As Brian Williams hailed Patrick Kennedy’s "gripping" attack on the media for ignoring yesterday’s House debate on Afghanistan, perhaps Kennedy should be offering an apology to his fellow liberals at National Public Radio. On Wednesday’s night’s All Things Considered, NPR reporter Andrea Seabrook hailed the debate, and even though Kennedy’s "anti-war" side lost by almost 6 to 1 (356 to 65), NPR’s soundbite count was far different: three for "peace," two for "war."
Seabrook seemed thrilled that Kucinich had pressed this rather pointless debate. She concluded that it was "elemental," where the peaceniks could just talk of peace:
The most striking thing about the debate today was that the House was having it at all. This is the first time since Congress voted to authorize the war in 2001 that there's been a clear debate about the policy. In previous debates, the war policy was always connected to its funding. So, if lawmakers didn't support the war, they would have to vote against a bill that included support for the troops. That's a tough position for an elected official whose charge, in part, is to deploy the armed forces responsibly.
Not today. Today for three hours Congress had an open, bipartisan debate about war and peace. You can't get much more elemental than that.
From Seabrook’s left-wing location on the ideological spectrum, it’s somehow unfair to debate the war as a spending bill. But once the war has begun, how else is the House of Representatives going to stop it – unless it cuts off funds?
This is how Seabrook presented (and tilted) the House discussion:
Rep. DENNIS KUCINICH: To claim responsibility for the troop casualties, which are now close to 1,000, to claim responsibility for the cost, which is approaching $250 billion and together with the Iraq war, close to a trillion dollars.
SEABROOK: Kucinich is a liberal from Ohio. He said Congress must also take responsibility for the great cost at home, the money spent on the war that hasn't gone to job creation, housing and public works projects. And it wasn't just liberals arguing this. For today, anyway, they found an ally in libertarian Republicans like Texas Congressman Ron Paul.
Rep. RON PAUL: This war is an illegal war. This war is an immoral war. This war is an unconstitutional war.
"For today, any way?" How can Seabrook, who began covering Congress in 2003, not understand that Ron Paul’s been a Kucinich echo the entire time? Then came the nod to reality:
SEABROOK: Ultimately, though, these liberals and libertarians are outnumbered by members of Congress who support the president and the war. Missouri Democrat Ike Skelton chairs the House Armed Services Committee.
Rep. IKE SKELTON: Have we forgotten what happened to America on 9/11? Have we forgotten who did it? Have we forgotten those who protected and gave them a safe haven?
SEABROOK: When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, it provided a haven to al-Qaeda, which orchestrated the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Republicans and Democrats alike also said they want to give President Obama time as his commanders carry out his new strategy in Afghanistan. Now is not the time to give up the fight, said Texas Republican Ted Poe.
Rep. TED POE: War is hard. It is always hard. And we shall not give in. We shall not surrender or retreat. It is in our interest and the interest of America to defeat the enemy and let them have no doubt in their mind, we will be victorious.
SEABROOK: California Democrat Bob Filner responded directly.
Rep. BOB FILNER: Yes, Mr. Poe, war is hard. I got news for you, peace is harder. Talk to Dr. Martin Luther King Junior, talk to Nelson Mandela. Peace is harder.
It’s not clear whether Seabrook was actually in the House press gallery when Kennedy was screaming that there was almost no one there. In today’s day and age, reporters don’t have to be physically present to be able to cover a debate like this when the House floor speeches are being televised by C-SPAN.