CNN's Anderson Cooper on Tuesday night speculated about whether America has reached a Walter Cronkite Vietnam war assessment "tipping point" as Cooper set up a laudatory profile of anti-war Republican Congressman Walter Jones. After an ad break, Cooper went to Christiane Amanpour who asked French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin if he feels his anti-war efforts have now been "vindicated?" Cooper recalled: "On hearing Walter Cronkite say the war in Vietnam had reached a stalemate after the Tet offensive, President Lyndon Johnson famously said, 'If I've lost Walter Cronkite, I've lost middle America.' Fast forward thirty-seven years, there's no Walter Cronkite to speak for middle America, but reporting from middle America, from a congressional district where support for the military and the President traditionally runs high, we do have CNN's John King." King described Jones' "dramatic transformation" against the war and highlighted a pro-war veteran as well as a retired Marine Colonel who declared: "I'm more convinced than ever that Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld will be the Republicans' Robert S. McNamara." King then contended: "Such talk in a patriotic place like this is telling."
In the next segment of Anderson Cooper 360, Amanpour sat down with the anti-war de Villepin, who as "France's Foreign Minister, was way out in front voicing French dissent." Amanpour cued him up: "You obviously did not support it, and you raised many of the issues that are currently unfolding there right now. What do you think? Do you feel vindicated when you look at what Iraq is going through right now?" Amanpour soon relayed de Villepin's shot at violence in the U.S.: "And on France's fiery unrest, two weeks of rioting by French youths of African and Arab origin, de Villepin admits these people do face discrimination, but he downplays the violence compared to what's happened in the U.S." (Transcripts of both stories follow.)
[This item was posted earlier today as part of the MRC’s daily CyberAlert e-mail.]
Jones' opposition to the war is hardly fresh news. Back in June all the networks jumped to hype his opposition. A June 21 MRC CyberAlert item recounted how on CNN's NewsNight on June 17 Aaron set up an empathetic profile of Jones as he stressed a potential wider trend: "What might make the White House and the war supporters the most nervous are the stirrings of a few voices, a few, on the Republican side. They're not big names, not House or Senate leaders, they're back benchers, but sometimes that's where rebellion starts."
The MRC's Megan McCormack noticed the two November 29 stories in the 11pm EST second hour of Anderson Cooper 360, and provided transcripts:
Anderson Cooper, just before 11:45pm EST: "Well, the President of the United States speaks to the country again tomorrow trying to clarify his plan for getting the job done in Iraq and getting out. Question is have Americans reached a breaking point or a tipping point? On hearing Walter Cronkite say the war in Vietnam had reached a stalemate after the Tet offensive, President Lyndon Johnson famously said, 'If I've lost Walter Cronkite, I've lost middle America.' Fast forward thirty-seven years, there's no Walter Cronkite to speak for middle America, but reporting from middle America, from a congressional district where support for the military and the President traditionally runs high, we do have CNN's John King."
John King: "At first glance, Congressman Walter Jones is perhaps the most unlikely White House nemesis in the Iraq war debate. He is a conservative Republican, voted for the war, and was so angered at the French for opposing President Bush, he coined the phrase â€̃Freedom Fries.' And yet, now, if he could write one line of the president's big Iraq speech it would be this."
Representative Walter Jones, North Carolina, to King: "That I made a mistake. I thought at the time it was the right thing to do, but in reflection I now know I made a mistake. We've got to be able to tell the American people the truth."
King: "His dramatic transformation began more than a year ago at a military funeral. Now, the Congressman writes letters to family of every serviceman killed in Iraq, says his support for the war was a mistake, and that the President has failed to explain how the pre-war intelligence was so bad and how he defines victory now."
Jones: "John, I think it's a mountain that's got to be climbed. And I think it all goes to that word trust."
King: "Challenging a war-time commander in chief is risky business here. North Carolina's third congressional district is conservative country, dotted with military installations like Camp Lejeune and the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base. A place that gave the President 68 percent of the vote just a year ago. In local lore, the blood runs red, white and blue. Retired Army Colonel Gus Wilgus among those who think their Congressman and others demanding a detailed exit strategy are naive or worse."
