On Tuesday's The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC, during a segment about foreign policy challenges involving Russia and the turmoil in the Middle East, MSNBC.com Executive Editor Richard Wolffe oddly suggested that President Obama finds it to be a "satisfying challenge" because it is "intellectually rigorous" to deal with such substantial foreign policy problems.
He also not surprisingly took a jab at former President Bush, blaming him for the chaos in the Middle East, and asserted that "there's a lot of cleanup there."
Host O'Donnell wondered about what things are like inside the White House as he posed:
Anti-American commandos from Iran are already helping the Iraqi military by doing the sort of logistical coordination that President Obama promised from the U.S. Army today, NBC's Richard Engel noted in a June 19 Nightly News report from Baghdad. "The image I've had in my head all day, Brian, is of this driver's ed car with two steering wheels, with one with the U.S. Army now about 300 people on one steering wheel and the Iranian Quds Force-- which is often hostile to the United States at the other wheel -- and I'm not sure that Iran and the U.S. have any intention of driving this car in the same direction," the network's chief foreign affairs correspondent told viewers at home.
In a remarkably tough interview with Secretary of State John Kerry aired on Thursday's NBC Today, co-host Savannah Guthrie interrogated the nation's top diplomat on the Obama administration's failure to prevent terrorists from invading Iraq: "It seems like the U.S. was totally caught off guard by this....did you act too slowly? I mean, [Iraqi Prime Minister] Maliki was asking for help with air strikes in the last few weeks as this was coming, as ISIS was coming toward this part of Iraq. Why didn't we act then?" [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Later in the exchange, Guthrie pressed: "What's happening now in Iraq is directly related to the situation in Syria. Did the U.S. – did the President miss the moment, make a huge mistake by not trying to turn the tide in Syria then and what's happening in Iraq now is just the chickens coming home to roost?"
Liberal vs. neo-con. Isolationist vs. interventionist. The clash over Iraq strategy between John Heilemann and Bill Kristol on today's Morning Joe had it all.
Things got heated as Heilemann assailed Kristol's call for intervention as "absurd." Kristol responded by suggesting that Heilemann's invocation of "American blood" was a cheap "rhetorical line." View the video after the jump.
Following the insulting trend of tagging every objection or concern raised about Obama administration policy and conduct as exclusively the province of Republicans and conservatives to an outrageous extreme, Rebecca Kaplan at CBS News opened her Monday story about whether the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) might plan terrorist acts in the U.S. as follows: "Republicans are sounding the warning that the next 9/11-like terror plot could emerge from the regions of Iraq and Syria that are currently dominated by an extremist group bearing down on Baghdad." Really, Rebecca? No one else is worried about that? Wanna bet?
Kaplan also seemed to believe that it would calm readers' nerves if they learned that it will be "at least a year before ISIS might pose more of a serious threat to the U.S." If that was meant to make me feel better, it didn't work. Excerpts follow the jump (links are in original; bolds are mine):
The people at NBC who are agonizing over David Gregory's ongoing audience freefall at his Meet the Press perch need only look at the first half of his interview with 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney to see why it's happening.
Gregory basically refused to acknowledge the existence of Romney's core argument, which is essentially that he wouldn't have done what President Obama did in withdrawing from Iraq so hastily and leaving things to run on auto-pilot. Instead, he insisted on sticking with a "Well, what would do now?" line of questioning, even though, as Romney indicated, he doesn't have access to intelligence briefings necessary to assert an informed opinion. When that didn't work, he tried to hold Romney to a stale 2007 quote from when conditions were obviously very different. The fact is that wouldn't be facing the present quandary if Obama hadn't acted directly against the (often privately expressed) desires of Iraqi leaders and U.S. intelligence officials to maintain at least a significant advisory presence there. Video and a transcript of the Iraq-related portion of the interview follow the jump (bolds and numbered tags are mine):
Q. How do you know that Barack Obama's feckless foreign policy poses a serious threat to the security of the free world? A. When a leading foreign policy voice of the Washington Post agrees with a leading foreign policy voice of the Wall Street Journal that such is the case.
It happened on today's Morning Joe, when WaPo's highly-respected David Ignatius agreed with a WSJ op-ed by Daniel Henninger, "While Obama Fiddles," that darkly concludes: "past some point, the world's wildfires are going to consume the Obama legacy. And leave his successor a nightmare." Said Ignatius: "those are harsh words from the Wall Street Journal, but I think there's a lot of truth to them." View the video after the jump.
"[D]espite years of public hand-wringing in the West over Syria’s bloody and rapid decline, the country is continuing to plummet into new depths of the abyss" as witnessed by instances of crucifixion at the hands of Islamist extremists, Jacob Siegel of the Daily Beast reported today.
