June 18, 2006

Russert is Half-Right

Tim Russert of Meet the Press has been doing the talk and news show tour lately to promote his new book. One of the lines he's been repeating around the circuit is that it is not wrong to question our motives for waging or continuing war in Iraq, and he is right... as long as that is not all one does.

Bush gets a lot of bad press on account of his administration's distrust of and sometimes tight-lipped approach toward the media, but the reason Bush and his people distrust them so much is because all they have ever done is to question the war and its continuation. This is why conservatives are angry for those of you who are curious. Angry, not crazy.

Posted by Andy at June 18, 2006 07:50 PM to the Politics category

Andy you are right on point. I tend to like Russert, but we all know his true colors. Additionally, I'd like to see less softball questions.

Posted by: Nic Kipke at June 20, 2006 09:30 PM

I enjoy Meet the Press when I am able to see it. I expect he is a fairly liberal guy, but he does a pretty balanced job on there from what I've seen, giving each person time to talk but also asking devil's advocate-style questions, which is what I try to do when talking politics. Breaking down guest party affiliation averages and the like might up-end my perspective on this.

I think he made this comment with reasonable intentions, but he missed the point I'm making here or he wouldn't have said it in the first place I suspect.

Posted by: Andy at June 20, 2006 10:25 PM

So they are angry, that is why they are keeping quiet, why the don't answer the questions and keep tight lipped when most of the country want answers?

I am on the more liberal end, as you already know, we have had good debates, so questions, questions... :)

We live were we are allowed to question our leaders and their intentions. I should hope that they would give us answers as they are acting in my name and hold my future in their hands. I don't think that the excuse that they are angry that we question them so they won't give us what we want (answers) is sufficient.

So, you say that it is okay that we question our movites as long as it is not ALL one does. What exactly do you mean? You can question and you can accept what they say.

As for you saying that all the media has ever done is question the war. I have two things in response.
1. The media was quite behind the war in the beginning. In the days leading up to the war, according to a documentary I just watched about fair and accurate media portrayals in media about Iraq, of the 180 news programs in the days before Iraq, only 3 were anti war. The rest contained pro-war messages, military personnel and Bush & his company.
2. The media is now questioning the motives and doing the work they should have done earlier to question the motives because even you can't deny that the evidence and claims that Bush and Co used were faulty. WMDs, Al Quaeda in Iraq.

I think we should always question things we don't agree with. Free speech is what we are given and what everyone is fighting for, is it not? We deserves answers. I want to know what my friends are fighting for.

Posted by: Amanda at June 22, 2006 07:30 AM

They don't answer the questions because the answers get spun on a constant basis. Take the Iran situation. In the first week, I heard two reporters ask the president (or defense secretary possibly) on national television if they were considering using nuclear weapons against Iran assuming the nation refused to back down. That is an enormously irreponsible question, because the person doing the asking has been trained to know how diplomatic responses work. In order to maintain all diplomatic options, the answerer was unable to say no even though the answer clearly was no.

Tell me that is a fair question.

The media questions the motives regarding the war despite the fact that the motives have been answered hundreds of times at this point. The administration has pointed out faulty intelligence more times than I can recall, and indicates that the establishment of a stable Middle Eastern government is a worthy cause for our nation. What has not been answered? The media continues to ask the same questions despite the fact that we have answers. Smells like an agenda to me.

Speaking of WMD, follow today's news. I also find it rather suspicious that nobody has considered Syria as a possible beneficiary of an Iraqi arsenal that needed to disappear.

Let's talk about Haditha for a moment. Over the past two weeks, at least two major media outlets have released a photograph of supposedly innocent civilians slain by murderous marines. The photograph was in fact a picture of innocent civilians slain by insurgents. One paper issued an apology, and another printed the pic several days later. Seems like that gave them plenty of time to wise up to me, but they still released it.

Why don't you ask a few of the unanswered questions here and we'll see if I or another reader can answer them.

Posted by: Andy at June 22, 2006 02:50 PM

Well, yes. I will agree that the Iran question is quite a "duh" question. I'm not going to defend all the reporters and their questions because I'll be the first to tell you that I am DISGUSTED in the "journalism" state of the world. It's become nothing more than spin and agenda for both sides. There is not a lot of objectivity left.