Colonel Gus Wilgus, U.S. Army, retired, to King on the porch of a house: "It's like playing poker with an open hand to your opponent. And by playing poker with an open hand, I believe that that gives the enemy, first of all, gives them your plan, it gives them a timetable that says, hey, sit back and wait."
King: "Vietnam and Desert Storm combat veteran Jim Van Riper supports the war and agrees any talk of specific withdrawal timetables is a mistake. But recently, Van Riper wrote his congressional delegation saying he could no longer support the Republican Party, calling Iraq a textbook case of how not to wage a war. Van Riper says the President is in a mess of his own making for standing by his Defense Secretary."
Colonel Jim Van Riper, U.S.M.C., retired: "I'm more convinced than ever that Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld will be the Republicans' Robert S. McNamara, when history's written that's the way he'll be viewed."
King: "Such talk in a patriotic place like this is telling. Tough questions for the Commander in Chief even as bases are bustling with training for the next deployment. For his part, Congressman Jones has no shortage of critics. He says he will keep asking his questions if the President doesn't answer them."
Jones: "It's for the families who have loved ones in Iraq today. It's for the families who have given a child dying for freedom."
King: "John King, CNN, Greenville, North Carolina."
Following an ad break, Cooper went to Christiane Amanpour in Parris. She set up her piece: "The Iraq war drove a deep wedge between France and the United States. Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, then France's Foreign Minister, was way out in front voicing French dissent."
Amanpour's first question as the two sat face-to-face for the interview: "You obviously did not support it, and you raised many of the issues that are currently unfolding there right now. What do you think? Do you feel vindicated when you look at what Iraq is going through right now?"
Dominique de Villepin, French Prime Minister: "No, I think we, it is of course a very difficult situation. We have gone a long way to begin to establish democracy in Iraq, but still there is a long way to go."
Amanpour: "As for the immediate future, de Villepin says there are two main issues for Iraq: the possible outbreak of civil war and terrorism."
de Villepin: "We know that there are two risks in Iraq, still, today. One is the division of Iraq, which is, of course, a nightmare for the region. And the second one is a growing role of terrorism. So I think it's very important for the international community to, to try really to put all it's forces together to solve the matter."
Amanpour: "As for withdrawing U.S. troopsâ€""
de Villepin: "We knew since the beginning, that it was very easy to go to war, but very difficult to get out of Iraq. Because of the fragility of the country, because of the sensitivity of the situation in this region. So now, we have to face the situation as it is; and it is the responsibility of all the international community to help the process and to make sure that we go forward all together."
Amanpour: "And on France's fiery unrest, two weeks of rioting by French youths of African and Arab origin, de Villepin admits these people do face discrimination, but he downplays the violence compared to what's happened in the U.S."
de Villepin: "It's very different from the situation you have known, in 1992 in L.A., for example. You had at that time, 54 people that died. You had 2,000 people wounded in France during two weeks period of unrest. Nobody died in France. So, I think you cannot compare this social unrest with any kind of riots."
Amanpour: "De Villepin insists the cause of French unrest is neither religious nor ethnic."
de Villepin: "There is no ethnic or religious basis of this movement, as we can see in some of the parts of the world. But it is true that the feeling of discrimination, the feeling of maybe not having the same equal chance, but what is interesting is that most of these young people, they want to be 100 percent French. They want to have equal chances."
Amanpour: "Again, de Villepin says the French answer will be significantly different than in the United States. In France, programs will be created to help its youth with housing, education and employment. Is that like positive discrimination?"
de Villepin: "No."
Amanpour: "Is that affirmative action?"
de Villepin: "No, there is a difference between what we stand for in our republic, which is equal chances and affirmative action. Affirmative action is mainly aimed in taking into account the race and the religion. In our republic everybody is equal and we don't want to take into account the color of the skin, or the religion. But we want to take into account the difficulty that one may have."
Amanpour: "How can you help these people if you do not take into account that they are discriminated against because of their color?"
de Villepin: "We are going to triple the scholarships given to the children. We are going to triple the boarding schools in order to answer to the best students in these different neighborhoods, in order to help them in going to university and to have a good career. But the difference between the system you have and the one we have is that we are going to help as well, any young children in France facing difficulty..."
CNN has posted a transcript of the entire interview.