Posts Tagged ‘Robert Gates’

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.

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Sunday talk show highlights, April 18, 2010

April 19, 2010

This Monday, Meet The Press, This Week, and State of the Union.

On Meet The Press, host David Gregory interviewed United States Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, and Geithner had the following to say about President Obama’s governing style:

The President governs this way: You focus on doing the right thing. You let the politics take care of themselves. Now it’s not always gonna be popular. People are gonna fight you on these kind of things. But we’re gonna focus on doing the right thing.

Sure, President Obama – being the savvy politician that he is – isn’t really worried about the politics as long as he does the right thing in a midterm election year. More likely, Obama is focusing on doing what’s right in the eyes of the voters – and Wall Street reform is certainly such an issue.

Focusing on the raw politics, Gregory asked National Journal’s Ron Brownstein:

Who is winning? Politically? On the economy? Whether its regulation, whether it’s jobs, whether it’s stimulus, who’s winning? Republicans or Democrats in this election year?

And Brownstein answered:

Well, by and large, it feels as though Republicans are driving the argument. And, the construct that Republicans have made, is that what is impeding recovery is primarily big government. And to a large extent, they have succeeded in it.

You look at all the trend lines, Democratic advantage over Republicans on the economy, Obama approval on the economy, those are all declining. And this is rather striking after the largest failure of the market economy in 2008, probably since the Great Depression. Democrats I think have been losing control of the macro argument here, … and this financial regulation is a place where these two contending visions collide.

I think the Republican argument primarily is that more government intervention is the problem. And Democrats, I think, want to make the case that what led to this disaster was the hands off approach that the Republican Administration took, the Bush Administration, the low tax, low regulation approach that their agenda was built around, led to this. And I think you’re gonna see these contending both policy and political visions very clearly on display – if this bill comes to the Senate floor next week.

Turning to Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Gregory prompted Blackburn to “make the case for why, as Ron suggests, the Republican Party is on the right side of this economic debate in this election year”, and Blackburn answered:

The reason the Republican Party is on the right side of this economic debate is simply this. The election is going to be about freedom, and the American People know that being dependent on the federal government for home loans, for your health care, for your education, for your jobs, even for the kind of light bulb that you want to put in the fixture, is not the aspirations of a free people. And because of that, we are on the right side of this argument.

The following exchange followed:

DAVID GREGORY: What did– hold on, Congresswoman. … What did freedom get the American People during … the financial collapse? Is that not a fair question about the limits of the free, capitalist system?

REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN: We know that if you let free markets work, there is no expiration date on the free market. There is no expiration date on the American economy. What the American People do not like is the overreach of government–

DAVID GREGORY:  I’m sorry, Congresswoman, my question was what did the free market get us, what did freedom get us in the economic collapse? You had an absence of government regulation, and you had the free market running wild. Look what the result was.

REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN: And you need more oversight. We all agree with that. And the financial bill that Senator Corker and them are working on would lead to more oversight. The Goldman charges that have come forward now, David, they have come forward under existing SEC rules. More oversight, which I have always been a proponent of–

DAVID GREGORY: Well, let me just move on for a sec….

Later in the discussion, Ron Brownstein focused on Blackburn’s statement that the midterm election “is going to be about freedom”:

When the Congresswoman said this election is going to be about liberty, there is probably about 40 percent of the electorate for whom this election is about liberty. And one of the things we know is that there is going to be a big turnout of conservatives, who are antagonized and animated by what the Obama Administration has been doing. But for most of the electorate, this election is going to be about results.

And that’s why even though I said that the Republicans have won the economic debate, I think over the past year there are more rounds left in this fight. What the Administration is hoping is that there will be enough good news of the sort that Secretary Geithner was talking about that by November they can make the case that, “Look, things have been tough, but we are beginning to move the economy in the right direction and do you want to go back?”

Because there is a tremendous amount of overlap between the policies that Republicans are advocating now and those that were implemented by George W. Bush, during his two terms that produced, you know, one quarter as many jobs as over the eight years as Clinton, and a decline in the median income over two terms of a President, which we haven’t seen for any other two-term President in modern times.

So, even though I think Republicans have … had the upper hand, the argument isn’t over. And there are beginning to be some positive economic signs that I think Obama is going to be able to marshal to argue that even if times are still tough, at least he has begun to turn the corner.

Focusing on the Tea Party movement, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell (D) had the following to say:

[The] first thing that we have to define is what’s the Tea Party itself? If you say it’s the anger that people feel about the economy, et cetera, that’s giving the Tea Party too much credit. We had two recent Tea Party demonstrations in Washington. One a week before a health care vote, drew about 1,000 people. The tax day rally by the organizer’s own estimate was 1,500 people. If I organized a rally for stronger laws to protect puppies, I would get 100,000 people to Washington. So, I think the media has blown the Tea Party themselves out of proportion.

Has Governor Rendell been watching “Legally Blonde 2” lately?

