Posts Tagged ‘Christiane Amanpour’

Sunday talk show highlights, August 1, 2010

August 2, 2010

After a long and fairly eventful summer, we’re back on track with our “Sunday talk show highlights.”  We’re off to a slow start though… This Monday: This Week.

On This Week, Christiane Amanpour made her hosting debut and showed off a new music theme, a new color theme (more red and black, less blue and gray), and a more international approach. First of all, whereas the old intro included the following line: “From the heart of our nation´s capital…”, the new intro includes the following: “From all across our world, to the heart of our nation´s capital…” Furthermore, towards the end of the “In Memoriam” segment, Amanpour states: “We remember all of those who have died in war this week, and the Pentagon released the names of ….”. The old line simply  read “this week, the Pentagon released the names of…”

Onto the actual events of Amanpour’s debut show. The show’s headliners were House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Pelosi seemed nervous throughout the interview, but she did a pretty good job of sticking to her talking points.

Focusing on the polarized nature of American politics going into the mid-term elections, Amanpour asked Pelosi the following question:

What is it you can do for the people in this highly polarized situation?

To which Pelosi responded with a cocktail of Democrat=good-Republican=bad-framing:

Well first of all, what you … describe as a highly polarized situation is a very big difference of opinion. The Republicans are here for the special interests, we’re here for the people’s interests. The president said we will measure our progress, our success, by the progress that is made by America’s working families. That is our priority. That is not their priority.

This isn’t about inter-party bickering. This is about a major philosophical difference as to whose side you’re on. You don’t like to think that. We come here to find our common ground. That’s our responsibility. But if we can’t find it, we still have to move. I’ve never voted for a perfect bill in my life. I don’t think anyone has. I wish it were not so stark. I wish the elections weren’t so necessary for us to win. I really do, because … there should be more common ground. Are we unhappy that … the job creation has not gone as fast as we would like? Well, we were digging out of a very deep hole. But we will continue to fight.

Reality isn’t that black and white. However, it’s a politically expedient sales pitch during campaign season.

Laughable line 1:

“This isn’t about inter-party bickering.”

Laughable line 2:

“I wish the elections weren’t so necessary for us to win. I really do, because … there should be more common ground.”

In other parts of the interview, Pelosi uttered her confidence that the Democrats will keep their majority in the House. Why? Because they have, in Pelosi’s words, more “money” and “the best sales persons” out there. According to her choice of words, it sounds as if Pelosi is confident that the  American people will buy the Democratic product this fall. It would be nice to hear Pelosi talk about “the best solutions”, “the brightest ideas” and “unselfish and principled civil servants”, instead of “the most money” and “the best sales persons.” However, such framing would be misleading, since marketing is the name of the game these days. In marketing, as we all know, slogans and packaging rule.

In Amanpour’s interview with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Gates talked about the wikileaks by referring to two types of “culpability”:

My attitude on this is that there are two areas of culpability. One is legal culpability. And that’s up to the Justice Department and others. That’s not my arena. But there’s also a moral culpability. And that’s where I think the verdict is guilty on WikiLeaks. They have put this out without any regard whatsoever for the consequences.

On the topic of the war in Afghanistan and the much talked about month of July 2011:

AMANPOUR: The president has clearly said that the summer of 2011 is a period of transition. And many people are interpreting that in all sorts of different ways, as you know. The Taliban is … trying to run out the clock. Let me put something up that David Kilcullen, the counter-insurgency expert, a former adviser to General Petraeus, said about the timetable. “They believe that we had stated a date certain, that we were going to leave in the summer of 2011. And they immediately went out and spoke to the population and said, the Americans are leaving in 18 months, as it was then. What are you doing on the 19th month? Who are you backing? Because we’ll still be there and they won’t be.”

…. My question to you is this, what can General Petraeus do to defeat the Taliban at their own game? What can he do now in Afghanistan to avoid this deadline that they’re setting for themselves?

GATES: Well, first of all, I think we need to re-emphasize the message that we are not leaving Afghanistan in July of 2011. We are beginning a transition process and a thinning of our ranks … and the pace will depend on the conditions on the ground. The president has been very clear about that. And if the Taliban are waiting for the nineteenth month, I welcome that, because we will be there in the nineteenth month and we will be there with a lot of troops. So I think that —

AMANPOUR: But what is a lot of troops?

GATES: Well, first of all, I think that — my personal opinion is that — that drawdowns early on will be of fairly limited numbers. And as we are successful, we’ll probably accelerate. But, again, it’s — it will depend on the conditions on the ground.

It’s going to be interesting to see how the so-called “drawdowns” are going to play out in the 2012 presidential election cycle. Depending on the situation, Obama can either go with “we’re drawing down our troop levels because…”, or, “we’re not pulling out because…” Drawing down and pulling out might essentially be the same thing, but in politics, as always, the wrapping matters.

