Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos on Thursday hyped Barack Obama's handling of the decision to fire General Stanley McChrystal and replace him with David Petraeus, lauding the action as a "political masterstroke."
His comments built on extensive media praise on Wednesday, including many reporters who called the move "brilliant." Stephanopoulos seemed particularly pleased.
The former Democratic aide turned journalist extolled, "...That pick really seems to have been the political masterstroke that got President Obama out of the tight box he was in. It's being welcomed both by Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill."
On Wednesday's Today show, NBC's Chuck Todd touted President Obama's "swiftness" in dealing with the controversy surrounding General Stanley McChrystal comments in Rolling Stone magazine as a "commander-in-chief moment," and hinted that it was a blessing in disguise, given the executive's tanking approval ratings.
Todd led the 7 am Eastern hour with his report on the President appointing General David Petraeus to replace General McChrystal, who was relieved of command following the Rolling Stone interview. The NBC White House correspondent remarked that with the Petraeus appointment, "the President signaled to his team, no more firestorms like this one will be tolerated." After playing a clip of Mr. Obama stating that he "won't tolerate division," he continued that "the President's aides don't expect there will be much division in the Senate, either, where some are predicting Petraeus will have the fastest confirmation in history, and the praise is bipartisan."
Later in the report, Todd used his "commander-in-chief moment" term as he emphasized the apparent good timing of the controversy and detailed the public's decreasing confidence in the President, according to NBC's own poll:
While the media are attempting to grapple with the change in leadership of the Afghanistan war and what that all means, one thing that could be learned from this, which has been ignored, are valid criticisms of President Barack Obama and his ability to command the U.S. military.
Hastings was asked if McChrystal had perhaps gotten the whole strategy wrong, but Hastings explained it was the President that didn't know what he was really getting into.
"I think that ship had sailed last year," Hastings said. "I think once the decision was made to do a counterinsurgency strategy, they had a pretty clear idea in mind what they wanted to do and I think this is quite interesting. I think this is one of the issues Obama didn't really understand what counter-insurgency meant and when the military said they wanted to do a counterinsurgency strategy that that actually meant 150,000 troops. Obama thought he could get away with just sending 21,000 over and getting a new general."
On Tuesday’s The O’Reilly Factor, host Bill O’Reilly held a discussion with FNC Strategic Analyst and retired Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters about the New York Times leaking information on U.S. military activity, as Peters charged that the Times was endangering covert agents: "They tipped our secret operations, our black operations approach to the Iranians, to the Syrians, to the terrorists. It made it much harder and much more dangerous for our agents, for our special operators to collect intelligence, to take direct action, to protect our country, to advance our interests." He and O’Reilly soon added:
RETIRED LIEUTENANT COLONEL RALPH PETERS: And it's also hurt us with countries that are pseudo-friends, such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan because, and Yemen, because it's said that we're going to run operations against them.
BILL O'REILLY: Yeah, they don't want their people to know they're cooperating with the United States in any kind of a mission or operation, Yemen in particular.
The FNC analyst also recounted some of the Times’s past transgressions against American national security:
On Monday's Rick's List, CNN's Rick Sanchez painted Ann Coulter and CPAC as "hardline." Sanchez also implied that the CPAC attendees were hypocritically cheering Dick Cheney: "I invited Ann Coulter, who exemplifies the hardline spirit of CPAC...and asked her why anti-spend conservatives meeting there...would give a standing ovation to a former vice president whose administration ran up the deficit" [audio clip available here].
The CNN anchor revisited his Friday interview of Coulter 13 minutes into the 3 pm Eastern hour (Noel Sheppard exposed Sanchez's slanted interview of Coulter): "Do you remember last week when former Vice President Dick Cheney got the loudest ovation at CPAC? So I invited Ann Coulter, who exemplifies the hardline spirit of CPAC, I believe, and I asked her why anti-spend conservatives meeting there at CPAC would give a standing ovation to a former vice president whose administration ran up the deficit to $1.2 trillion, even though they were handed a surplus. I thought it was a fair question."
