Monday, January 05, 2009

Anderson Cooper Live From The Israel-Gaza Border and Barack Obama's Next Steps (Plus Bonus Puppy-Debate Pics)

Hi everybody. Well, now with the election over, the tether that attached Anderson Cooper to his anchor chair has official been cut. Field trip time! Unfortunately, as per usual, we're not going to Disneyland. No, instead, another bloody, horrible, and heartbreaking conflict has erupted in the Middle East. Yay 2009? I mean, did nobody get the memo that this year is supposed to be better? I guess someone in the universe thought two intractable wars and a collapsing economy weren't a big enough challenge for our incoming prez. But stick with me, kids. At the end there'll be a puppy; I promise.

Anderson is coming at us live from the Israel-Gaza border and we learn that three Israeli soldiers have been killed by friend fire, on this the third night of the ground invasion into Gaza. We also learn that Anderson would totally love to show us what's going on in the area, but the Israelis are barring journalists from entering. Not cool.

In a subsequent Anderson piece, we're told all the stats that both sides are claiming: dozens of killed or captured Hamas fighters, 530 killed Palestinians, 87 rockets launched into Israel since Sunday, four Israelis killed by the rockets, etc. Anderson also shows us where a rocket hit a market and explains that they're especially deadly because they're filled with shrapnel. Neither side is backing down and there have been worldwide protests of the violence. Oh, and Bush said something about the situation, but I'm pretty sure no one cares.

Next up, we find out that Ed Henry has followed Obama back to D.C. after their time spent chillaxing in Hawaii. In his piece, we learn that the economy is still very much priority numero uno on the prez-elect's plate. But it seems the plan to handle the monumental problem has changed-up a bit since last we met our hero. There's still going to be a big-ass stimulus package (the technical term), but now $300 billion of that is going to be a tax cut.

Republicans had been screeching about all the promised spending (the last eight years never happened, I guess), so Obama decided to throw them a conciliatory bone and include business tax cuts. Hm. Conciliatory is nice, but let's not get too conciliatory, k? Oh, also, Bill Richardson is totally out for Commerce Secretary. Apparently, he has pay-to-play cooties all over him. Or something. Disappointing, but I'll wait for the facts before kicking him to my curb (that's where Edwards is currently sitting).

Transitioning now to Christiane Amanpour live in Jerusalem and she talks to us a bit about the pressure Israel is currently facing due to the mounting civilian casualties. The world at large isn't really too thrilled about dead kids. After what happened in Lebanon in 2006, it's hard to fathom they'd think a ground invasion was a good idea, but I guess that's neither here nor there.

Anyway, according to Christiane, the Israelis would like to try to stop the smuggling of weapons from the Egypt side of the Gaza strip and end Hamas' motivation for firing those rockets. Because invading and killing lots of civilians is really going to tamper down those feelings of hostility. Also, Israel won't engage Hamas in any way (well, any non-violent way), so that leads Egypt to play the Dr. Phil role in this scenario. Unbelievable. Yes, Hamas is a terrorist organization that must be stopped, but there has to be a better way.

We bounce back to the U.S. now and Ali Velshi is at the financial wall of doom to break down the stimulus package for us. We learn that 40 percent of it is now going to go to tax cuts, which is a new development and I'm not sure an exactly positive one. We shall see. The other 60 percent will still be going to green infrastructure and things like computerizing medical records. Also? Because we're at the wall of doom and being bummed out is a requirement, Ali tells us that auto sales are down by 30 percent--the biggest drop since 1992. Awesome.

Do you have that familiar feeling? Yep, it's panel time! Even a field trip out of the country can't stop it. Our seat-warmers tonight include Gloria Borger, Joe Johns, and Ed Henry and they kick things off by talking about how quiet Obama is being regarding the new Middle East fighting. Then we move on to the Richardson debacle and Anderson wonders what went wrong with the supposed stellar Obama camp vetting process. Ed tells us they were aware of the issue, but Richardson made it sound like it was nothing and it would soon be going away. Also? Ed says that while Richardson is spinning that he took a bullet for Obama and pulled his name himself, he was totally pushed by team Barack.