After playing a video clip of Vice President Joe Biden’s remarks to NBC earlier this week, in which he stated that the United States isn’t in Afghanistan “to nation-build”, the following exchange followed:

AMANPOUR: Is that it?

GATES: That’s good.

AMANPOUR: Is that the war?

GATES: I agree with that. We are not there to take on a nationwide reconstruction or construction project in Afghanistan. What we have to do is focus our efforts on those civilian aspects and governance to help us accomplish our security objective. We are in Afghanistan because we were attacked from Afghanistan, not because we want to try and build a better society in Afghanistan. But doing things to improve governance, to improve development in Afghanistan, to the degree it contributes to our security mission and to the effectiveness of the Afghan government in the security arena, that’s what we’re going to do.

During the Roundtable discussion, George Will described the previously mentioned wikileaks as “redundant anecdotes about what we all knew from good journalism and honest government.” I guess the colleagues of the two Reuters journalists whose murder was brought to the light of day due to the video clip leaked by WikiLeaks.

On the topic of the upcoming mid-term elections, Paul Krugman had the following to say:

We’re not looking good going forward. This is very difficult. It’s very hard for an administration in power to run on the campaign slogan, “It could have been worse” … It actually could have been a lot worse, but that doesn’t sell very well.

In the end, who had the most memorable phrase this Sunday? No one. But at least Christiane Amanpour’s British accent stood out…

If it’s Monday, it’s Sunday talk show highlight time.

Sunday talk show highlights, March 21, 2010

March 22, 2010

This Monday, Meet The Press, This Week and Face The Nation.

On Meet The Press, host David Gregory read from an article by the National Journal’s Ron Brownstein that summed up the situation of the American health care system on the day of the historic vote in the House:

CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, has projected that the Senate bill would raise enough revenue and sufficiently cut existing spending to both cover its costs and reduce the federal deficit in the near and long term. For fiscal hawks, that’s a powerful incentive for action. But equally compelling could be the price of inaction. If Obama’s plan fails, as President Clinton’s did, it’s likely that no president would attempt a seriously expand coverage for many years. The independent Medicare actuary has projected that under current trends the number of uninsured will increase by 10 million, to about 57 million, by 2019. Providing uncompensated care to so many uninsured people would further strain physicians and hospitals – and inflate premiums as those providers shift costs to their insured patients.

Later in the show, Gregory read a letter from RNC Chairman Michael Steele penned to its supporters, and followed up with a question to Steele:

MR. GREGORY: “After a year a pushing his radical socialist health care `reform’ experiment, Obama has just a few more days to wait to see” if “his number one priority” succeeded.  … “If Pelosi can successfully cajole, intimidate, coerce her Democrat majority into approving a bill the American people are against by a 3:1 margin, Obama and the rest of the radical Democrats in Washington will see their dream of government-run, government-rationed health care come true.” And, you know, critics of, of that kind of appeal with that sort of heavy rhetoric say this is a healthcare package that is more moderate than President Nixon actually put forward.

MR. STEELE:  Well, not the way the American people see it.

Facts are facts, no matter how the American people perceive them. Politicians, however, are masters of misrepresentation, and that’s why facts don’t always command the weight they deserve in political debates.

On a related note, NBC’s political director Chuck Todd – Washington’s foremost advocate of the goatee – talked about why Democrats and Republicans disagree on health care reform:

One thing I think we forget … on the issue of health care is that this actually gets at the philosophical divide between Democrats and Republicans. I’ve asked many a Republican and many a Democrat on this issue, is health care coverage a right or a privilege? And that divide in it, it is a philosophical divide. So, on this issue, it shouldn’t be surprising that we’re sitting here so polarized. It’s sort of the fundamental reason why somebody’s a Democrat, believing in a more activist government, or somebody’s a Republican, believing in keeping government smaller. … You know, when I was hearing the two party chairmen saying, “Well, maybe on immigration, maybe on energy they can come”–well, that’s because they, actually, are regional differences, this isn’t a philosophical divide. This is truly one of the great philosophical divides of American politics.

PBS’ Tavis Smiley also participated in the roundtable:

I’m not naive when I say this and know that I’m sitting in Washington this morning–the problem with Washington is that everything is about political calculation. It’s never about doing the right thing on behalf of the American people. It’s about, ‘Is this going to help me?  Is this going to hurt me? Does it help or hurt in my fundraising? Am I going to win or am I going to lose?’ LBJ did the right thing on civil rights because it was right for the country. You cannot become a transformational president, we cannot become transformational people if everything is about media, market, and political calculation; and that’s what’s wrong with these very graphs, that nobody’s getting to the heart of the fact that Americans are dying in this debate. We’ve never talked about even health disparities. I was in Chicago yesterday.  Thirty-two hundred black folk every year die in Chicago just because of health disparities. So it’s–we got to move beyond this–again, I’m not naive here, but we got to move beyond political calculation if we’re going to advance these big issues in America.

