Friday, September 11, 2009

(Not) Live From Afghanistan Day Five And Political Fallout Of Joseph Wilson's Two-Word Cry

Hi everyone. We begin in the states with John King holding down the fort. He promises us future Anderson Cooper from Afghanistan, but those of us who have witnessed a 360 overseas field trip or two know that Friday is when they do their skedaddling, meaning any Silver Fox sightings will be taped. But that's cool. Guy has to fly sometime.

We begin with clips of 9-11 remembrances. It's hard to believe it's been eight years already. Harder to believe we're still at war with no end in sight. On that note, we next have a piece from Tom Foreman on the troop situation in Afghanistan. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is expected to ask for more, but there's not much public appetite for escalating the war, especially among Democrats.

Some, like Senate Arms Committee Chairman Carl Levin, think the solution to our problem is better training for the Afghans. But Tom, like, totally called smarty-pants Afghanistan-experty people, and they said, yeah, we're gonna need more troops. Still no one can seem to answer the question of "why Afghanistan?"

For discussion of all this, we're joined by Michael Ware and David Gergen. It's noted that Gates is sending in 3,000 troops in the short term, which Michael calls "a drop in the bucket," thus giving me deja vu. I swear I've heard this conversation before regarding Iraq. Speaking of that "other war," similar to the Iraq Awakening, Michael thinks the key to Afghanistan will be recruiting U.S. backed tribal militias to fight the Taliban. Whatever works, man. Why does it always take us so long to do this stuff?

The Gerg points out that this is a defining moment for Obama. It's all or nothing, baby. You can't compromise on troop levels. He's either going to have to end the war up ratchet things up. Do we see another address to Congress in the future? Who do we think will yell this time? (My money is totally on Bachmann.) As for the Afghans--you know, those people who have to actually live through all this stuff--they want us out. BUT they don't want us to leave before we fix everything. BUT they want it done fast. Um, okey dokey.

Transitioning now from serious politics to well, that whole Joe Wilson thing. Joe Johns tells us that he's become a little money making machine since he introduced the world to his stupidity. But the cash flows both ways. His Democratic challenger Rob Miller has raked in over a million bucks. Ka-ching! You gotta love politics.

The Democrats aren't going to let go of this puppy. They're threatening to punish Wilson with an admonishing resolution if he doesn't apologize on the House floor. Oh no, not a resolution! The guy won't even accept reality, he's going to be bothered by something meaningless? Joe seems to imply the shouter has already apologized enough, but doesn't note that the apology was forced by party leadership. I mean, Wilson's asking for money in almost the same breath he's saying he's sorry. Yeah, he's just torn up inside about what he did.

Let's just move on, shall we? Next up, we learn that McClatchy reporter Jonathan Landay was embedded with the four Marines who died earlier this week during the ambush in Kunar Province. Landay himself almost died and he narrates his experience while we're shown pictures of the attack. Apparently it was a trap and the reporter had to run for his life during the commotion. He also notes the bravery of the men, relaying that he witnessed one captain putting pressure on another man's wound with one hand, while calling in air support with the other hand. I'm glad they showed this. McClatchy reporting always kicks ass and the men deserve the recognition.

On now to a taped conversation with Anderson and Peter Bergen that hits on the changing mission in the country, which is something we've heard them focus on a lot this week. We know the drill--it's not about Al Qaeda anymore; it's about the population. Following this conversation, they again run Anderson's piece on Patrol Base Jaker from a couple days ago, and again fade out on that poor Marine.

We then transition to...a missing co-ed. I guess the 360 kids were starting to get the shakes with all this hard news and no crime coverage. I know, it's a little harsh. I absolutely think it's a good thing to put up her picture in case people see her, and I absolutely hope she's found safe, but did we need a whole package from Randi Kaye? There's a reason I watch 360 and not Nancy Grace.

Erica Hill then does the "360 Bulletin" and hangs for "Beat 360." Winner Terry's caption implies there are people fighting over being Erica's number 1 fan. "Terry from Atlanta, I heart you," says Ms. Hill. I like how she says "heart". Erica's just cool like that. "I thought I was Erica Hill's No. 1 fan," says John. "If you all want to duke it out, go for it. We'll see the results on Sunday on STATE OF THE UNION," she replies. Nice plug. What, no mention of the time?

The "shot" tonight is Anderson's reporter's notebook. These are always pretty visceral, so a recap really doesn't do it justice. I'll try to link when they have it up. In the meantime, you should give Anderson's latest blog post a read if you haven't already done so. It's more personal than his last one. It is clear he cares about the troops and what's happening in Afghanistan. This is something I've never doubted.

I have, however, repeatedly complained on this blog that sometimes his rhetoric (and others from the show) does not match what we the viewers see. The broadcasts from Afghanistan this week overall have been fantastic. I just wonder why it took so long to get significant coverage. I'm not talking about going to the country. I know Anderson has been trying for a period of at least a year to get there. But there's no reason he can't regularly cover the country from New York. In an interview with "The Baltimore Sun" earlier this week, Anderson said the following:
CNN is in the enviable position of actually increasing our foreign coverage. We have a full-time correspondent in Afghanistan. We have a bureau there. We're able to be there on a daily basis. ... And then, we're able to go in with coverage like this during the week of 9/11. This is what we do."
But is that really what they do? I'm assuming the full-time correspondent he is referring to is Atia Abawi and I'm pretty sure I have never seen a report from her on 360. In fact, I'm not sure I had even heard of her until I discovered her on Twitter (follow her here). I know that there is going to be a future political fight regarding troop levels, and I know 360 will cover that. But once the controversy fades, will their coverage as well? Because the troops will still be there.

Despite that criticism, I do very much appreciate their coverage this week. Going to Afghanistan is dangerous, hard, and expensive. And quite frankly, there's not much of a reward for CNN--the ratings have sucked. Now, that's not to say they wouldn't have sucked anyway, but it certainly would have been cheaper sucking. So you have to give it up to them for their commitment to an important story. I just hope that commitment remains once the moon dust washes off.

Finally, if you missed any of the reports this week, the blog is a great resource--lots of embedded videos. Plus there are posts of behind-the-scenes goings-on like this one from my producer crush, Charlie Moore. That's right, I said crush. It can't always be about the Silver Fox, people. Below I leave you with a pic from that post, taken by Tim Hetherington of Getty Images. It's kinda jarring to see Peter Bergen all chillax-ed out, isn't it? He just always seems so buttoned-up and, well, British. And then of course there's Mr. Cool in his shades. Because that's how he rolls. Happy weekend, everyone!

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Blogger Anne said...

Hi Eliza,

I just read your post, you're back in fine form. On Afghanistan, there seems to be no winning position to take there. My blood pressure just can't take Joe Wilson, his cronies, and the teabag nonsense anymore. Hopefully, when AC returns, he will devote more coverage to Afghanistan. Anne D.

11:38 PM  

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