Meet the Press Continues the Non-Debate on Afghanistan

Mark Weisbrot had a good column in the London Guardian (10/23/09) about the highly circumscribed “debate” over the Afghanistan War (FAIR Action Alert, 8/25/09). He breaks down the lineup of a recent Meet the Press (10/11/09):

Retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, former Army general and drug czar (under President Clinton) turned defense industry lobbyist. In a news article on McCaffrey entitled “One Man’s Military-Industrial-Media Complex,” the New York Times reported that McCaffrey had “earned at least $500,000 from his work for Veritas Capital, a private equity firm in New York that has grown into a defense industry powerhouse by buying contractors whose profits soared from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.” McCaffrey has appeared on NBC more than 1,000 times since 9/11/2001.

Retired Gen. Richard Meyers, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President Bush (2002-05). He is currently on the Board of Directors of Northrop Grumman Corporation, one of the largest military contractors in the world, and also of United Technologies Corporation, another large military contractor.

Sen. Lindsay Graham, Republican from South Carolina, a pro-war spokesperson who is one of the most regular guests on the Sunday talkshows.

Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, a Democrat, was apparently intended to represent the “other side” of the debate. Here is what he said: “Clearly we should keep the number of forces that we have. No one’s talking about removing forces.”

“No one,” in the above sentence refers to the American people, whom Levin understandably sees as nobody in the eyes of the U.S. media and political leaders. According to the latest (September 24) NYT/CBS News poll, 32 percent of those polled wanted U.S. troops out of Afghanistan within one year or right now. That was the largest group. Another 24 percent wants the troops “removed within one to two years.” For comparison, the leadership of the Taliban is willing to grant foreign troops 18 months to get out of their country.

In other words, a majority of 56 percent of Americans wants U.S. troops out of Afghanistan about as soon as is practically feasible or even sooner. Yet Meet the Press–a mainstream network news talkshow since 1947–does not see fit to find one person to represent that point of view. The other major TV and radio talkshows that the right also labels “liberal” in the United States make similar choices almost every day.

When asked whether the U.S. should set a timeline for withdrawal, Levin answered “no.”

This phenomenon of the non-debate is not confined to broadcast journalism; see recent FAIR Blog posts on fake Afghanistan debates in Time magazine (10/2/09), USA Today (9/17/09) and the Washington Post (9/01/09, 8/17/09).

About Jim Naureckas

Extra! Magazine Editor Since 1990, Jim Naureckas has been the editor of Extra!, FAIR's monthly journal of media criticism. He is the co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error, and co-editor of The FAIR Reader: An Extra! Review of Press and Politics in the '90s. He is also the co-manager of FAIR's website. He has worked as an investigative reporter for the newspaper In These Times, where he covered the Iran-Contra scandal, and was managing editor of the Washington Report on the Hemisphere, a newsletter on Latin America. Jim was born in Libertyville, Illinois, in 1964, and graduated from Stanford University in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in political science. Since 1997 he has been married to Janine Jackson, FAIR's program director. You can follow Jim on Twitter at @JNaureckas.