It remains to be seen if the Big Three networks pick up on the story, but somehow we doubt they will. A search of Nexis and our DVR system show they certainly haven't done so thus far. Siegel adds:
After White House emails released on Tuesday showed the Obama administration had a direct hand in crafting false talking points about the Benghazi terrorist attack in 2012, Wednesday's CBS This Morning was the only network broadcast to cover the latest developments in the ongoing scandal. None of the network evening newscasts covered the story Tuesday night, with NBC and ABC continuing to be out to lunch Wednesday morning.
Introducing a full report on the Benghazi emails, This Morning co-host Charlie Rose announced: "New emails are renewing controversy this morning over the Obama administration's response to Benghazi. The documents were obtained by the conservative organization Judicial Watch. Four Americans died in the 2012 assault, including Ambassador Chris Stevens." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
It must be nice for a major news network to self-congratulate itself by bringing on someone to give them an award. Such was the case on Wednesday April 3, when “CBS This Morning” brought on Charlayne Hunter-Gault and Ira Glass to present co-host Charlie Rose with a Peabody Award for an interview he conducted with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad.
Hunter-Gault hyped the “surprise” she had for Rose before proclaiming that “This amazing get of one of the arch villains of the world whom you treated with respect and yet you didn't back off, you pressed him, and we all got to see what this man is made of and how he thinks.” [See video below.]
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman went on PBS’s Charlie Rose show Monday night and defended President Obama’s soft foreign policy approach to the crisis in Ukraine. [Video below. MP3 audio here.]
Of that approach, which so far has consisted of sanctions against 11 Russian and Ukrainian officials, Friedman said:
Appearing on Thursday's CBS Late Show aired early Friday morning, former NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw discussed the Russian invasion of Ukraine with host David Letterman and observed: "...when chemical weapons were used in Syria and they were discovered, I didn't think it was President Obama's finest moment. He said there's a red line, then he kept moving that sucker....[Vladimir Putin] might have taken the measure of President Obama and said, 'I may be able to test this guy'....it has that appearance." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
That analysis was prompted by Letterman noting: "And people are saying this [Russian invasion of Ukraine] is because of the negotiations, or the unilateral negotiations regarding Syria, when he [Putin] stepped in looking for weapons of mass destruction...and Obama had to sort of acquiesce that because it was not a bad idea. So now he [Putin] feels like he can get away with this. Is that part of it?" Brokaw replied: "Well, I think that's pretty astute."
MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough got rather self-righteous on Wednesday’s Morning Joe, chiding Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and others who have criticized President Obama’s weak-kneed response to the crisis in Ukraine. [Video below. MP3 audio here.]
Scarborough asserted his belief that “politics should really end at the water's edge” during international crises like this, proclaiming, “I'm old-fashioned enough to believe that harshly criticizing the commander-in-chief during dangerous international crises, whether it’s with the likes of Saddam Hussein or Vladimir Putin, well, that provides comfort to nation-states who choose to be our enemies.”
Appearing on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show on Monday, MSNBC host Joy Reid repeatedly refused to characterize either Russian president Vladimir Putin or Syrian president Bashar al-Assad as “evil.” During a contentious debate over Russia’s invasion of eastern Ukraine, Hewitt asked his guest point-blank, “Do you agree that what Russia is doing is evil?” [Video embedded below the break.]
Kudos to the Daily Beast for reporting this story. Don't hold your breath for the network news outlets to pick up on it and doggedly pursue it.
In an exclusive published at the website today, Josh Rogin and Noah Shachtmanexplain how there's credible evidence that regime of Syrian dictator Basharal-Assad may have used chemical weapons in January 2014, something that U.S. intelligence officials are denying but which eyewitnesses on the ground insist occurred (excerpt follows; emphasis mine):
At Wednesday’s White House press briefing, ABC’s Jonathan Karl asked point-blank if the Obama administration’s handling of Syria has been an “absolute failure.” ABC didn’t report the exchange on Wednesday evening, however.
Karl asked White House press secretary Jay Carney, “isn’t it time to acknowledge that easing the humanitarian crisis in Syria, that the President’s policy has been an absolute failure?” He cited national intelligence chief James Clapper, who told Congress that the crisis has become an “apocalyptic disaster.” Carney bristled and defended the administration’s record.
Journalists love to preen as human rights watchdogs, congratulating themselves publicly for their roles – real or imagined – in securing the life and liberty of the downtrodden. That is, as long as it’s the right sort of downtrodden.
Take, for example, NBC’s coverage in the run up to the Sochi Winter Olympics. Because of Russian restrictions on gays’ free speechfor homosexuals, the official Olympic network repeatedly fretted about gay “human rights.” NBC speculated about the rights and safety of gay athletes and visitors to Sochi, reported extensively on Russia’s gay community, talked to every gay athlete in the NBC phone book and hyped President Obama’s appointing of prominent gays to the U.S. Olympic Delegation. Network hosts also tried to encourage athletes to make pro-gay statements while at the Games, at the risk of disqualifying themselves from competition. Video after the break.
Apparently to Time magazine and Reuters, using the term "martyr" to refer to a Christian slain for the sake of his or her faith -- often at the hands of "radical Islamists" -- is deserving of scare quotes.
