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.