'Meet the Press': Liberal Journalists All Agree, Nothing Obama Could Do About Middle East Crisis

In a stunning display of group-think on Sunday's NBC Meet the Press, a panel of journalists all concluded that no American president could have possibly prevented the ongoing crisis in Middle East or responded to it any better than Barack Obama. [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]

The hand-wringing began with The Atlantic's Jeff Goldberg absolving the President of any responsibility for chaos in the region: "There are some very, very deep and troubling things going on in – in the Middle East that have very little to do with what a president does or doesn't do.... so to blame the President for – for an attack on – on these embassies, I think, is a bit much."

NBC chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell was next to jump on the bandwagon, sympathetically explaining: "...the Arab Spring has been a much greater, much broader troubling issue that arguably not any American president could handle very effectively."

Mitchell's excuse-making was particularly stunning, given that she seemed to think Obama could change American relations with the Middle East in a single speech. After the President's 2009 Cairo speech, she offered this rave review on the June 4 Nightly News: "This was a transformational speech potentially, by reaching out to the Islamic world, by using the language...by saying 'As-Salamu Alaykum,' he has transformed the view of America among 1.5 billion people, and that is potentially the biggest, biggest benefit of all."

The Washington Post's Bob Woodward rounded out the media defense of Obama on the Sunday show: "I just don't think the charge of weakness will stick. I mean, Obama's been tough on these things. Let's be realistic. The extremists in the Middle East who are causing all of this trouble are extremists. And no Republican, no Democratic president is going to be able to control them."

As the press panelists deflected criticism of Obama, they proceeded to attack those voicing such criticism. Moderator David Gregory fretted that Liz Cheney had "launched a very serious attack" against the President's policies by tweeting: "America is no longer viewed as a reliable ally or an enemy to be feared…Nor do our adversaries any longer fear us."

Goldberg immediately shot back: "...to be fair, 9/11 happened during the Bush administration, the Bush-Cheney administration. So it's not as if people – Muslim radicals feared the United States during that period, not when they were killing thousands of American troops in Iraq certainly."

Mitchell eagerly touted a handful of Republican critics of Romney's response to the embassy attacks:

...the criticism of Mitt Romney is coming largely from many Republicans whom I talked to, foreign policy experts, who say that in the middle of the crisis, when the State Department did not know where Ambassador Stevens was, when the body was missing, that he came out with a written statement and doubled down on it the next morning and that it was not presidential, it did not show leadership.  

New York Republican Congressman Peter King, also on the panel, challenged her: "Well, when he put out the statement, he didn't know that the Ambassador had been shot." Mitchell declared: "Well then he should not have put out a statement..." King replied: "I mean, if you don't know something, how can you – I mean, if no one knew he was shot, how could he wait until-" Mitchell contemptuously interrupted: "Well, silence is often a good choice. Peggy Noonan said that as well."


Here are relevant portions of the September 16 panel discussion:

11:04AM ET

DAVID GREGORY: These are very difficult times for this country and for the Middle East. There's a question I think that Americans have of, what is going on here? Why is this happening? And it's happening, Jeff Goldberg, in a heated presidential debate. And so you have accusations and response, and we've seen that play out already in the course of this hour. Liz Cheney, the daughter of the former vice president, launched a very serious attack that indeed Governor Romney amplified on. And she wrote in the Wall Street Journal – I want to show it to our viewers and get discussion about it here. "In too many parts of the world," she writes, "America is no longer viewed as a reliable ally or an enemy to be feared…Nor do our adversaries any longer fear us. Ask the mobs in Cairo who attacked our embassy or the Libyan mobs who killed our diplomats at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. Ask the Iranians, who make unhindered daily progress towards obtaining a nuclear weapon."

JEFF GOLDBERG [NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE ATLANTIC]: Well, I mean, a couple of quick points. The first is, you know, to be fair, 9/11 happened during the Bush administration, the Bush-Cheney administration. So it's not as if people – Muslim radicals feared the United States during that period, not when they were killing thousands of American troops in Iraq certainly.

I mean, the larger point is that – that, you know, there's a tendency, especially seven weeks out from an election, to turn this in – turn everything that happens in the world into an election issue.  There are some very, very deep and troubling things going on in – in the Middle East that have very little to do with what a president does or doesn't do. I mean, let's – let's be fair about this. You – you – you have a complete upheaval in the Middle East. You don't have American policymakers being able to shape the way Muslims think about the world, about modernity, about the United States. So – so to blame the President for – for an attack on – on these embassies, I think, is a bit much.

(...)

11:08AM ET

ANDREA MITCHELL: I think there can be a legitimate criticism that this president has not handled the Israeli-Palestinian issue well, but the Arab Spring has been a much greater, much broader troubling issue that arguably not any American president could handle very effectively.  That is not the argument. That is not the policy argument that – that Mitt Romney has made. Mitt Romney's – the criticism of Mitt Romney is coming largely from many Republicans whom I talked to, foreign policy experts, who say that in the middle of the crisis, when the State Department did not know where Ambassador Stevens was, when the body was missing, that he came out with a written statement and doubled down on it the next morning and that it was not presidential, it did not show leadership.  That is the criticism...

PETER KING:  Well, when he put out the statement, he didn't know that the Ambassador had been shot.

MITCHELL: Well then he should not have put out a statement, you know, the argue…

REP. KING:  Well, first up-

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: That's exactly the problem.  

KING: But it's hard to predict – I mean, if you don't know something, how can you – I mean, if no one knew he was shot, how could he wait until-

MITCHELL: Well, silence is often a good choice. Peggy Noonan said that as well.

(...)

BOB WOODWARD [ASSOCIATE EDITOR, WASHINGTON POST]: There's a way to look at this neutrally, and I – I just don't think the charge of weakness will stick. I mean, Obama's been tough on these things. Let's be realistic. The extremists in the Middle East who are causing all of this trouble are extremists. And no Republican, no Democratic president is going to be able to control them. The question is, what's the policy and what's the response? And you deal in the intelligence world and you ask the experts about this and they'll say you never know. Ten people are going to come together and take over an embassy, shoot someone and so forth. So the idea that government can – has the puppet strings here is – is just factually wrong.

(...)

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC