Today's New York Times op-ed page includes a wide-ranging interview on foreign policy that Thomas Friedman conducted with President Obama. Let's break down some of the low-lights. Excerpts from interview in italics, with my comments following. And sure, when President Obama said "I don't worry about Israel's survival," he explained his insouciance in terms of Israel's military might. But was he telling a deeper truth?
Obama made clear that he is only going to involve America more deeply in places like the Middle East to the extent that the different communities there agree to an inclusive politics of no victor/no vanquished.
LOL. Yup, lions laying down with lambs any day now. So is Obama really saying that the US will not be involved in the Middle East ever again? And how does he square his statement with the attack he ordered on ISIS? Isn't that all about vanquishing them? More after the jump.
Earlier today, I gave the Associated Press an unwarranted benefit of the doubt. I figured that there was no way the language contained in an offensive AP tweet on the Israel-Gaza situation would appear in an actual story by an alleged professional journalist. Boy, was I wrong.
The language in question was posted at 6 a.m. ET and is still present at the wire service's official Twitter account. It reads: "As much of world watches Gaza war in horror, members of Congress fall over each other to support Israel." I wrote this afternoon that "The tweet ... links to a brief dispatch by Bradley Klapper, whose coverage, to be fair (but only if he's not the tweeter), doesn't reflect the sentiments expressed in the tweet." Well, it didn't then, because the underlying story had been revised. Here's are the first five paragraphs of Klapper's story as they appeared before comprehensive cleanup efforts ensued:
Of all the Associated Press reporters out there, Matt Lee, whose beat is the State Department, appears to have the least patience with the pablum (and worse) he is expected to swallow from the Obama administration.
In September of last year, as the situation in Syria escalated, Obama administration Secretary of State John Kerry proposed a non-mandatory request for a Congressional vote on U.S. military involvement in Syria. After hearing State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki defend that proposal as "courageous," Lee, after getting a non-response to a question as why it was courageous, famously asked: "Was there some kind of, like, group spine-removal op procedure at the White House over the weekend?" Though he may not have exercised the best judgment this morning in posting the tweet which follows the jump, at least we can say that Lee hasn't taken up permanent residence in the wire service's otherwise very crowded water-carrier wing:
The Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, wants Americans to know that the Obama adminisration is really, really upset — but not at Hamas for committing terrorist acts, using women and children as human shields, and digging tunnels for the purpose of mass-murdering civilians on Rosh Hashanah.
No-no-no. Team Obama is "fuming" (i.e., their poor little feeeeewings are hurt) because Israeli officials and the Israeli media — even its liberal wing — are furiously criticizing U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry for apparently doing all he can to sell out the Jewish state's positions in attempting to negotiate a ceasefire with Hamas.
It was strange. Joe Scarborough had just completed a comprehensive indictment of failed American foreign policy around the globe. But at the very moment when he should have laid those disasters at the feet of the sitting President of the United States, Scarborough came down with a bad case of . . . cold feet.
Scarborough laid out to David Gregory a tour d'horizon of failed American foreign policy from the Middle East, to Iran, to Russia/Ukraine, describing it as "one disaster after another.One strikeout after another." But perhaps fearful of where the ineluctable logic of his comments was taking him, Scarborough suddenly made nice, saying "of course that is not directed to President Obama." Really? Who's been in the White House for the last six years? View the video after the jump.
For an example of how MSNBC is leaning forward into biased coverage of the latest troubles Israel is having with the terrorist group Hamas, one need look no further than the July 15 edition of Andrea Mitchell Reports.
After hearing from NBC foreign correspondent Ayman Mohyeldin about how the Egyptian cease-fire was rejected by Hamas because it “failed to address the comprehensive issues that they (Hamas) were trying to go after,” Mitchell invited the Israeli ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, to discuss the crisis in Israel and offer “his take” on U.S. nuclear negotiations with Iran. When Dermer stated that “Iran wants to develop a nuclear weapon.” Mitchell retorted that they “say they don’t.” Well, that settles it. Just like that time in 2007 when the Holocaust-denying President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, insisted there were no gay men in Iran. [See video below. Click here for MP3 audio]
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.
Though he has dispatched 275 military advisors to that country, his virtual ultimatum to that Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki — no angel by any stretch, but still a better alternative to a civil war or an ISIS-run terrorist state — that he must negotiate with all parties involve before the U.S. will even think about making a meaningful military commitment seems destined to allow matters to deteriorate further, perhaps to the point of no return. Despite all of this, Donna Cassata and Bradley Klapper at the Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, implied in a Tuesday afternoon dispatch that anyone who doesn't support plan-free military action now is some kind of hypocrite — except for Democrats who say that their support of going to war in 2002 was a mistake. The AP pair also falsely asserted that weapons of mass destruction "were never found" in Iraq.
