Interviewing 9/11 Commission members Gov. Thomas Kean and Rep. Lee Hamilton on yesterday's Meet the Press, NBC's David Gregory repeatedly pushed his guests to admit Iraq was a distraction from the war on terror. Both Kean and Hamilton gave carefully-worded but clearly affirmative responses to Gregory's question but Gregory, substituting for Tim Russert, kept pushing for a harsher assessment of the administration. Gregory opened the segment reciting the cover of Newsweek: "Welcome both. Let me show you the cover of this week's Newsweek magazine. The banner headline: ‘Terror Now: A Plot Against Airlines, Bin Laden At Large, Iraq in Flames. Five Years After 9/11, Are We Any Safer? Governor Kean, are we?"
After a discussion about al Qaeda, Gregory prompted Kean: "Governor Kean, has that [Muslim] radicalization gotten worse since the 9/11 attacks, and why?" Kean cited a number of reasons including high-unemployment, poverty, U.S. support of Israel and the Iraq war. Out of that list, Gregory jumped on Iraq, as he launched into a barrage of anti-Iraq war questions:
Gregory: "Governor Kean, you bring up the subject of Iraq, which has been a major foreign policy thrust since the 9/11 attacks. You were on the program a couple of years ago speaking with Tim Russert on this very subject, and he asked you whether and how the war in Iraq played into this global war on terror. This is what you had to say about it at the time."
Gregory, returning from the clip: "Governor Kean, let me start with you. What are your thoughts now?....Is it a gamble that's not paying off?" Throughout the interview Gregory came back to the "distraction" attack line as he addressed these series of questions to both guests: "Can you do both? Can you fight two wars, or do you have to be focused singularly on, on the war on terror?....Is Iraq a distraction in this, in this sense?....But are the resources, the priority of Iraq, is that a distraction from some of these other measures that we're focused on?....But Governor Kean, in your view, then, is the war in Iraq part of the war on terror or is it a distraction from the priorities you're outlining?...But you're sensitive on this point. The direction question is, do you think it's a distraction from meeting the priorities that you've outlined?" Gregory finally ended: "Fighting the war in Iraq is not protecting the people of the United States, in your view?"