NBC foreign correspondent Richard Engel is my favorite frequent guest on "The Rachel Maddow Show" -- who knows what he might say. Certainly not Maddow.
Engel didn't disappoint in his last appearance on her program Oct. 20, subtly calling Maddow out for a conspicuous omission in her recounting of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi renouncing his weapons of mass destruction. (video after page break)
Earlier today, officials confirmed that Gaddafi has been killed at the hands of National Transitional Council forces near his hometown of Sirte. The former Libyan leader was found hiding with bodyguards beneath a road near the city. He had been injured by a NATO airstrike, and died from wounds suffered during his capture.
How do you think Libya will proceed without Gaddafi? Do you think Obama will lessen American involvement with NATO forces? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.
Now that the American consensus holds that Moammar Qadhafi was a vile dictator who few will mourn, it might be time to recall that taxpayer-funded PBS actually aired a documentary series by an Islamic professor that honored Qadhafi as "brilliant." Brent Bozell, then chairing the National Conservative Foundation, led the charge against a series called The Africans that aired in the fall of 1986.
On Saturday's CBS Evening News, correspondent Barry Petersen filed a report which highlighted Human Rights Watch's analysis of government records in Libya which document that, during the Bush administration, the CIA sent prisoners to Libya as part of its renditioning program. Anchor Russ Mitchell saw the papers as potentially "troubling" as he introduced the report:
NewsBusters publisher Brent Bozell has seen a lot of dopey stuff from the liberal media in his nearly 25 years battling liberal media bias. But Matt Lauer's question to Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) on Wednesday takes the cake.
Discussing the matter of arming the rebels in Libya, the "Today" host allowed that there may well be al Qaeda operatives among the anti-Qadhafi forces, but asked, "would it not be a sign to them [the rebels] or showing them that the United States has compassion and we're willing to use our military might to help all people?"
After watching a clip of that exchange on the March 31 edition of "Hannity," Bozell couldn't contain his laughter.
Monday night, I attended a public policy discussion sponsored, not surprisingly, by The American Spectator; I say not surprisingly because I have been attending these meetings for roughly 30 years and always come away with fresh ideas. They are meant to ventilate ideas, and now that a presidential election is drawing near, we are inviting presidential candidates as our special guests to float their ideas by our assembled luminaries. At any rate, Monday night, while President Barack Obama was addressing the nation on the causes and consequences of his involvement in Libya, I listened to former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty cross that very same terrain. The dinner was off the record, but I do not believe that I betray any confidences when I say Pawlenty's discourse was very different from that of our president.
He is proud and confident of America's role in the world, unlike our president. The former governor began speaking of American national security. At times, we must project force on behalf of American national interests, and Pawlenty was proud of our military's professionalism, competence and readiness. He continued, speaking about "American exceptionalism." He sees America as blessed, a shining city on a hill. We have obligations in the world. Pawlenty says we need to get rid of Col. Moammar Gadhafi, but Obama will not get rid of him.
President Obama's decision to bomb Libya is not even so multilateral as President George W. Bush's decision to attack Iraq. Nor is it ultimately driven by humanitarian concerns — and certainly not by any vital U.S. national interest.
Despite Obama's vilification of Bush for his alleged unilateralism, "Obama's 'coalition of the willing,'" according to foreign policy reporter Josh Rogin, "is smaller than any major multilateral operation since the end of the Cold War." Obama's Libyan intervention is more unilateral than Dubya's in another respect, as well: Obama has brazenly refused even to consult Congress, much less seek its blessing.
One sign that the broadcast networks aren’t vigorously opposed to President Obama’s air strikes in Libya is the utter lack of polls. There were no ABC/Washington Post or NBC/Wall Street Journal polls touted before Obama’s Libya address, and a Gallup poll showing only 47 percent support for military action has been barely mentioned.
CBS News did a poll (without The New York Times) and briefly touted its results on March 22. Katie Couric offered one sentence on the Evening News: “A CBS News poll out tonight finds most Americans are following the events in Libya closely and nearly seven out of ten approve of the air strikes.” But the question was phrased in a way to encourage support for a coalition effort protecting innocent civilians:
"As you may know, the U.S. military and other countries have begun cruise missile and air strikes in Libya in order to protect civilians from attacks by Qaddafi's forces. Do you approve or disapprove of the U.S. and other countries taking this military action in Libya?"
Many here at home may have criticized President Obama's speech last night on Libya. But abroad, there was at least one man who dug PBO's remarks: Muammar Gaddafi . . .
That was the educated estimation of NBC's Jim Maceda, reporting from Libya on Morning Joe today. It was PBO's failure to call for regime change that would have buoyed Gaddafi, says Maceda. He reported that regime officials are acting much more "bellicose" and "defiant" in the wake of the president's speech.
