On this morning’s "Early Show" on CBS, co-host Harry Smith continued his crusade against the war in Iraq, and suggested that not only is the war in Iraq a quagmire, but the whole war on terror is one as well. In an interview with Senator Joe Biden, a Delaware Democrat and probable candidate for President in 2008, Smith accentuated the negative in Iraq without challenging Biden on his positions.
Smith set the tone for the segment with his first question, suggesting that nothing has been accomplished in Iraq:
"The insurgency appears to be operating virtually at will. Have we made no progress there or is there, do you see any signs of hope of this ending?"
This followed the co-host’s introduction where he focused on sectarian violence:
"American forces in Iraq find themselves in the middle of what looks like a growing civil war. As we reported dozens of Iraqis died in attacks over the weekend including 21 young men who were dragged from a bus and executed."
Smith went on to list several things he saw as problems in Iraq and asked where the accountability was:
"Here's the thing, we're in there over three years and three months we're in a neighborhood where there's some peace and stability but all of a sudden the people there realize guess what? We haven't had electricity in seven days. There was a big expose in the ‘Times’ yesterday about how these, the oil and gasoline there is being pirated and people are paying black market prices for the oil that should be coming out of the ground from two blocks away. It, there's just this avalanche of bad news from this country, and I'm wondering where the accountability is."
Biden predictably responded that the accountability lies with the administration and offers what he sees as the solution to winning in Iraq. But does Smith question his idea? No. In fact, Smith brings up an op-ed that Biden wrote:
"You advocate in an op-ed piece a couple of weeks ago of basically dividing the country into three parts. Which it met with all kinds of scorn and derision and everything else. But might that actually be the answer?"
And again, Smith lets Biden defend and promote his position. But what about picking specific criticisms of Biden’s piece and asking him to respond? No, none of that from Harry Smith.
Following the discussion on Iraq, Smith turned his attention for one question to the developments in Canada over the weekend when 17 suspected terrorists were apprehended. Instead of heralding this as a victory in the global war on terror, Smith instead focused on the fact that there could be terrorists plotting in America as well:
"All right. Let's talk about these arrests in Canada. 17 people arrested in Toronto. They had huge amounts of ammonium. They looked like they were going after significant targets there. Are we supposed to be assured by the fact that the Canadian authorities say there were no U.S. targets? To me that just means the same thing could happen here."
Of course the same thing could happen here. Yet, many programs the administration has been implementing to combat terrorism, such as the Terrorist Surveillance Program, have been the source of constant media criticism, including Harry Smith. Instead of asking Biden about these tools, which Biden has also been critical of, Smith sits back and lets Biden complain about the resources we’re devoting to Homeland Security, the strategy being implemented, and the need to raise taxes:
Joe Biden: "The same thing can happen here. And, look at what's going on in New York City now. We're cutting the funding for New York City and the big argument is it's going out west, should it go here or should it go to the Midwest? We're only going to spend $720 million on all of the 9/11 Commission recommendations here. We should be dealing with taking all the 9/11 recommendations, commission recommendations, and putting them into law. People say we can't afford it. It would cost $42 billion over five years."
Harry Smith: "Right."
Joe Biden: "The tax cut for somebody making over a million bucks for one year adds up to $53 billion. Rich folks are as patriotic as poor folks. Eliminate that tax. Fully fund, fully fund the 9/11 Commission recommendation. They are still around. There still will be another attack."
Had this been a possible Republican Presidential candidate, you can be sure Smith would have aggressively attacked from the left, yet Smith gives Joe Biden a soapbox to stand on, albeit a slightly smaller one than he gave former Vice President Al Gore. But, maybe it’s Smith’s accommodation to Biden that keeps him coming back, after all today was Biden’s fourth appearance on "The Early Show" this year.