How shambolic of a smoking ruin is the Obama presidency? When Tina Brown surveys the wreckage, the best—the best!—thing she sees, the thing she believes will be Barack Obama's shining legacy, is his handling of Iran and Syria, which she declares to be "smart," and of course, "nuanced."
The Obamacare catastrophe? Not to worry. On today's Morning Joe, Brown assured us that those problems are "transient." No, look over here, at President Obama's masterful handling of foreign policy! Yes, years from now, when the minor hiccups of the Obamacare rollout will be long forgotten, people will still be marvelling at how well Barack Obama dealt with Iran and Syria. View the video here.
It goes without saying that the reason Susan Rice was scrapped from consideration to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State last year was due to the claims she made on numerous television programs the Sunday after our consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was attacked.
Despite this, when CNN's Fareed Zakaria did a twelve minute interview with Rice Sunday, he didn't mention Benghazi at all.
On Monday's The Last Word show, after former chess champion and Russian political activist Garry Kasparov charged that President Obama had "blown up [the] reputation of his office" by allowing Russian President Vladimir Putin to talk him down from his "red line" warning against Syria, MSNBC host Lawrence O'Donnell tried to argue that Obama had not really lost face since he never specifically promised military action, even though the President warned of "enormous consequences" if chemical weapons were used.
The back and forth started after O'Donnell asked "what advice" the Russian activist had for Secretary of State John Kerry's "day to day negotiations" on the matter, prompting Kasparov to respond:
MSNBC’s Alex Witt loves to ask questions that try to steer her guests toward a certain response, and she was at it again on Saturday’s edition of Weekends with Alex Witt. The host attempted to get three separate guests to agree with her that President Obama was last week’s “big winner” for stumbling onto a potential diplomatic solution to the Syrian crisis. When the third guest was critical of Obama, an incredulous Witt challenged his answer.
During the first hour of her two-hour program, Witt was discussing the recent U.S.-Russia deal to try and get Syrian President Bashar al Assad to give up his chemical weapons. She asked Reuters columnist David Rohde: “You know, doesn't President Obama actually come out the big winner here ultimately? Because without firing a shot, you said you believe that Syria will get rid of its chemical weapons.” [Video below. MP3 audio here.]
Expecting Syria to live up to an agreement between Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov for the cataloging, inspection, removal and eventual destruction or sequester of chemical weapons is a subtle seduction.
Why would a dictator like Bashar al-Assad relinquish his most potent weapon in the midst of a civil war? President Obama and his sycophants claim it was the threat of military action against Syria that focused Assad's mind. That hardly seems credible after Kerry's promise that any U.S. missile strike would be "unbelievably small."
In a 66-paragraph masterpiece, Journal reporters Adam Entous, Janet Hook, and Carol Lee gave a behind-the-scenes look of how, "Through mixed messages, miscalculations, and an 11th-hour break, the U.S. stumbled into an international crisis and then stumbled out of it." Among other things disclosed, "The same day [Secretary of State John] Kerry made his fateful remark" that Syria could simply give up its weapons to the international community, "the State Department sent Congress a memo detailing: 'Russian Obstruction of Actions on Syria.'" It really is a great exploration of the Keystone Kops nature of the Obama team's bungling of Syrian foreign policy. Here's a taste (emphasis mine):
CNN's Chris Cuomo teed up Sen. John McCain to bash fellow Republicans on Monday's New Day, for putting partisanship before the country on Syria and the budget.
"Do you believe if there were President Romney that members of your party would have the same resistance to going in that they are showing right now?" Cuomo pressed McCain on a Syria intervention. Would Cuomo ask if Democrats were supporting President Obama's foreign policy purely out of partisanship? [Video below the break. Audio here.]
If President Barack Obama is losing Al Hunt, there is definitely trouble in Lefty-land.
But let's not go too far. In the midst of leveling criticisms at Obama as "bordering on incompetence," the former host of CNN's Capital Gang and executive editor at Bloomberg News, who is now a Bloomberg View columnist and host of a Bloomberg TV's Political Capital Sunday news show, cited three examples of supposedly indisputable George W. Bush administration incompetence, none of which fits the description.
According to the reporters on Monday's Good Morning America, Barack Obama's "potentially groundbreaking" plan for Syria faces "heat" from critics who think it's a "bad deal." In a shift from last week, ABC allowed more skepticism for the President's handling of the ongoing situation. Yet, Jon Karl still touted, "John Kerry accomplished a big first step. Getting [Russia] to agree that Syria must give a comprehensive accounting of all its chemical weapons within one week."
George Stephanopoulos wondered if "this weekend's potentially groundbreaking deal will really eliminate Assad's chemical weapons." [See video below. MP3 audio here.] The GMA/This Week anchor touted his "exclusive interview" with the President from Sunday, but noted that Obama's "critics say he made a bad deal on Syria."