On This Week, host Jake Tapper interviewed former President Bill Clinton, and large segments of the interview came across as an infomercial for the Clinton Global Initiative.

During the Roundtable, Tapper focused on a memo written in January by Republican message strategist Frank Luntz:

Republican pollster and message guru, Frank Luntz, wrote a memo in January in which he advised Republicans on how to tackle financial regulatory reform by saying, quote, “Public outrage about the bailout of the banks and Wall Street is a simmering time bomb set to go off on election day. To put it mildly, the public dislikes taxpayer bailouts of private companies. Actually, they hate it. Frankly, the single best way to kill any legislation is to link it to the big bank bailout.”

And here’s a montage of Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell.

MCCONNELL: Endless taxpayer-funded bailouts… Bailout… Bailout… Bailout… Bailout… … endless taxpayer bailouts… Bailouts… Bailout Wall Street… Bailout… Bailout… Endless bailouts… Bailouts… Backdoor bailouts… Bailouts… Bailouts… Potential future bailouts…

Picking up the sword of truth – so to speak – Tapper stated that the $50 billion fund would not be funded by the taxpayers, but by the big banks, and Bloomberg News’ Al Hunt took it from there:

I’m amused by Mitch McConnell being this great anti-Wall Street populist. He was just up shaking the Wall Street money trees last week. You know, Mitch McConnell as an anti-Wall Street populist is about as credible as John Edwards heading a family values conference. I mean, this is a guy who’s voted with Wall Street every step of the way. This is just a Frank Luntz memo talking point.

On the same issue, Democratic strategist Donna Brazile had the following to say about Wall Street:

Wall Street is as popular as a root canal. And I think the Democrats can go out there and fight for transparency, accountability, and they can win this debate and pass this bill. And if the Republicans decide once again to delay and to put up more tactics to cherry-pick through the bill like health care, they will find themselves on the wrong side of history.

Turning to foreign policy, Tapper paraphrased Secretary Robert Gates – saying the United States does not have a long-term strategy for how to deal with Iran, and George Will had the following to say:

Our strategy is to hope that something that does not exist will do something unprecedented. What does not exist is the international community about which we talk, which is fiction, a rhetorical bewitcher of our intelligence. What it is supposed to do, this non-existent thing, is come up with sanctions that bite, that are going to change history and make nations come to heel. I don’t know when that has ever happened before. Furthermore, as you point out, it’s not even clear what we are saying is unacceptable. Is it unacceptable for them to test a nuclear weapon? What if they come a screwdriver turn away from assembling a weapon, as some other nations in the world probably are? So there’s a complete lack of clarity and realism.

Lastly, on State of the Union, host Candy Crowley interviewed Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). Talking about reforming Wall Street, McConnell turned to a phrase he’s been using a lot lately:

What we ought to do is get back to the table and have a bipartisan bill, which is what we don’t have at the moment. … I think we need to get back to the table and get it fixed.

On the same topic, Crowley played a video clip of President Obama attacking McConnell:

The leader of the Senate Republicans and the chair of the Republican Senate Campaign Committee met with two dozen top Wall Street executives to talk about how to block progress on this issue. Lo and behold, when he returned to Washington, the Senate Republican leader came out against common-sense reforms that we have proposed.

In the exchange that followed, Crowley wanted to know about McConnell’s meeting with Wall Street executives, and why McConnell had been accompanied by Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) – chair of the Republican Senate Campaign Committee. McConnell, however, didn’t feel like answering the question, and so he consistently talked about small Kentucky bankers and main street instead:

I also met recently with the Kentucky bankers who are also opposed to this bill. The community banks, the little guys on main street. We’re all meeting with a lot of people.

Crowley tried to cut through:

Well, if the president is playing politics, you have to admit that it raises suspicions when you are meeting with Wall Street executives, as I take it you did, with Senator Cornyn, who raises money for Republican races. Doesn’t that sort of set you up for this sort of accusation? That you went in there with the fund-raiser to talk about, you know, we’ve got to fight this bill.

McConnell answered:

Candy, Candy, he is the one who is trying to politicize this issue. We are the ones who are trying to get it right. When the Kentucky bankers tell that this bill is a long way from being what we ought to pass, then it raises some concerns with me. And I think it does with all of our colleagues across the country who are hearing the same thing.

Evade, evade, evade.

In the end, who had the most memorable phrase this Sunday? Rendell’s ridicule of the number of people showing up at tea party rallies was good, and so was Hunt’s statement that “Mitch McConnell as an anti-Wall Street populist is about as credible as John Edwards heading a family values conference”, but once again, George Will had the best one:

Our strategy is to hope that something that does not exist will do something unprecedented. What does not exist is the international community about which we talk, which is fiction, a rhetorical bewitcher of our intelligence.