The subject next switches up to the new CIA head (which I hadn't heard about yet) and Anderson asks what we know about John Podesta. Then Gloria immediately starts talking about Leon Panetta and I get totally confused. The Google tells me the pick is Penetta. Aw, somebody has jet lag. We'll forgive him. Anyhoo, Gloria tells us that there's a kerfuffle because Obama picked the guy without conferring with Congress or something and I guess they always need to feel special. Boo hoo. Geez, finally get the place filled with Democrats and it's still run by infants. This was actually a pretty good panel since they mostly stuck to factual reporting instead of speculation.

On now to Tom Foreman reprising his oft-played role at the big map. His mission is to inform us visually of what Israel is dealing with logistically and show us its strategic targets. I'm assuming all this information is just coming from the one side (Israel), so take it with a grain of salt. Not that you should believe Hamas (you shouldn't), but when both sides say the same thing you pretty much know it's true.

For a further look into this long-time-coming battle, we move on to a Ben Wedeman piece. Apparently, Israel has been training for this fight for years. About two years ago Ben went to one of their training facilities that actually looks just like Gaza. Hamas has upped their game as well and are looking more and more like an army. Not to mention all the notes they took after watching the 2006 fight with Hezbollah go down. Sources say Hamas has an extensive tunnel/bunker system in Gaza for their leaders. The civilians, however, are sitting ducks. Always the innocent civilians pay the highest price.

After Ben's piece, he joins us live to tell us what the Israelis can expect inside Gaza. There are many fighting factions and it seems they're packing RPGs and setting booby traps. Fun! But the good news is that according to Ben, this is no 2006. Hezbollah was much better prepared for that fight then these guys are now. Let's hope he's right. Anderson brings up the reporters ban and Ben says the official line of reasoning has to do with safety, but some believe it's because Israel thinks the coverage has been biased. Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner. But Israel cannot possibly be talking about U.S. media. Hell, some of our coverage is more pro-Israel than Israel's coverage. 360 is doing a pretty good job so far at striking a balance.

Next up, things are exploding over Anderson's shoulder. I am not thrilled. Anyway, Christiane is back and she tells us that Israel is actually dropping leaflets on the Palestinians, encouraging them to anonymously turn in the rocket-launchers. The big question is how any of this ends, especially given everyone's refusal to engage with the Democratically-elected Hamas. The discussion ends with a focus on how the conflict might bolster Fatah and Abbas.

On the phone with us now from Gaza City is resident Sami Abdel-Shafi. He reports that things have been tense, especially since ambulances are being hit as well. Necessities have had to be rationed, though he indicates he's better off than most. The civilian death count is discussed and Anderson wonders if it makes sense to drop leaflets. "Where would you go?" he asks. That's a nicely pointed question, because as we hear from Sami, there is nowhere to go. " is very, very unfair for anyone to ask a civilian to leave his home," he says.

Nic Robertson then joins us live to talk about the rockets being sent by both sides. Schools have had to close. We learn that in the early phases of the conflict, most of the Palestinian deaths consisted of Hamas security. Now it is women and children paying the price. When will people learn that you cannot ground invade a grassroots-organization-turned-government? Since there's no backing off now, I hope I'm wrong.

Transitioning back to New York now, and we have a Randi Kaye piece on the death of Jett Travolta. New details have emerged that he died of a seizure and John actually performed CPR. Normally I would have been annoyed at the constant teasing of this story, but hey, if that's what they think they need to do in order to put on a broadcast that is 90 percent hard news, so be it.

The show was really good tonight. Lots of actual news goodness and they're doing a good job at showing both sides of the Middle East fighting (even if they can't get into Gaza). Depending on how long this thing goes on, keeping that objectivity might prove difficult. My only real criticism is kind of technical. At the end of the first hour, Anderson told us they'd be back with live coverage and then at the top of the second hour, he said they were live and the live bug was up. But I am almost positive they were not live. That is a no no. I didn't stick around, so hopefully I'm wrong. As for the webcast, I had some technical issues myself, so all I caught was that Tony is renovating his garage and Frank has some strong opinions concerning the issue.

Finally, since there was no "shot" tonight, I thought I'd make my own. For weeks now, this Daily Show dude has been teasing us with tweeted promises of Anderson Cooper and puppies. And tonight it finally happened (click for video). Given the mass Google searches about it that hit my blog immediately after airing, I take it you guys liked the segment. So I have given in and done some screencaps. Don't expect them every night. Oh, and that "bitch" line? Totally improv-ed. A witty one, that Anderson Cooper. Enjoy:


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