I think, as it is part of your argument, that you can agree.

But one thing that gets me, is your standpoint that you seem to equate liberalism with the media. And the media asking questions is akin to being somehow bad.

Now, the administation has identified faulty intelligence, but they still say that going is was the right thing, when in my opinion, I cannot see how they can still justify it. Now, I know we are there now. And we are there and that is the way it goes, but I'll respect someone so much more if they admit to me that they made a mistake, and I've yet to hear that sufficiently. Saying yes we had faulty intelligence but we still had to go is not sufficient for me. Can you tell me, at the beginning of the war, why did we go?

Can you tell me now, why are we there now?

YOu say that a stable Mid Eastern gov. is a worthy cause. But that is not why we went to war. It's wasn't our place to install democracy over there but now that we are there and obviously, we need that over there, though it isn't going well.

Do you think the whole mass media has an agenda? I think many people ask the same questions because many people are still confused and haven't gotten sufficient answers. I keep asking questions.

WMD's and Syria? Interesting. Can't say I ever considered it. Any papers or articles on this. I'm always interested to read.

That picture is deplorable and another example of shotty journalism and the sensationalism and slackening of our world. But like I said, you cannot equate liberalism with mass media.

Questions. The questions I have that I want answered, I don't believe they can be answered by you because I am sure I already know your responses. I want them answered by the president, the vice, the secretary of state, etc. I want them to look me in the eye and tell me that this is makes sense.

Why was so much of the intelligence about Iraq and the people who were speaking the truth overshadowed by what the admin wanted to hear?

Why was there so much resources diverted for the hunt for Osama bin Laden? We never hear about the progress in Afghanistan, unless you look for it.

Why doesn't bush try to reach out to other nations to help build Iraq up now that it is a "nation"?

Why does it seem that there is the idea that if you don't support the war you can't support the troops as well?

Why does it seem that the administration says that if you aren't with us for the war you aren't patriotic?

Why are they discussing cutting troops funding during a time of war and why is the VA is such deplorable shape?

Why do we have such a huge deficit when in 2000 we had the largest surplus? I don't want this on my shoulders.

When is my friends coming home?

The Iraqis have said they want their own country to run, when will the administration actually give us answers as to when Iraq will be "up and running" and our troops can come home?

I'm not even starting on the justifications for spying, wiretapping, Patriot act, No Child Left Behind, mass collection of phone and internet records. But I have lots of questions I'd love the administration to answer.

I love this country. But there are things I do not like at all. I will keep questioning. And you should to.

Posted by: Amanda at June 22, 2006 06:04 PM

Let's see, where to begin...

Yes, I equate liberalism with the media. A lot of people debate the issue and its causes. I think it's fairly simple. Most artists, musicians, and writers are liberal-minded. Journalists are writers. Obviously there are tons of exceptions, but as an entity, journalists tend to be liberal.

What is the mistake you want admitted? That the entire war is wrong? They've already admitted the intelligence was faulty and that various mistakes have been made post-invasion. What is left? If you are actually looking for an admission that the entire war is a horrible idea, I think it is reasonable to question your motives, because that would absolutely ruin US credibility everywhere. I don't happen to think it is true either, which leads to your next point...

We're there now to set up a stable democracy and help Iraqis institute a system whereby they can live freely in the manner they choose. I'll ask you a return question - why is it not our business to install a democracy in a troubled state? If a big kid sees a little kid getting bullied at school, is it not the big kid's responsibility to help the little one?

I have, over time, come to think that the media has an agenda. I've only been into politics for a year or two now, and that opinion formed itself from the rather uninformed, neutral base at which I began. You can ask my few conservative friends - I'm not a hardline conservative by any stretch. I'm more conservative than liberal for sure, but I'm not a typical conservative. I still see the bias.

My Syria connection is entirely my theory. I just think it makes an awful lot of sense in a world where intelligence gathering is not absolute. I can't support it, partially because I can only read limited amounts per day, but mostly because it's my idea and I didn't do any research.

