Maddow Praises Obama’s SOTU Tribute to Afghan War Vet; Witt Tries to Get Her to Criticize War

How do MSNBC hosts feel about the war in Afghanistan? Well, it may depend on who’s in the White House at the moment.

On Saturday morning’s Weekends with Alex Witt, Ms. Witt talked to fellow MSNBC host Rachel Maddow about President Obama’s tribute to Army Ranger Sgt. 1st Class Cory Remsburg at last Tuesday’s State of the Union address. Maddow, who is certainly no fan of our wars in Afghanistan or Iraq, nonetheless reflected on the moment in a mostly positive way. Referring to the extended applause for Sgt. Remsburg, Maddow said:

 

[T]here's just been this immense sacrifice by such a small number of people and I think when you saw a minute and 44 seconds of bipartisan, emotional standing ovation for that staff sergeant last night, you saw a little bit of what is really real, which is we, the American people and even our political leaders, really do care. We actually do have an emotion about it and our disconnect from that sacrifice is something that isn't right, doesn't feel right about us.
 

It was nice to hear Maddow speak about Americans’ support for our troops. However, Witt had to go and ruin the moment by steering Maddow back toward criticism of our nation’s foreign policy. She asked her fellow host, “But don't you think it also highlighted this sort of permanent war footing that we’re on right now?”

Maddow agreed, but she still didn’t slam the war. In fact, she used exceptionally gentle language: “[Y]ou’re totally right. That idea of a permanent war footing, when you talk about a guy injured on his tenth deployment... that’s the human cost of this policy matter that [Obama]'s discussing.”

Where’s the anger over the fact that the war is ongoing? Where’s the indignation? Maybe it wasn’t there because it was Obama, and not President Bush, who initiated this touching tribute to a war hero. After George W. Bush’s 2005 State of the Union speech, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews took a much more cynical view toward a hug between an Iraqi woman and the mother of a Marine killed in Iraq. Matthews wondered if the hug was choreographed by President Bush in order “to push his numbers on Social Security reform, just to get his general appeal up a bit, a couple of points?”

Below is a transcript of the discussion between Maddow and Witt:

 

ALEX WITT: In this week’s Office Politics,  my conversation with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. Rachel and I spoke in her office the morning after the president's State of the Union speech. And I began by asking Rachel about the president’s tribute to 30-year-old Army ranger Corey Remsberg and reaction to his heroism after being wounded in Afghanistan on his tenth deployment.

RACHEL MADDOW: The thing that made it so powerful was how moved everybody was by it. I mean, we’ve got this weird dichotomy in our country where we are in our 13th year of war. It is the longest war in American history. For most of that war, we fought it simultaneously with another one of the longest wars in American history. But less than 1 percent of the population fought it. It's not a news story. We never debate it other than when those wars start and sometimes when we talk about when they might end. And there's just been this immense sacrifice by such a small number of people and I think when you saw a minute and 44 seconds of bipartisan, emotional standing ovation for that staff sergeant last night -- you saw a little bit of what is really real, which is we, the American people and even our political leaders, really do care. We actually do have an emotion about it and our disconnect from that sacrifice is something that isn't right, doesn't feel right about us.



WITT: But don't you think it also highlighted this sort of permanent war footing that we’re on right now? I mean, and clearly it's something the president has been wanting to get away from, but it's taking a long time.

MADDOW: And he put that -- he said that explicitly in the speech before he started telling that personal story about that staff sergeant. He said, I will not hesitate to use force, but I will not put our men and women in unending, open-ended conflicts, and we will end the war in Afghanistan and we will get off a permanent war footing. Then he moved on to some issues about Iran and other things, then he came back to that staff sergeant. But you’re totally right. That idea of a permanent war footing, when you talk about a guy injured on his tenth deployment, that's obviously what we are – that’s the human cost of this policy matter that he's discussing.

Paul Bremmer
Paul Bremmer is a Media Research Center News Analysis Division intern.