Of course we all know that it's absolutely wrong and mean-spirited to suggest that anyone on the left could conceivably be unpatriotic [though an exception might be made for unrepentant terrorist friends of Barack Obama who accept from Vietnamese communists rings made from downed US planes.] So while we won't be using the u-word here, two recent MSNBC shows offer a remarkable contrast. Let's compare Chris Matthews' giddy reaction to news of difficulties in the markets with Mika Brzezinski's gloom in begrudgingly discussing the Iraq surge's success.
The first portion of the video is from the opening of Hardball of September 15th, the day when news was breaking of Lehman and Merrill Lynch's travails, and the DJIA had sunk over 500 points. Matthews could hardly contain his glee, comparing McCain to Hoover, and declaring that because of the "terrible news" about the economy, "as of today, this is no longer an election about lipstick on pigs, misleading ads or how many houses a candidate owns. This is serious. The economy is a real issue. With real consequences." Then there was today's discussion on Morning Joe of the surge's success. Mika's pout—on view in the screencap—epitomizes her reaction. I commend the entire video clip to your attention, but would focus on these exchanges.
A couple days ago at the gym, listening to a Hugh Hewitt podcast and perhaps not paying as much attention as I should have while pedaling away, I heard Hugh mention that Barack Obama doesn't understand the role of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. What was Hugh referring to? As the British would say: the penny just dropped. A few minutes ago, CNN's Situation Room played a clip of Obama saying this about his plan for Iraq:
BARACK OBAMA: I'm going to call in the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and give them a new mission, and that is to bring the war in Iraq to a close. We are going to get out.
There's only one problem. The Joint Chiefs of Staff does not have operational command of U.S. military forces. That authority resides in the commanders of the various Unified Combatant Commands. CENTCOM is the command with responsibility for Iraq [and 26 other countries including Afghanistan and Pakistan]. Earlier this month, the Senate confirmed Pres. Bush's appointment of Gen. David Petraeus as CENTCOM commander. Lt. Gen. Raymond Odierno is the new US commander for Iraq, replacing Gen. Petraeus. Those are the people, along with the Secretary of Defense, to whom the orders Obama spoke of would be issued.
When Georgia Republicans ran an ad against former Senator Max Cleland, which included a photograph of Osama bin Laden, attacking the Democratic Senator's numerous votes to apply labor union rules to the Homeland Security Department, liberals were outraged as they claimed the ad was an attack on the "patriotism" of war hero Cleland. MSNBC host Keith Olbermann expressed outrage by mentioning the attack on Cleland several times in the last few years as he claimed that Cleland was "cut down," "sandbagged," "blindsided," "cheap shotted," "mugged," "hamstrung," and subjected to a "hatchet job," in part because of the inclusion of the bin Laden photograph.
But Olbermann himself recently employed a photograph of Osama bin Laden as he teased a story contending that "John McCain's top guy [Phil Gramm] on the economy made it easier for bin Laden," and charging that Gramm was "on the side of the terrorists' bankers before and after 9/11." The MSNBC host has also accused McCain of "betraying" U.S. troops, and has suggested that McCain does not "understand [the] risk and sacrifice" of U.S. troops serving in Iraq, and that he has "abandoned" them. He even went so far as to suggest that McCain has ulterior motives for supporting an extended U.S. presence in Iraq because he supports "war-profiteering" by U.S. firms who would benefit. And Olbermann once mocked McCain as "awol" during as Senate vote because he was at a fund-raiser "supporting himself instead of the troops." (Transcripts follow)
Last night on the MSNBC program "Countdown with Keith Olbermann," the host gave the runner up position to his daily segment "World's Worst Persons in the World" to General David Petraeus. View video here. After the negative reaction the smear ad from MoveOn.org received last year it should be well-known by now that name calling Gen. Petraeus is not the way to go. Apparently Mr. Olbermann didn't get the memo. Hat tip: Greg Pollowitz.
On Thursday’s CBS "Evening News" anchor Katie Couric teased an upcoming interview with General David Petraues: "Also tonight, General David Petraeus on the slow progress in Iraq." Couric later began the interview by asking Petraeus: "How frustrated are you?"
Prior to asking about Iranian influence in Iraq, Couric offered this pessimistic observation: "There's been a spike in attacks against Americans recently. Sixteen combat deaths this month. April is on track to be the deadliest month since September." Couric went on to describe the latest effort by Iraqi security forces to combat militias in Basra: "Last month the Iraqi army surprised the United States by attacking militant strongholds in the southern city of Basra. The operation was poorly planned. Some Iraqi troops stopped fighting, and ultimately US air power had to be sent in to back the Iraqis."