The picture is horrible. If it was a stand-alone incident I would agree with the rest of your assessment. This kind of thing happens constantly. Press coverage would lead us to believe that no one can actually stay alive in Iraq. They show the bad almost exclusively, and they don't always double check their sources.

Now to your questions, even if I'm not the one that should be providing the answers...

Who was speaking truth that the administration specifically did not choose to hear? I can't answer that because I don't know that it is valid in an reasonable way beyond the fact that our intelligence systems are not perfect and that no decision-making process is flawless.

Resources are devoted to find Bin Laden because, even if he's a figurehead, his elimination would provide an enormous morale boost to the entire western world. Politics in part, yes, but there is an overlap in the payoff on this.

Why doesn't Bush reach out to other nations... That hasn't happened? They get asked, and they say "no" on a consistent basis. Show me what the UN has done for anyone in peril lately. Just because the UN says "no" does not mean that the problems are not worth solving.

The idea of not supporting war equating to not supporting troops is mostly political. There are some who do not support the war who undermine our troops to support their arguments, but I do not believe they constitute the majority of anti-war supporters. (Anti-war supporters? Is that even the right way to say that? Ha.)

I have not personally seen the administration level an anti-patriotism declaration against anti-war supporters. If they do, that would again be politics.

I think for us to comment on war funding we both need to know more about the specifics. In addition, we must answer the question of who is requesting the fund-cutting.

We have a huge deficit because 9-11 happened and probably also in part on account of the new medicare drug plan.

As to when your friends will come home, why are those friends worth more than Iraqis?

Regarding Iraq having a stable government, how can we set a timetable on that and still consider ourselves to be responsible? How long did it take to set up a viable Japanese government after World War II? This is a self-defeating question, and the only answers come from a responsible and in-depth historical analysis.

I have a return question that ties in with these...

Why is it ok to want action in the Sudan but not in Iraq? Are/were not the violations nearly identical in nature?

Posted by: Andy at June 22, 2006 07:57 PM

It occurs to me that I should clarify my statement about setting a time table a bit further...

It is irresponsible to ask the question for these reasons:

- The administration cannot truly know, and the press knows it.

- Any strategic plans the administration has that include theoretical timetables must remain secret for purposes of national security and success in the war. Everyone watches our news. Take, for instance, the recent anti-torture document signed by Jimmy Carter among others. Egyptian news picked it up and broadcasted it to the Arab world as proof of torture being American policy.

- I get the impression based on the rest of the tendencies of the news media that the only answer reporters want to hear is that the war will end tomorrow amid sunshine and rainbows. What if the historically-backed responsible answer is 10 years?

Posted by: Andy at June 22, 2006 09:09 PM

Well, I cannot watch Fox News and then read here and have you honestly believe that it is liberal media.

Journalists are writers, true. But at their basis they are SUPPOSED to be objective. They are SUPPOSED to ask both sides of the issues. Yes, this has been lost. But I still don't think it's quite fair to say it's quite fair to equate the two, especially as a liberal who watches the news and thinks that there is not enough coverage on certain topics, questions, and issues.

Do I want them to admit the entire war is wrong? Well, I'm not dumb enough to believe that will ever happen for many different reasons, some of which you identified. But I've yet to hear the mainstays of the administration admit wrongs, aside from faulty intelligence. But beyond that, why are many of the people who made the mistakes still in power?

And you say our credibility would be ruined everywhere? I'm sorry, but we really don't have strong credibility in the world right now, anyhow, do we? If we did, why is there such outcry against the war?

If it is our business to set up a democracy in a troubled nation, then where does it end? Sudan as you mentioned is in turmoil. North Korea has a dictator and nuclear weapons, why don't we go and instill democracy there. China has the worst human rights record in the world, why not go there? Uganda? Where were we with Rwanda? Cuba? If we use that argument for every troubled country where we disagree with their politics, we can't go in and instill a government as we see fit. NOW, I do agree that we should be there to help. I'm for peacekeeping missions, which have been neglected in the past, but where's the line?

And yes it is the big guys job, I agree. I am all for the UN, I'm all for helping when people need it. But as I said above, where is the line? And why Iraq? Why didn't we go to Sudan? They are having a genocide there. We are in Iraq now and we should help.

