Between his daily radio show and nightly television program on MSNBC, which boasts of itself as "the place for politics," Ed Schultz somehow managed to miss the news of President Obama's ambivalence about "victory" in Afghanistan.
A caller to Schultz's radio show on Monday told Schultz of this, but Schultz wasn't buying (click here for audio) --
SCHULTZ: Do we send 40,000 more troops in? Brian, what do you think?
CALLER: You know what? I heard someone say we're not in it to win, we're not in it for victory. And I was stunned when I heard that, so ...
SCHULTZ: Well, what do you mean we're not in it for victory?
CALLER: Uh, that's what I hear. That's what I heard the man say. We're not there to declare victory. We don't want to, that's what I heard a long time ago.
SCHULTZ: Oh, OK.
CALLER: Yeah, that was, would have been, what, three months ago?
SCHULTZ: Grocery store conversation, alright.
CALLER: No, that was the president of the United States, unfortunately.
SCHULTZ: Oh, OK, that was Bush when he said, I don't think you can win it.
CALLER: No, no, that was President Barack Obama.
SCHULTZ: He said we're not in it to win it? When did he say that?
CALLER: Oh that's, oh you'd find that on YouTube, I'm sure. That was about two or three months ago when pressed about it. Now he's not even going to listen to his man McChrystal. I got the, we got the Fed chief, the Secretary of Treasury and Ben Bernanke are just like, the president doesn't listen to us.
Allow me to bring Schultz up to speed, seeing how he loves reading NewsBusters posts about him, as he claimed on his radio show today. The caller was correct, both about what Obama said and when he said it, which was three months ago.
Obama's remarks came during a "Nightline" interview with Terry Moran on July 23. Follow this link to a YouTube video of the interview posted by "Nightline" (the discussion on Afghanistan starts at 8:34 into the segment) and this link for a transcript at RealClearPolitics. Here's what Obama said, in response to a leading question from Moran --
MORAN: I want to shift gears here. Afghanistan -- this has been the deadliest month for American and NATO troops in Afghanistan ever.
Define victory in Afghanistan, or maybe that's not the right word.
OBAMA: I'm always worried about using the word "victory" because, you know, it invokes this notion of Emperor Hirohito coming down and signing a surrender to MacArthur.
... or of Lee coming down and signing a surrender to Grant.
There's so much packed in that one sentence from Obama, where to begin? Perhaps by noting its inaccuracy -- Hirohito did not take part in the surrender ceremony on the USS Missouri anchored in Tokyo Bay on Sept. 2, 1945, though MacArthur did. Signing the instrument of surrender for Japan were its foreign minister and the head of its army.
Not only that, Hirohito was allowed by the United States and its allies to remain on the throne, albeit with less power than he held in the militarist Japan that brutally sought to dominate Asia. (Hirohito was still emperor three decades later when I caught a glimpse of his motorcade during a visit to Cape Cod in 1975.)
Worse than Obama getting his facts wrong here is what he implies -- that the United States deliberately humiliated Hirohito, with the emperor "coming down" and "signing a surrender to MacArthur."
The indisputable fact that Hirohito did not take part in the surrender ceremony refutes this, though MacArthur and President Harry Truman (a Democrat, not incidentally) surely had it in their power to force Hirohito to do so.
While Obama says he is "always worried" about the "notion" of "victory" in Afghanistan, clearly he is not so disinclined in other competitive ventures. As I recall, victory in a different conflict was of paramount importance to him about this time a year ago.
How is it that Schultz missed what Obama said, especially in referring to a war that worsens by the month? A couple of theories come to mind. First, the mainstream media was disinclined from giving Obama's remark more attention than necessary, so as not to contradict his frequent campaign claim that Afghanistan was the "central front" in the war on terror, the good war to Iraq's bad.
Second, the "Nightline" interview aired only one day after Obama said at a press conference that Cambridge police "acted stupidly" in arresting Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. Obama's remark doubled the half-life of a controversy that had already dominated the news cycle for nearly a week, and crowded out more important news -- such as a commander in chief's queasiness with "victory" during wartime.