Tuesday, December 01, 2009

President Obama's Speech On Afghanistan

Hi everyone. We had an unconventional 360 tonight. Speaking at West Point Military Academy, President Obama announced his plan to send 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, as well as made a case for the war to an increasingly skeptical public. You know what that means, don't you? Panels! PANELS! PANELS!!! We are super-sized tonight, people.

But first, the speech. Some of those on the Right are opposing the plan because Obama has laid down timetables (and because they hate everything he does). A portion of those on the Left are angry because they want to pull out of the country, even going so far as feeling betrayed (even though Obama has always advocated an Afghanistan focus). And those of us somewhere in the in-between? We don't know what to think. I was open to being convinced that this plan is a good idea, but the speech did not sell me. So in the in-between I remain. Guess I'm a ditherer.

The show kicks off with a long clip of the speech, and then we head into one of our big-ass panels. All the heavyweights are here: Christiane Amanpour, Nic Robertson, Michael Ware, Peter Bergen, and Sanjay Gupta. Most excellent discussion, but I have one complaint: why is there never a strong anti-war (or at least anti-escalation) voice? Why can't we ever have anyone like Michael Hastings on the panel?

I suppose you could argue that those are all CNN employees, and we all know that if a CNNer gives an opinion, flowers wilt and somewhere a puppy gets kicked. But sometimes you need opinions, even if only to hear them countered. Because though this panel is the best of the best of the network, I'm still just as confused as before they started talking. I mean, how awesome would a true debate be with all these guys as participants? Beyond awesome.

Anyway, apparently before Obama even gave his speech, our old pal Dick Cheney slithered out of his lair to take the usual potshots at our Commander in Chief about looking weak. Politico was more than happy to play stenographer. Again. And...now all outlets are repeating the comments, thus playing into the click whore's hands. *Sigh* I swear, it's like media incest or something. At the very least, everyone should feel dirty.

Though 360 is giving Darth Vader airtime, they're actually countering him with an interview with Dennis Kucinich, so, you know, yay! Kucinich, unsurprisingly, wants to pull out of Afghanistan and what follows is a pretty good interview. Anderson Cooper was aggressive and kept the Congressman's feet firmly held to the fire, without going way interrupty like last night. Nice job. Also, yes, I know that this is the part of the broadcast where I get my anti-war viewpoint, but I still say there needs to be someone on the panel as well.

Moving on to a panel switch-up, and we have got some major WTFery going on here. Anderson wants to hear David Gergen's views on the Kucinich interview, as well as Cheney's comments, and this is what we get: "I would like to move off Dennis Kucinich. Let's just move on," he says. Um, seriously, WTF? No explanation. No attempt by Anderson to elicit a clarification.

If I wanted to be charitable, I would assume the Gerg simply didn't want to waste time on some sort of Kucinich vs. Cheney thing. But he only uses Kucinich's name, who by the way, made some decent points. I mean, it's not like the interview was about aliens, people. If I wanted to be cynical, I'd say we just witnessed a member of the beltway elite turning up his nose at the prospect of having to discuss someone who is not accepted as a "serious" person by members of the "establishment." Let's hope it was my first theory.

The rest of the segment contains Chris Lawrence talking about the incompetence of the Afghan police, Fareed Zakaria positing the idea that we pay people off (like in Iraq), and Anderson hammering on his oft brought up point that we're actually nation building. Also? Joe Johns was there for some reason.

Next up, John King AND Michael Ware take us to the Magic Wall to get a looksee at the Afghanistan terrain. This is mildly hilarious because they're like the Odd Couple. John's all suited-up and refined and intense about his map. While Michael is awesomely animated, rocking the Aussie accent, and decked out in pajamas. Okay, that last part might have just been a joke from our anchor. By the way, I would totally believe Michael would go on CNN wearing his pajamas.

The hour winds down with more panel segments, as well as a couple of pieces from 360's recent trip to the country. You can find recaps of them in my September 2009 archives (here's the blog about Helmand base). They also showed some clips from their September 2006 trip, which you will see I also blogged (I believe I even have screencaps for that one). Not a bad hour. Kinda would have liked to have seen a fact-check. Maybe tomorrow?

I leave you with some info. First of all, if you're not reading Michael Hastings (linked up top) why not? Then there's Frontline's documentary "Obama's War." An absolute must watch. Finally, check out Rory Stewart on Bill Moyers Journal. Any other great pieces or people to follow regarding Afghanistan? It's Obama's war now, but it's all of our responsibility to be informed about the subject. Until we meet again.

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Blogger Anne said...

Hi Eliza,

I didn't watch the speech because I knew I would be disappointed and depressed about this war that has no end in sight. At this point, it's hard to care about nation building when America's infrastructure needs rebuilding along with so many other issues. I have been reading Michael Hasings'a blog the past month, I agree with you, he needs to be at the panel. When I see Matalin, Castellanos or Borger anywhere, I tune out. CNN needs more balance and less of the hacks at the panels. I drifted in and out of the show tonight. From what you said, I will take the cynical view that the Gerg turned his nose up at discussing Kucinich. I am so disgusted at the media's indulgence of Cheney. He and his cohorts ruined this country. It makes my blood pressure rise that he feels he's in a position to go and take pot shots at anyone. On another note, regarding "Tiger Woods Non-troversy", I can't believe the non-stop coverage of this. Sunday night, CBS opened their national news with the Woods story while the other channel sensibly opened with the slaying of the 4 cops in Washington. I am still in disbelief at CBS's choice of what news ranks first with them. As usual, great post tonight, Eliza. Anne D.

6:32 AM  
Blogger eliza said...

@Anne: As you can tell from my blog post, I'm still on the fence regarding the Afghanistan situation, though leaning towards a pull out.

I'm disgusted that they included Castellanos on their panel, given his employment with the RNC. But thankfully 360 mostly stuck with the people who actually know about the region and didn't have a lot of political hackery.

Apparently if Cheney speaks, they're required to report on it or something. But I do appreciate them bringing on Kucinich to counter. I have no idea what's going on with the Gerg. This past year he's becoming less and less impressive. I thought maybe it was a perception problem on my part given that we're under a new administration, but my friend says he was awesome during the Clinton years, so...

As for Tiger Woods, shame on CBS. Shame on all of them who act like this is an important story. I will be EXTREMELY disappointed with 360 if they let the new Tiger developments trump Afghanistan tonight. They didn't lead with it on Monday, so I'm actually optimistic on this one.

4:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think your assessment of Gergen's dismissal of Kucinich is right on target. I was disappointed that Gergen didn't use the opportunity to talk about Kucinich's points, instead he chose to disregard what he said entirely without any sort of explanation why. I get that he doesn't agree, but is there any harm in doing his job as a pundit and simply stating WHY he doesn't and THEN move on?

5:14 PM  
Anonymous Nancy in Tacoma said...

I watched the show too, and saw it happen. Anderson Cooper did NOTHING to bring the discussion back to Kucinich. I used to like David Gergen, now I turn the channel when he's on. How arrogant was that? And when I see the commercials for Anderson Cooper's show, saying they are neither Republican or Democrat, and present both sides, all I can harken back to is Gergen's "performance" that night.

1:02 PM  

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