Everyone seems to have a different theory about why President Obama attacked Libya when he did and what his ultimate purpose is, because he has been so adamantly against similar uses of military force and reluctant even to voice his support for some democratic movements. I don't think it's that mysterious.
Commentators have been mystified by Obama's vacillation, his indecisiveness and his apparent apathy about foreign policy. I do think that Obama far prefers domestic policy to foreign policy and that he wants to focus most of his attention on redistributing wealth, administering "economic justice" and otherwise fundamentally changing America. But we should understand that fundamentally transforming America has an essential foreign policy component, as well.
In the lead-up to the Iraq War, the media "hammered Bush" about getting congressional approval, NewsBusters publisher Brent Bozell noted on last night's "Hannity" during the "Media Mash" segment. Yet such scrutiny has been missing in President Obama's actions on Libya, he noted.
What's more, the media have failed to press Obama on violating his own standards on presidential use of military force:
Leading the free world is highly overrated and so last century.
Just ask Time's Joe Klein, who is giddy that our European allies and the Arab League took a leading role in setting up a no-fly zone over Libya, some 31 days after Muammar al-Qadhafi started opening fire upon ragtag rebels.
From a March 18 entry entitled "Gaddafi Duck" at the magazine's Swampland blog:
Calls for a U.S. or NATO-imposed no-fly zone over Libya to aid the fledgling rebellion against dictator Muammar Qadhafi have been met with protests by Obama administration officials that it is a logistical nightmare requiring careful planning and forethought.
While that's something to that argument, fears of Libya's air force are way overblown, some retired Air Force officers argue, according to Aviation Week's David Fulghum, in his March 8 blog post, "Libyan Air Defenses Would Fade Fast" (emphases mine):
During the Bush administration, the media perpetually pounded on news developments that highlighted real or imagined incompetence and/or the low regard with which the administration was held in foreign capitals.
But with the Obama administration's poor handling of the Libyan crisis, the MSM have been strangely mute.
Take for example the evaucation of American expatriates from Libya.
"U.S. still awaiting Libya's permission to evacuate Americans," blared the headline for a page A6 story in today's Washington Post.
"The United States has been unable to get Libya's permission to evacuate American citizens from the country, State Department officials said Tuesday, prompting the administration to temper its response to the Libyan crackdown," Post staffers Mary Beth Sheridan and Colum Lynch noted.
Gee, you'd think that should be front-page news, and it's difficult to imagine this not being front-page news had it happened under President George W. Bush's watch.
Muammar Gaddafi has resorted to the oldest trick in the Arab-dictator book: distract attention from authoritarian rule at home by beating the Palestinian drum. Nothing new there. But what is noteworthy is how Reuters seems happy to march to the Libyan strongman's beat.
Reuters' article "Gaddafi tells Palestinians: revolt against Israel" [h/t Drudge], fails to note the irony of an iron-fisted dictator calling for "popular uprising" and "revolution" . . . elsewhere. Indeed, the Reuters article, authored by Ali Shuaib and Salah Sarrar, fails even to identify Gaddafi as the dictator he is, referring to him respectfully as the Libyan "leader."
On Wednesday’s NBC Nightly News, anchor Brian Williams made an observation about the United Nations General Assembly meeting one normally does not expect to hear from the mainstream media, as he remarked that the gathering at one point looked like the "bar scene in Star Wars." After a report by Andrea Mitchell which focused on the "bizarre speech" by Libyan dictator Muammar Gadhafi, and which also mentioned the presence of "international pariahs" like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hugo Chavez, Williams commented on the "circus atmosphere" as he introduced NBC News political director Chuck Todd. Williams:
We’ve seen this kind of a circus atmosphere here inside the U.N. ... And, Chuck, for a while, it did look like the bar scene in Star Wars, except that the stakes are so high.
Conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh has famously made such a comparison on his show over the years. Below is a complete transcript of the relevant portion of the Wednesday, September 23, NBC Nightly News:
On Friday's Countdown show, liberal Air America host Rachel Maddow, substitute hosting for Keith Olbermann, characterized Condoleezza Rice's talks with Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi as a scandal during the Countdown show's regular "Bushed!" segment which purports to update viewers on Bush administration scandals. Presumably seeking to portray the Bush administration as hypocritical for holding talks with Gaddafi while criticizing Barack Obama's promise to meet personally with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Maddow missed the point that Gaddafi has already made concessions to the U.S., the MSNBC host dubbed the talks as "Pillow Talk with Terrorists-Gate." She then sought to embarrass Rice by quoting overly affectionate comments made by the Libyan dictator in which he called Rice "Leezza" and "my darling African woman," and gushed that "I love her very much."
Below is a transcript of the relevant portion of the Friday, September 5, Countdown show on MSNBC:
RACHEL MADDOW: But first, the headlines breaking in the administration's 50 running scandals: "Bushed." ...