You are right that the press shows the bad in Iraq a lot. But it isn't rosy, it is war. Thousands of people are dying and I don't think we can ignore that because it is unpleasant, though at times, I don't watch because I can't handle it. Yes, some people don't check sources, yes they are showing negative things, yes they should be telling positive stories more often, but everytime you hear about a marine you hear them called heroes. They are heroes.

I told you many of my questions were unanswerable. And I don't know when/if we will ever get answers.

Resources are devoted to Bin Laden, yet I rarely ever hear about the War on Terror. And the war on terror is not the war in iraq. They have become to meld as one, but Bin Laden needs to be found "Dead or Alive" as Bush promised.

I think the idea of support war and the troops is all political and it can be insulting to those who support the troops but not necessarily the war to have to fight such a stigma. As for the administration has said on more than one occasion if you aren't with us you are against us and those who don't support the war jsut want to cut and run and abandon the troops and the iraqis. I think that is all political but it is a bastardized and dangerous rhetoric to call millions, actually a predominant amount of the country such harsh terms. I hate feeling like I have to defend myself because I can't quite wrap my head around if I feel that we should still be there.

As for War funding, please check this out. War funding cut...http://www.clw.org/2006/04/potential_senat.html It was approved by a 59 senators (52 republicans, 7 democrats)

I don't think you can blame 9/11 for the deficit. We are in two wars, a lot of money is being diverted to the wars.

I think that we have to realistically look at the situation in Iraq and I think I really want someone to tell me what the plan is because right now, I don't understand. To say status quo means nothing because the body counts keep rising and the violence and civil unrest keeps getting worse. It's becoming a quagmire.

And what makes my friends life more important than an Iraqis? I'm not saying one life is more important than another. TO pull that card is insulting to me. I want my friends home, ask anyone who has someone fighting over there and they want them home. It's not about whose life is more or less important, it's about wanting your loved ones safe. I'm so proud of them and what they are doing and they are fighting for something and they know it. I tell them. But they are disenchanted at the same time and that scares me

You bring up Sudan and ask that is it not okay to want action, but the pre-exisiting conditions in the situations are completely different. For one, Iraq (and the human rights violations) were not the reason we went to Iraq. To claim it now is backtracking on the reason we are there in the first place. Should we help, Yes! But humanitarian aid and military action are two different things. Secondly, the world is watching Sudan for humanitarian/genocide reasons. That was not why we were looking to Iraq. I'm not saying the situation in Iraq was good nor am I saying those people didn't deserve to be freed of a dictator, but we had the support of the UN at one point and we lost it.

As for the timetable. Even if the press ask and the administration cannot know it, at least they are getting a good idea of what many Americans are wanting to know. Here's some amazing polling data on what people think about Iraq http://www.pollingreport.com/iraq.htm

I'm sure I didn't cover everything, but I'm tired and my hands are starting to go numb. But I am honestly enjoying having someone give me a different point of view, even if we disagree.

Posted by: Amanda at June 22, 2006 10:55 PM

You'll have to give me a few examples of Fox News' bias. I hear it a lot. I've only seen really minor instances of what I would define as bias, though I don't watch their straight news shows at 6 and 7 very often. I have seen The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer on CNN, which airs in prime time at 7pm. He has a guy come on there regularly to declare how Bush is a fool. I am only barely paraphrasing. Seriously though, I'm open to see the bias if you can show me something, and if you can't on account of your health or research luck, that will not incline me to think that you are necessarily wrong about it.

You're right that journalism is supposed to be objective. My idea is just an idea, but I stand by it until someone can convince me out of it. What isn't covered enough for your taste?

I should note that what most people define as media bias as it pertains to this discussion is not usually blatant criticism. It's choice in what airs and what does not, and trends in lines of questioning. My Situation Room example is not what I would consider typical for media bias. It is simply an extreme example.

President Bush had a press conference with Prime Minister Blair maybe 3 weeks ago now. One reporter asked the President what, if any, regrets he had regarding the war, and he answered with two or three points. The press conference wasn't set up to talk about regrets, but to see the news coverage the next day, you'd think it was. That is why they are hesitant, again, for good reason.