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

Sunday talk show highlights, April 11, 2010

April 12, 2010

This Monday, Meet The Press and This Week. In short: The White House’s defend-President-Obama’s-Nuclear-posture-review-effort was headed by Secretaries Clinton and Gates, and the roundtables’ focused on the upcoming replacement of Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.

On Meet The Press, host David Gregory played a videotape of President Obama talking about the desired qualities of his future Supreme Court nominee:

It will … be someone who, like Justice Stevens, knows that in a democracy powerful interests must not be allowed to drown out the voices of ordinary citizens.

My first reaction was that Obama was talking about a nominee who would oppose the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Citizens’ United case since President Obama framed his opposition to that ruling in strikingly similar terms.

Now, who will Obama pick?

The shortlist includes about ten names, including the following: Judge Diane Wood (7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals), Elena Kagan (the solicitor general of the United States), Judge Merrick Garland (judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals in the D.C. Circuit) and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano.

My view? Take it away Tony Blankley (the conservative voice on KCRW’s “Left, Right & Center”): “I’m not sufficiently familiar to really discuss that intelligently.”

On the issue of Hamid Karzai’s latest statements, Gregory posed the following question to syndicated Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker:

Kathleen, you write in a column this morning about this complicated relationship with allies like Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan. And, again, you saw that exchange. What was noteworthy is a shift in the administration. Here you had the secretary of Defense and the secretary of State saying, “We’re not going to react to some of these things. We’re going to be more sympathetic toward Hamid Karzai. He’s the guy that we have to deal with.” That was, that was a significant change.

Parker answered:

Yeah, that was a shift as of right this minute, right? We’ve been pretty hard on him, and he is the guy that was elected and he is our man. We, we created Karzai. And he’s been under siege from everyone. I mean, Obama pretty much came out swinging during his campaign, and he’s had, you know, every European parliamentarian coming after him. Everybody is on Karzai’s back. And, and naturally, he’s going to react. This is the testosterone axis of the world, and you don’t insult a leader in public and then expect him to just sit back and take it.

David Gregory then turned the roundtable’s focus to the Southern Republican Leadership Conference held in New Orleans last week:

MR. GREGORY: Well, let me go a little bit larger here and talk about presidential leadership and put it in the political context, because there is an opposition party, the Republicans, and they’re trying to figure out how to mount that opposition, as we are in an election year. And there was a gathering of Republicans that got a lot of attention, the Southern Republican Leadership Conference. And you heard two prominent Republican voices, Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin, talking about how, again, Republicans position themselves to counter President Obama (videotape):

MR. NEWT GINGRICH (R-GA): What the left wants to do is say we’re the party of “no.” …  And so here’s what I want to ask you to encourage every candidate you know, every incumbent you know, every staff person you know, every consultant you know, I think we should decide that we’re going to be the party of “yes.”

MRS. SARAH PALIN: There is no shame in being the party of no if they’re proposing, the other side, proposing an idea that violates our values, violates our conscience, violates our Constitution. What’s wrong with being the party of no.  …  Or better said by the good governor of this state, he said, “The party of `no’? Nah, we’re the party of `Hell, no!'”

Gregory then asked The New York Times’ David Brooks to assess the GOP right now in terms “of mounting this challenge, figuring out where it’s going to be in 2010 and 2012”:

MR. BROOKS: You’re turning to the party of “maybe” over here. So this is a bad move for you. Listen, Palin is great TV. She’s really attractive. Gingrich is sort of great TV. He’s got a billion ideas, 600 of which are really good. But the fact is the, the Republican Party is not Palin and it’s not Gingrich. The Republican Party is Rob Portman, who’s running for senator in Ohio. It’s Mark Kirk, who’s running for, for senator in Illinois. It’s Governor Christie in New Jersey. These are the people who are actually governing. And I happen to feel we pay a little too much attention to people like Palin, who’s sort of a sub reality figure on some TV show. But these are the people that are actually running, and they’ve actually got it figured out.They’re against a lot of what Obama’s doing, but they’re the party of “yes.” They’ve got a whole series of policies.  Paul Ryan from Wisconsin has–can wonk your ear off. And so that’s the real party. Palin, the tea parties–listen, the tea party movement is a movement without a structure, without an organization. No, no party, no movement like that lasts.

On This Week, the Roundtable focused on Justice John Paul Stevens’ retirement, and George Will’s opening remarks emphasized the fact that the confirmations of Supreme Court nominees were much smoother and went much faster back in the good old days. Furthermore, and as host Jake Tapper pointed out, the confirmation of Justice Stevens was the last one that wasn’t televised.

Perhaps it was easier to be bipartisan when the voters weren’t watching?

In the end, who had the most memorable phrase this Sunday? Tip of the hat to David Brooks for his description of Sarah Palin:

I happen to feel we pay a little too much attention to people like Palin, who’s sort of a sub reality figure on some TV show.

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

Postscript: Cokie Roberts mentioned the cartoon we picked as “Political Cartoon of the Week, April 4-10” when she described the upcoming debate on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee.


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