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):
Returning from a trip to Iran for an upcoming 60 Minutes story on the authoritarian regime, correspondent Steve Kroft appeared on Friday's CBS This Morning to preview the piece and made an observation about the nation's nuclear weapons program: "...they're convinced that they're not building a bomb. They don't believe – we didn't talk to anybody who believes they're building a bomb. That the supreme leader has dictated that it's against their religion, you know, and that a fatwa was issued. It's on his website." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
At the top of the exchange, Kroft praised Iranian President Rouhani and his government as "pragmatists" who wanted to "stop all the bad talk" and try to "get a few things accomplished."
Once again, as it did a month ago in two separate stories, the Associated Press, aka the Administration's Press, left the name of Lois Lerner, the former IRS official who ran its section on tax-exempt organizations, out of its headline and opening paragraph. This time, for good measure, AP reporter Stephen Ohlemacher didn't reveal Lerner's name until Paragraph 3.
Before getting to Ohlemacher's journalistic malpractice, let's take a look at the how the Politico handled the same story of Congress holding Ms. Lerner in contempt yesterday, and at one example of how the AP itself covered the story of another controversial figure's anticipated congressional appearance in the 1980s.
On Thursday, Washington Post reporter Ed O’Keefe blogged: “An incredible thing happened this week: A bill written by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) has passed Congress.” It was a bill designed to block entry into the country for Iran’s new ambassador to the United Nations, who aided the radical Iranians who held Americans hostage for 444 days in 1979 and 1980.
On Saturday, the Post put the controversy on page one and played “Hide the Ted.” There was no mention of Cruz anywhere in the 946-word article. The only proud politician quoted was liberal Chucky Schumer. Reporter Anne Gearan began:
Because the United States should "focus... on preventing more war, terrorism and [nuclear] proliferation," it's probably time that we just "get over" the Iranian hostage crisis, argues Barbara Slavin in her April 2 Voice of America column, "Can We Ever Move on from the Hostage Crisis?"
The career journalist was expressing her annoyance with how there is consternation in Washington over the prospect of the Obama/Kerry State Department granting a visa to an Iranian diplomat who was a figure in the student-led seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979. To Slavin's mind, this is a cynical ploy to scotch Iranian nuclear talks and, besides, haven't we Americans also upset Iranians with some of the things we've done in the past? (emphasis mine):
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.”
In a shocking declaration on her 1 p.m. ET hour MSNBC show Tuesday, host Andrea Mitchell asserted that one of America's fiercest enemies was actually a friend to the U.S. before George W. Bush came along: "Up until that moment, Iran was cooperating with the United States on the border of Afghanistan, it was post-9/11, Iran was more or less an American ally. By being included in the Axis of Evil, it turned the Iranian government in a completely different direction." [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
The topic came up when The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza told Mitchell that the last "memorable and impactful" State of the Union address was President Bush's 2002 speech labeling Iraq, Iran, and North Korea to be an "Axis of Evil." Mitchell interrupted: "No, let me challenge you on that....Colin Powell and the State Department did not focus enough on those words and get them taken out of the State of the Union."
On Wednesday's All In show, MSNBC's Chris Hayes ended the show with a commentary appealing to 16 Senate Democrats who are joining with Republicans to push more sanctions on Iran, as the MSNBC host blamed the pro-Israel group AIPAC for influencing these Democrats, and accused the Senators of being "intent on sabotaging the President's peace talks and pushing us towards another war."
As he listed out a number of public figures who oppose the Obama administration's deal with Iran, Hayes also framed skeptics of the deal as being "apoplectic at the thought of peace."
ABC, CBS, and NBC's Thursday morning newscasts all punted on covering President Obama's Wednesday night meeting with Senate Democrats, where he called on them to reject new sanctions on Iran. These same programs, along with the networks' evening newscasts, also failed to mention the President by name in their reporting on the Senate Intelligence Committee's "scathing" new report on the 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya.
By contrast, Thursday's New Day on CNN devoted 40 seconds of air time to the chief executive's plea to his former colleagues in the Senate. John Berman gave two news briefs on the development.
On MSNBC's All In with Chris Hayes show, host Hayes tagged opponents of President Obama's deal with Iran over its nuclear program as "extreme" and "nefarious' even while acknowledging that the opposition is bipartisan. Hayes began the segment:
On Tuesday's PoliticsNation on MSNBC, Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank reacted to GOP complaints about President Obama's Iran deal by cracking that Republicans "would have reflexively disapproved" even if Obama made a "deal to promote motherhood, baseball and apple pie."