People who made mistakes are in power because they were re-elected. The problem with the coverage is that the media now expects total perfection in all aspects of Bush's presidency. They also want to hear him admit lots of mistakes, but when he does so, that is all they talk about over the next news day. It's far from balanced. Why don't you hold the democratic leadership accountable for supporting Bush's Iraq campaign at the outset? They had identical intelligence. Why is it ok to change one's mind and leave mid-war based on updated intelligence data regardless of the cost to Iraqis?

I think our world credibility is more complex than it appears. Many nations want it both ways, and will criticize us while simultaneously expecting us to take the lead with everything that happens on the world stage. Additionally, the big fish is always maligned simply because it is the big fish. Heck, I hate the New York Yankees, and I can't say my reasons are entirely fair. The rules of baseball are to blame, not the Yankees, but I still have an anti-Yankees animated gif in a post on this site even if it is partly in jest.

There are several simple answers to the question of where it ends with regards to altering governments in foreign nations.

- The Middle East is a hugely important region that heavily impacts our national security, and Iraq sits squarely in the middle of it. Don't forget that Saddam offered something like $20k to suicide bombers before his regime was toppled.

- We overthrow governments where it is possible, both policitally and militarily. This is enormously important. We don't invade North Korea because they can defend themselves far more effectively, and we also don't know what China would do in such an instance. There is 0 chance that America would support a war in North Korea on account of the cost to Americans. We could invade Iraq because the cost, insurgency included, is and was exceptionally low. I wrote about this in an earlier political posting and included some statistics there. If you'd like you can read that for details... and do you really need me to defend why we don't invade China? Bottom line: plausibility is a huge factor in every war, but it is not politically useful, and thus cannot make the nightly news given the way our news business (bias or no) operates.

Regarding the Sudan, it is critical to remember that many African nations have effectively no infrastructure. You can expend a huge number of resources and gain very little on account of the lack of roads alone. It seems to me that there are really only two options in this type of nation.

- Find reasons for capitalism to take root. If industry has a reason to set up shop in the Sudan and other poor African nations, you'll start to see the infrastructure, including schools, hospitals, and the like.

- Leave battalions of soldiers in each and every Sudanese village. Without road and intelligence networks, how else can you truly defend the people? The situation is far more random than in pre-war Iraq, or pre-war anywhere for that matter. Look at how difficult it is for us to implement this Iraqi government. How difficult would it be in a nation without an historical precedent for organized government in the first place?

We also don't get involved so much in Africa because African "politics" tends not to impact us greatly. This bothers me immensely, but nations do not act in major ways like this for purely altruistic reasons in my experience. I think they should, but they don't. Look at the Iraq war. How does "bring our troops home" help anyone but us? It's the same situation but from the opposite side. My take? We should be in Iraq and the Sudan.

I am troubled by your word choice when you say that we "disagree with their politics" in reference to Cuba, China, and the like. Are you suggesting that our disagreement is completely perspective-driven and that their governments are every bit as acceptable as ours, or is this just a word misunderstanding on my part? See my earlier political post on moral relativism if you like.

You're all for the UN, but I think you may have misread my points regarding it. The UN takes no action. Iran was just elected vice-chair on the UN Disarmament Commission! Give me a break. Where is the UN when the Sudan needs it? If we're not there, nobody is?

Regarding marines being called heroes, I have written on that subject as well. Two points...

- Marines are being called heroes at the same time they are being denied the same rights many liberals demand for Guantanamo inmates. I speak specifically of the Haditha incident. They might be guilty, but they are in fact innocent before proven such. Have you seen any media coverage of marines' reports of children acting as scouts for the insurgency? I bet you haven't, but they do, and this is and related topics are extremely relevant to the Haditha incident.

You seem to want it both ways with bin Laden. Why do we expend resources hunting him, but why haven't we found him? Maybe I am missing part of your perspective.

It is true that the administration encourages the association between Iraq and the war on terror. Some of this is politics, but some is a difference between short and long views. Bush has a long view on terror. Establish a democracy in the Islamic heartland and you achieve a major victory over terrorism that does nothing to undermine Islam. It just takes longer.

