During the 10am hour of "MSNBC News Live" on Monday, host Tamron Hall completely skipped the ideology of a left-wing documentarian as she talked with him about his new movie "Rethink Afghanistan," which claims that "troops are not the answer" in that country. Hall never identified Director Robert Greenwald, who has made documentaries such as "Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism," and "WAL-MART: The High Cost of Low Price," as a liberal. Instead, she simply described him as a "documentary filmmaker."
Additionally, Hall offered almost no tough questions, instead tossing softballs such as "What is your observation, having been [to Afghanistan] recently, regarding the Obama administration's plans?" Uninterrupted, Greenwald was allowed to later assert, "Well, again, remember that many people there believe that troops are not the answer. Troops contribute to the problem." He also instructed that the U.S. should send 17,000 teachers instead of soldiers. At the close of the interview, he complained, "But, I think we all get trapped in, as one of my friends in Afghanistan said, 'Shoot first. Think later.'"
In contrast, on January 9, when MSNBC host David Shuster interviewed John Ziegler about his movie on the media's treatment of Sarah Palin, the anchor got into a heated argument with the filmmaker, repeatedly challenging the "conservative documentary's" thesis and deriding, "John, you and Sarah Palin can't take any responsibility for the fact that she wasn't prepared to run for vice president."
During Hall's interview, the journalist did tell Greenwald that "diplomacy cannot be the only solution- or opening schools can't be the opening solution." Other than that, she failed to press the director and never once mentioned his ideology or the string of left-wing films and short videos he made in 2008 attacking John McCain. Certainly, the segment was nothing like Shuster's fight with Ziegler. At one point during that interview, the MSNBC anchor questioned the filmmaker's motive and speculated, "And yet you and your colleagues are trying to circle back and get her ready for 2012."
A transcript of the March 30 segment, which aired at 10:24am on MSNBC, follows:
TAMRON HALL: Well, today, questions are still being raised about the President's new plan for Afghanistan. The plan would boost troop levels in Afghanistan to more than 60,000. But, our next guest, who just returned from that country, spoke to many in Afghanistan and also experts who question if more troops are the answer. Documentary filmmaker Robert Greenwald was in the country compiling material for his full length documentary. It's called "Rethink Afghanistan." He's with us now. Thanks for joining us, Robert. Over the weekend on "Meet the Press," John McCain was asked- Senator McCain was asked whether he supported the ideas from the Obama administration on Afghanistan. And he said yes. And he said, "The key is, though, that the people there have to think we are there to stay." What is your observation, having been there recently, regarding the Obama administration's plans?
ROBERT GREENWALD (Documentary filmmaker) : Well, having just come back, I think it was very clear to me- I talked to many people throughout the time I was there. There's tremendous love for Obama, there's tremendous respect and support for the United States and there's a significant belief that troops are not the answer. Every time I took a drive through the streets of Kabul, my Afghan friends and colleagues would point out to me, there's a school that was built by India. There's a clinic that was supported by the Canadian government. And I think that's where they want our efforts and energies to go. One of the young men said to me, "We want you to drop a bomb on Afghanistan." And I said, "What?" And he said, "Yes, an education bomb."
HALL: So, if there is this love and support for this new President and the troops, then, part of this strategy that we're hearing about could be similar to what we saw in Iraq where you look for the moderates to support the cause. Would that be effective there?
GREENWALD: Well, again, remember that many people there believe that troops are not the answer. Troops contribute to the problem. You know, the recent Carnegie study that came out pointed out that the resurgence of the Taliban, the most significant factor in that resurgence is the addition of troops, because it gives nationalist organizations something to organize around. It gives them a reason for being.
HALL: So, Robert, if that is the case, the troops are on way, what can they expect then if that is the climate and that is the opinion that you were able to see?
GREENWALD: Well, I think- I mean, I certainly am not a military expert and I don't want to pretend that I have all the knowledge in the world, but it's very, very clear that if we took our efforts, our energies, or brilliance and used it to bring in 17,000 teachers and 17,000 doctors, that would be a game changer. And for somebody elected on a change agenda, I think there are enormous opportunities for change. More military is definitely not going to solve the problem.
HALL: But, we know that this administration says it's objective, obviously, is to go in and make sure that Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations do not have a safe have to harm American interests and allies. With that said, diplomacy cannot be the only solution- or opening schools can't be the opening solution.
GREENWALD: Well- No, it's not the only solution. But, also remember, Al Qaeda is not in Afghanistan. Al Qaeda is in Pakistan. Al Qaeda and the Taliban are very, very different entities and the more we pus a military, exclusively or primary, military solution, the more we are, in fact, strengthening the Taliban, which is the ultimate irony of this. But, I think that security and jobs and employment- I happen to witness 25 Taliban turning in their guns one day and I got to interview them and I said, "What do you want?" "Jobs. Taking care of our family." I mean, it's pretty common sense stuff. But, I think we all get trapped in, as one of my friends in Afghanistan said, "Shoot first. Think later." That's not going to do it.
HALL: All right, Robert. His documentary is called "Rethink Afghanistan."