear out Hamas rockets that were being fired into Israel. One Israeli Foreign Ministry source told CNN that the withdrawal could be completed by the time Barack Obama was sworn in. It could be that Israel is pegging its military strategy to our political calendar and our political reality. It seems that Israel wants the new president's first Middle East task to be going after terrorism and not encouraging a cease-fire or demanding that Israel withdraw from Gaza.

Not that indiscriminate firing of thousands of Hamas rockets at civilians in Israel constitutes "terrorism," mind you. And did you catch Maddow's leaden segue from "because" to "it could be" and "it seems"?

Maddow often refers to what she does as "reporting," which might explain Engel's discomfort in dealing with her. But as shown here, Maddow is as much a journalist as Raymond Burr was a lawyer. Playing one on TV isn't the same, despite of the fervor of Maddow's credulous fans.

Left unmentioned by Maddow, and Engel for that matter, is any mention of why Israel might doubt they'll get a fair shake from our new president -- inconvenient praise for Obama from a Hamas spokesman last April, which liberals were adamant did not constitute a formal endorsement.

Once again, as Maddow has done every time Gaza has come up in the last month on her MSNBC and Air America broadcasts (and I've seen and heard them all), she chides Israel for its reluctance to allow media access into Gaza, and doesn't mention that other nation bordering Gaza -- Egypt -- which presumably could also allow reporters and camera crews into Gaza, were it so inclined. But doing so runs the risk of allowing journalists to report on Hamas rockets being launched from playgrounds and hospital roofs.

In fairness to Maddow, there is precedent for the transition of power in Washington appearing to bring about dramatic change in the Middle East. Best example -- Iranian militants releasing American hostages shortly after Reagan took office in 1981.

Democrats have insisted that it was Jimmy Carter's strenuous negotiations in the waning days of his presidency that got our people released, and that Iran timed it to "embarrass" Carter. But if this was Iran's intent, why not wait a week or two after Reagan took office, thereby genuinely embarrassing Carter by not allowing him to claim any credit?

Furthermore, what did Carter offer in concession? Iranian assets in the US seized shortly after our people were taken captive. In law enforcement circles, this is known as "ransom."

In retrospect, it appears obvious why Iran released our people when it did -- the imminent arrival of a new sheriff in Washington, one who brimmed with confidence and scorned the notion of American malaise. Put another way, it took Carter 14 months to free the hostages. For Reagan, it took 14 minutes. 

Another example comes to mind of a new presidency bringing about change in the Middle East.  I'm looking at the front page of the Boston Globe from Jan. 20, 1993, the date of Bill Clinton's first inauguration. Centered on Page 1 is a photo of Clinton kneeling at the grave of his political idol, JFK. And across the top of the page, a bold headline in larger than usual font -- "Iraq makes offers to UN, Clinton".

The story reads --

WASHINGTON -- Saddam Hussein directed a burst of concessions at the United Nations and the incoming Clinton administration yesterday, shortly after US warplanes again clashed with Iraqi air defenses.

The president-elect's team responded to the Iraq moves with a blunt warning that the new administration expects "full compliance with all the requirements of the UN resolutions."

Just 24 hours before Bill Clinton's swearing in, a statement issued by the Iraqi Revolutionary Command Council announced a unilateral, indefinite cease-fire in Iraqi skies starting midnight yesterday and called on the new US administration to open talks.

The cease-fire would mean that Iraqi air defenses would no longer fire on US, British and French warplanes patrolling the no-fly zones in northern and southern Iraq.

In a separate move, Baghdad informed the United Nations that UN weapons inspectors could resume their flights into Iraq. Baghdad was no longer placing any conditions on the flights, an Iraqi diplomat in the UN mission said.

The following month, on the second anniversary of the US-led invasion to oust Iraq from Kuwait, terrorists led by Ramzi Yousef tried to destroy the World Trade Center. Their second attempt, eight years later and planned by Yousef's uncle, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, was far more successful.

One of the alleged conspirators in the initial attack, Abboud Yasin, abruptly departed for Iraq after he was questioned and released by the FBI (the New York Times story of June 10, 1993 linked in the preceding sentence also reports that Yousef is "believed to have fled to Iraq").

This is not to suggest in any way, shape or form that Iraq is remotely connected to 9/11, as the dominant liberal mantra of the decade reminds us. To even consider such a possibility is evidence of delusion or, worse, independent thought.

The notion of change abroad hastened by the transition of power in America is hardly earth-shattering. But seeing those changes with anything resembling clarity often takes years.

Jack Coleman
Jack Coleman
Liberated ex-liberal from the People's Republic of Massachusetts