I’m sorry Mr. Smiley, but Washington will never truly move beyond political calculation. The political calculations simply aren’t favorable enough.

This Week was hosted by Jonathan Karl, and I’m pleased to announce that ABC News has finally reached a decision on George Stephanopoulos’ permanent replacement. Jake Tapper will host the show until CNN’s Christiane Amanpour takes over the hosting job in August (Politico has more).

The first part of the show featured a debate between Representatives John Larson (D-CT) and Eric Cantor (R-VA). Karl asked Larson whether or not the Democrats had enough votes in the House, and Larson’s reply signaled his confidence of a 216+ vote margin in the House:

We have the votes. We are going to make history today. Not since President Roosevelt passed Social Security, Lyndon Johnson passed Medicare, and today, Barack Obama will pass health care reform, demonstrating whose side we’re on.

Also touting the historic nature of the health care reform, Karl played a clip of President Obama’s speech to the Democratic caucus on Saturday March 20. Quoting Abraham Lincoln, Obama stated that:

We are not bound to win, but we are bound to be true. We are not bound to succeed, but we are bound to let whatever light we have shine.

In the end, the Democrats “won” with the passage of the bill in the House, but in hindsight, if the bill hadn’t passed, the quote would have worked either way.

Moving along to the show’s biggest mischaracterization, courtesy of Republican Whip Eric Cantor (VA):

What it is, Jonathan, it is about trying to attack the American ideal. That’s what’s going on with this bill.

In the end, the most memorable moment of the show came with the showdown between Karl Rove and David Plouffe. Attacking Rove and the Republican Party, Plouffe stated that:

Well, first of all, Karl, the Republicans have zero credibility, about as much credibility as the country of Greece does, to talk about fiscal responsibility.

Rove shot back:

For God’s sake, will you stop throwing around epithets and deal with the facts for once, David?

Later on in their heated exchange, Rove stated that

We will fight the election on this, and the Democrats will have significant losses in the House and Senate as a result of this bill.

Plouffe bounced back:

Well, listen, Karl and a lot of Republicans want to call the election all over. They ought to break out that ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner they put on the USS Abraham Lincoln, OK?

Oh snap.

During the roundtable discussion, George Will described his perception of the aftermath following the House vote:

Now, Democrats who will vote in the House today for this think they’re going to put it behind them. The odds are very good, after the reconciliation procedures are done in the Senate, that it will come back to the House, so we’re going to be wallowing in health care for a long time to come. And, finally, once this is passed, the American people will look at the health care system and say, ‘This is the system the Democrats wanted,’ so every complaint they have is going to be a complaint about Democrats.

On Face The Nation, host Bob Schieffer devoted the entire show to the House vote on the Senate bill, save his comment at the end of the show:

Finally today, Washington’s always been a one-story town. And for the last few weeks, months really, the story has been health care reform. It’s all we’ve been talking about around here, which is probably one reason, a rather important anniversary passed without much notice–March 19th. Ring a bell? Probably not. But March 19th was the seventh anniversary of the Iraq invasion, which began our longest war. The heavy new cycle was not the only reason it went unnoticed. We remember the wars and events that had an impact on our daily lives–December 7th or 9/11. But in the age of the all-volunteer military, few of us remember much about the war that had so little effect on our day-to-day lives, especially, a war where questions still exist over whether it should have been fought at all? The Iraq war was fought by one half of one percent of us. And unless we were part of that small group or had a relative who was, we went about our lives as usual most of the time–no draft. No new taxes. No changes. Not so for the small group who fought the war and their families. Ask them about the sacrifice, the death toll of nearly forty-four hundred Americans and the thousands more who were wounded. Now, that it is finally winding down, thousands of Americans are still there. And history will eventually decide if it was worth it all. While history decides, let us remember that whatever history’s verdict, the fate of those who died there or suffered life-altering injuries can never change. Good war or bad, for them it is the same. The war have may–may have had little impact on most of our lives, but we owe that small group of people.

In the end, who had the most memorable phrase this Sunday? Although he struggled in the debate with Karl Rove, David Plouffe was able to fire back with a couple of memorable lines. First and foremost:

Karl and a lot of Republicans want to call the election all over. They ought to break out that “Mission Accomplished” banner they put on the USS Abraham Lincoln, OK?

If it’s Monday, it’s Sunday talk show highlight time.


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