Couric then concluded the interview by citing the latest poll numbers: "Finally, general, in our latest poll, 54 percent of Americans think the war is going badly -- more than half, obviously. How can you sustain this effort without more popular support here at home?"
So DeBord apparently thinks ribbons worn on the service dress uniform are the equivalent of "flair" that Chotchkie's waiters wore in the comedy classic "Office Space"? Here's how DeBord began his screed against Petraeus being decked out in "martial bling":
NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams led Tuesday's newscast by listing the burden of the Iraq war in years, troops, deaths and cost before Jim Miklaszewski, unlike reporters on ABC and CBS, found it newsworthy to show a man, in the Senate hearing for General David Petraeus, shouting “bring them home!” In the next story, Andrea Mitchell decided to highlight, again unlike ABC or CBS, how John McCain “stumbled...by again describing al Qaeda as Shiite” and Williams turned to Richard Engel, NBC's Iraq reporter, who described Petraeus' decision to end troop withdrawals in July as “frustrating and disheartening in that the rules of the game have changed.” Williams opened:
The war's now five years old. That's longer than U.S. involvement in World War II. There are currently 162,000 U.S. troops serving in Iraq. Death toll is now over 4,000. And the price tag of this war for military operations alone: nearly half a trillion dollars so far.
Before and after audio of a man yelling “bring them home!”, Miklaszewski helpfully suggested: “A protestor voiced what some Americans are demanding for U.S. troops.” In a piece by Mitchell on how the three presidential candidates approached Petraeus, she pointed how that “the Republican Senator also stumbled, briefly, by again describing al Qaeda as Shiite.” She countered: “Al Qaeda is Sunni, not Shiite. McCain immediately corrected himself.” So, if he immediately corrected himself, why highlight it?
"View" co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck touted the success of the surge before "objective" journalist Barbara Walters dismissed it. On the April 8 edition of "The View," the panel discussed General Petraeus’ testimony before Congress on the situation in Iraq. Hasselbeck called the surge "one of the most effective strategies in the war" before Walters swiftly responded "no it has not." Walters then added because violence has seen an up tick in the past few weeks the surge has failed.
Hasselbeck then pulled some numbers noting the Iraqis "met 12 of the 18 benchmarks" and "90,000 of the Sunnis have decided to join U.S. forces." Walters responded by dismissing those figures adding "darling you can get all of the statistics you want, but you’ve had more violence than you’ve had in months."
In an interview with Hillary Clinton on Tuesday’s CBS "Early Show," about the upcoming congressional testimony of General David Petraeus on the Iraq war, co-host Harry Smith began by asking a question that perfectly toed the Democratic Party line: "David Petraeus is going to come before this committee this morning. He's going to say in more -- you know, more elaborate words than I will right now, that the surge is working. The number of attacks in Baghdad have more than doubled in the last two months. About a dozen U.S. servicemen have been killed there in just the last several days. Do you think the surge is working?" Clinton was very appreciative of Smith’s softball and let him know: "Well Harry, I think you just made a summary argument against the position that it's working."
Smith’s claim that attacks in Baghdad "more than doubled" recently was accurate according to an April 8 New York Times article. However, what Smith failed to also point out was the dramatic decline of attacks during the surge, which preceded the latest round of violence.
In a news brief on Monday’s CBS "Early Show" correspondent Lara Logan reported on recent violence in Baghdad as a result of militia forces of Muqtada al Sadr: "The streets of Sadr City in eastern Baghdad have become a bloody battleground...This eyewitness describing the fighting on his street says 'one person was killed, and a child was also killed there. Everything got burned up. Everything was destroyed.’"
Logan followed that hyperbolic account by declaring: "The human cost was difficult to measure as the wounded continued to fill hospital beds and the number of dead kept rising." The "Early Show" seized on Iraq violence in a similar way in February, when despite the obvious success of the troop surge, correspondent Mark Strassman declared: "Mayhem and misery are back in Baghdad."