The Bush administration is sometimes unecessarily polarizing. I could not believe when Bush declared the "mandate" after the election, for instance. Speaking specifically about the "for us, against us" rhetoric, this is one of the issues that Bush put forth as a regret in that press conference I mentioned earlier in this post.

Your war funding url links to an article that doesn't discuss war funding. Perhaps this page updates frequently and your data is rolled off the page.

I can absolutely blame much of the deficit on 9/11. The public outcry for increased security was enormous following September 11th. That costs money, and huge amounts of it.

You might be right about Iraq being a quagmire, but unfortunately none of us can really know, because the media declared it so 3 years ago and has continued unrelentingly to repeat that claim. I don't know that the claim makes it true, nor can I say the opposite. The trouble is that reporters only report from the dangerous places. That's just business, not bias, though bias is the result.

We all want our friends (and fellow citizens generally) safe, but doesn't the return of those friends directly endanger the lives of Iraqis that we don't personally know? I respect our soldiers for volunteering for the armed forces and for serving in Iraq. Though I cannot offer the life experience, I believe I would do the same were I healthy. At the same time, it is important to remember that all of our soldiers sign up willingly. Arguments about overdeployment are valid, but I think those pertain more to the updating of our mobilization strategies than they do specifically to Iraq.

I'm not claiming that we should not take action in the Sudan. I'm illustrating the double standard independent of my opinion on the subject. As I indicated earlier, I think we should be there too, but purely altruistic and costly actions are not sexy enough to hold prolonged national interest. I'd love to be proven wrong.

I'm going to float another theory of mine out here that I think deserves consideration. Bush entered office with the predisposition to remove Saddam from power. 9/11 gave him the political leverage to make it happen, and the WMD intelligence (not believed to be faulty by anyone of note anywhere at the time) provided the political talking point to solidify public support. Are we there strictly because of weapons of mass destruction? I sure hope not. That would make us more selfish than I would care to believe. I think Bush and his team wanted us there to remove WMDs, but also to remove Saddam and establish a stable democratic state in the middle of the most politically critical region on earth. Sure, I could be wrong, but it feels right to me.

Regardless of the WMD situation, why is it ok to leave Iraq in chaos if they don't turn up? Aren't the other reasons good enough to stay?

Naturally there are points at which we need to question our progress, commitment, and long range intent. The press doesn't wait for those points though, and instead questions the viability of the Iraqi government before it even has a constitution, or later a legislature, or still later a cabinet. Where is the balance in that?

Many, myself included, would argue that the polling data reflects the relentless media anti-war barrage that has taken place over the past several years. Subject to debate I am sure.

This country needs a solid debate on the core issue of if and when we should wage war and how we should conduct ourselves from a humanitarian standpoint in general. The Iraq war provides that, but unfortunately everyone gets too caught up in the details to see the greater issue playing out and address it accordingly. If my idea of a valid policy is not already clear, I am happy to outline it for you. What's yours?

I too am enjoying this conversation. It actually solved the problem for me of whether or not I would try to force out some web work tonight. :) I felt miserable anyway, and as I mentioned on another post, give and take discussions require far less of me than most other sorts of activities. I wish I understood that. Heck, I wish there was a job that allowed me to make these arguments for pay. I could probably manage that.

Posted by: Andy at June 23, 2006 12:33 AM


I've had quite a bit of debate today and I do think my brain is a bit too far gone to continue until a later date, but you brought up some points I would like to address and furthermore some things where I think general language has led us to misunderstanding on meaning. (shocking, right? hahaha).

But I just wanted to quickly point out in that link that I sent you. It was an amendment on the HR 4939, a bill to make emergency appropriations available.

In it it specifically speaks about cutting funding for the war "an across-the-board 3% cut in funds in the bill to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, including cuts in military personnel, operations and maintenance, Iraqi security forces training, programs to combat Improvised Explosive Devices, the Defense Health Program and the Death Gratuity Fund".

It was all in the link for me.

Anyhow, when I am feeling a bit better I'll get back to you. I'm starting to implode on myself. Take care, Andy!


Posted by: Amanda at June 23, 2006 04:18 AM
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