But later, Milbank still predicted that the Iranian government "probably are not for real," as he recommended making the effort at a six-month deal anyway. Host Al Sharpton surpisingly also seemed to think it more likely than not that Iran would cheat as he asserted that "it's likely they may not live up to it."
After Sharpton introduced the segment complaining about a "deranged" response from conservatives who have attacked the deal, he went to Milbank, who began:
On Monday's All In show on MSNBC, as he celebrated the "truly historic" news of President Obama's deal with Iran, Chris Hayes mocked "neocons" for having a "dark day" and played the part of liberal caricature by suggesting that "neocons' nefariously wanted war with Iran for the "muscular assertion of military dominance."
A bit later, as he admitted that even Democrats in Congress are skeptical of the plan, he fretted about the possibility of Congress imposing more sanctions on Iran as he referred to doing so as "bonkers" and "ridiculous."
In response to several outlets contending with basis that the Associated Press sat on its knowledge that the United States and Iran were conducting secret diplomatic discussions, the AP's Paul Colford has published a "Back Story" item defending its conduct, claiming that it could not "confirm, to its standards, what had happened." My related NewsBusters post is here.
Breitbart had a related item earlier today. In it, Larry O'Connor posted a tweet from a specific person at another news organization indicating that "both had versions of it independently early & were asked to not publish til end of Iran talks." Barring a better explanation from AP than what readers will see after the jump, the tweet by Laura Rozen at the Washington-based, Middle East-focused Al-Monitor presumptively refutes AP's claim that it didn't have enough information to justify publishing a story (if they didn't, why would the government bother to ask them to not publish?). Colford did not address Rozen's relayed claim, even though his item more than likely went up several hours after O'Connor's Breitbart post and roughly 48 hours after Rozen's tweet (depending on its time zone). Colford's full AP post follows the jump (links and italics are in original):
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.
My previous post (at BizzyBlog; at NewsBusters) dealt with Pace's blind acceptance of unsupported assertions about the reason for the Obama administration's delay of 2015 Obamacare enrollment until November 15, 2014 and her willingness to parrot long-discredited talking points about why the HealthCare.gov website initially crashed. Before that, she bragged about how her organization, which didn't exactly have a track record of sitting on news about secret Bush administration efforts, sat on what it knew about the existence of secret negotiations between the U.S. and Iran (bolds are mine throughout this post):
Charlie Rose and Norah O'Donnell stayed true to form and badgered a Republican/conservative guest on Monday's CBS This Morning – this time, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor over his criticism of the Obama administration's nuclear deal with Iran. Rose questioned the congressman's opposition to the proposal, which he labeled "dangerous". Rose asked, "Why isn't that a good deal to freeze things and delay?"
O'Donnell twice touted the deal as "positive", in an attempt to defend the White House's controversial diplomatic efforts: [MP3 audio available here; video below the jump]
So it should come as no surprise that Ms. Gearan pulled the same stunt in today's Post with a gooey tribute -- headlined "On Iran, a diplomatic coup bearing Kerry's hallmark" in the November 25 print edition* -- to Secretary of State John Kerry for his achieving an interim nuclear deal with Iran this weekend in Geneva. Here's a taste from the 19-paragraph page A9 item (emphasis mine):
Joe Scarborough has suggested that President Obama's poor poll numbers made him "desperate," driving him to agree to a deal with Iran on its nuclear program that Scarborough criticized as "bad" and even "horrible."
Scarborough described recently speaking with someone who said that no president with approval ratings under 40% should be allowed to do a deal. Reminds me of doctors' warnings not to sign legal documents while under the effects of some medications. Said Scarborough of unpopular presidents: "they get desperate, they really do." View the video after the jump.
Mike Rogers (R-Mich), the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, had some harsh words for the agreement the Obama administration has just made with Iran concerning that nation’s nuclear program.
Appearing on CNN’s State of the Union, Rogers said, “We have just rewarded very bad and dangerous behavior...we may have just encouraged more violence in the future than we have stopped.”
Sure, he was careful to couch it. But the bottom line is that Zbigniew Brzezinski believes that Iran is willing to abandon its goal of acquiring nuclear weapons.
Jimmy Carter's former national security adviser offered that opinion in response to questioning by former RNC Chairman Michael Steele on today's Morning Joe. Brzezinski also claimed that the recent round of negotiations have been "serious, substantive" and that the Iranians have been "accommodating." View the video after the jump.