As Logan concluded her report, she made sure to mention how this violence would cause problems for General David Petraeus’s upcoming report to Congress: "This latest spike in violence coming at a very awkward time for the U.S. government. As America's top officials, General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker are due to testify before Congress tomorrow."
David Petraeus was diplomatic in his language and careful to honor the primacy of civilian authority over the military. But the commanding general of multi-lateral forces in Iraq has left little doubt that if a new president wanted to withdraw from Iraq faster than would reflect Petraeus's considered military opinion, his family would be happy to have him home.
ABC's Bill Weir interviewed the Gen. Petraeus as part of a Good Morning America special today marking the fifth anniversary of the war in Iraq. The opening segment focused almost exclusively on the costs of the war. Some producer had apparently calculated that the war has cost 19 times the annual budget of Los Angeles. Who knew? But a subsequent segment did highlight some of the progress that has been made, notably in terms of former insurgents now come over to the multi-lateral side. Then came the Petraeus interview, which ended with this exchange.
BILL WEIR: You serve at the pleasure of the president. If our new president, a year from now, says general, I want out of here in a year. What do you say? Is that even feasible?
Clinton condemned the comment during an interview with a Washington DC radio host (see Tim Graham's earlier post on rest of interview) in which he was asked about Olbermann's remark in the context of the Shuster kerfuffle.
Opening for Hillary? Obama has spoken some sense on the surge . . .
Whereas Obama's claim to foreign policy fame among Dems has been his opposition from day one to the Iraq war, it appears he may have now put himself to the right of Hillary Clinton on the issue of sustaining the surge.
Readers will recall that when Tim Russert asked Clinton on Meet the Press of January 13th whether she would be open to sustaining the surge through the end of the year if General Petraeus requested it, Hillary tersely answered "No, and here's why, Tim."
But confronted with a similar hypothetical on this morning's Early Show, Obama evinced more flexibility.
On Friday's "Countdown," viewers were treated to a retrospective of MSNBC host Keith Olbermann's series of "Special Comment" attacks on conservatives, featuring four of his favorites from the year 2007. An announcer teased the show glorifying Olbermann while intermixing complimentary quotes from various media with clips of Olbermann reading his "Special Comments." The announcer read a quote from "Playboy" calling the MSNBC host the "truth teller in chief," and a quote from the "Akron Beacon Journal" claiming that he is "the one journalist actually working to save the democracy." Among the quotes from Olbermann featured in the teaser was the MSNBC host's charge that "the presidency of George W. Bush has now devolved into a criminal conspiracy to cover the ass of George W. Bush." (Transcript follows)
Sunday's "NBC Nightly News" featured retired General Barry McCaffrey, NBC News military analyst and "one-time war critic," as he voiced his "surprising new assessment" that conditions in Iraq have improved "dramatically" since the surge. McCaffrey, former Drug Czar of the Clinton administration, remarked: "A year ago, I thought the thing was going over the edge of a cliff. That has changed dramatically in a very short period of time."
Anchor Lester Holt played up McCaffrey's history of being a war critic as he teased the December 23 show: "Reality Check: New progress in Iraq, and a surprising new assessment from a four-star general and one-time war critic, just back from Baghdad." (Transcript follows)
Bona fide prediction, or devious three-dimensional-chess-move-cum- double-bank-shot-jujitsu gambit designed to sow chaos in Republican ranks? Hard to say, but one thing is undeniable: MSNBC correspondent David Shuster has predicted that Mike Huckabee will be the next President of the United States.
The surprising prognosis came at the end of an interesting pundits roundtable [presumably recorded over the weekend] that took the place of Morning Joe's regular live programming this Christmas Eve morning. Wrapping things up, host Joe Scarborough went around the horn, soliciting predictions from his guests.
A recent study, "Good News = Less News on Iraq War," by Rich Noyes, the Research Director of Media Research Center, NB's parent organization, revealed that coverage of Iraq by the big three evening newscasts has declined as the news from Iraq has improved. Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace highlighted the MRC study during his interview of General David Petraeus, Commanding General, Multi-National Force - Iraq .
CHRIS WALLACE: It seemed to us that you hadn't been in the news much recently, which probably is a good thing from your point of view, since you came back from Washington in September. But we decided to check it out, and the Media Research Center says that the three network evening newscasts did 178 stories on Iraq in September, when you were here, that in October as the surge took hold there were 108 stories, and that in November that dropped to just 68. General, any thoughts about why success in Iraq isn't news here at home?
A September 12 NewsBusters' item, NYT Misreports Biden-Obama Exchange, detailed a reporting error in the New York Times' coverage of testimony delivered the previous day to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by General David Petraeus and Iraq Ambassador Ryan Crocker. The news story reported an exchange between Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE) and Senator Barack Obama (D-IL), both Democratic presidential candidates:
The senators were allowed only seven minutes each for questions, a limit that Mr. Biden, as a committee chairman, tried to enforce. But he did not try overly hard to cut off Mr. Obama, perhaps because he did not want to be seen in the ungentlemanly act of silencing a political rival. “Why don’t you try to summarize quickly what you said, O.K.?” Mr. Biden genially asked him as his time ran out.
While MSNBC's Keith Olbermann can hardly contain his glee at smacking around Rush Limbaugh over the taken-out-of-context "phony soldier" remark, it's notable that Olbermann himself essentially smeared Gen. David Petreaus as a phony at best and a traitor at the worst well before the Iraq war commander ever gave his assessment before Congress.
Indeed, before MoveOn.org issued the infamously juvenile "Betray Us" ad, Olbermann's minions plastered "Will Petreaus Betray Us?" in on-screen graphics during his August 16 program. [See also YouTube video appended at bottom of post]
Chatting with guest and liberal journalist Jonathan Alter on that program, Olbermann trashed the Petreaus report as a "ghost-written" concoction of the Bush White House, bound to be replete with partisan spin. Alter agreed, saying Petreaus has always been a "political" general, although he backtracked a bit to also say Petreaus was a "straight-shooter."
Over at Times Watch, I've been pretty hard on New York Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt -- finding most of the biweekly columns from the paper's inside watchdog to suffer from either an excess of corporate loyalty or to be simply pointless (when he's not sniping at the paper from the left).
So it was particularly surprising when Hoyt actually unbuckled his company badge to tackle an issue raised by conservatives -- the inflammatory MoveOn.org ad -- in his Sunday Week in Review column. Hoyt did some actual reporting and got a belated admission of error that the paper's actual news reporters were unable to uncover: It was a mistake to grant MoveOn.org a deep discount for its infantile attack ad against Gen. David Petraeus that appeared the very day he testified before Congress.
"For nearly two weeks, The New York Times has been defending a political advertisement that critics say was an unfair shot at the American commander in Iraq.
The old gray lady has some explaining to do. Officials at the New York Times have admitted a liberal activist group was permitted to pay half the rate it should have for a provocative ad condemning U.S. Iraq commander Gen. David Petraeus.
The MoveOn ad, which cast Petraeus as “General Betray Us” and attacked his truthfulness, ran on the same day the commander made a highly anticipated appearance before Congress.
But since the liberal group paid the standby rate of $64,575 for the full-page ad, it should not have been guaranteed to run on Sept. 10, the day Petraeus warned Congress against a rapid withdrawal of troops from Iraq, Times personnel said.
As NewsBusters reported, the Senate voted Thursday to condemn MoveOn's "General Betray Us" ad, even though most Democrat presidential candidates including Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) opposed the resolution.
With this in mind, it seemed logical that when Clinton was Tim Russert's guest on Sunday's "Meet the Press," and MoveOn's ad came up, the host would have asked the junior senator from New York about this vote, and why she opposed the amendment.
Amazingly, Russert never did.
In fact, as the following partial transcript of this part of the interview demonstrates, Russert not only let Clinton off the hook on this issue, but appeared to assist her in clarifying her point (video available here):
If you thought the controversy over MoveOn's disgraceful "General Betray Us" ad was going away any time soon, think again.
On Sunday, the Times's public editor Clark Hoyt came out strongly against the paper's decision to run this piece of detritus claiming that MoveOn got a price "that it should not have received under Times policies," and that "the ad appears to fly in the face of an internal advertising acceptability manual that says, ‘We do not accept opinion advertisements that are attacks of a personal nature.'"
Hoyt expressed his disagreement with the paper early and often (emphasis added throughout, h/t Pat Campbell):