ABC Pundits on Snowden: The Center Holds!

abcthisweeksnowdenDavid Gregory’s “Hey I’m just asking but are you a criminal?” question on Sunday’s Meet the Press has been getting a lot of attention, but it’s not the only Sunday morning discussion of Edward Snowden that deserves a look.

On ABC‘s This Week, former Iraq War military spokesperson Dan Senor offered his take, along with ABC military correspondent Martha Raddatz (6/23/13):

SENOR: Snowden’s, you know, interviews that he gave, and documents he released to the Chinese press, obviously puts us in a very uncomfortable position. But I think domestically, the U.S., I think this further strengthens the center on national security. I think there was a real risk over the last couple weeks that there would be this left/right coalition that would backlash against the United States government, sort of libertarian uprising. And I think Snowden just traveling around the world, flying to these anti-American capitals, behaving the way he’s doing further strengthens–I think the center is holding right now in the U.S., and I think that’s a positive development.

RADDATZ: How about the great irony here, that he’s complaining about the United States and all these things the United States is doing wrong, and he might end up in Venezuela? Good luck, pal.

SENOR: Right.

So we have the usual scoffing about Snowden’s possible destination–Venezuela, where Raddatz apparently thinks criticizing the government isn’t allowed. But Senor’s other point is deeper, and more revealing. To him, “there was a real risk” that the Snowden story would produce a “left/right coalition” that would oppose NSA’s policies. But Snowden’s behavior has thankfully put a damper on that.

It’s a point that was made elsewhere in the show–which, to be clear, did not try very hard to present a wide-ranging debate on this issue. Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations had this to say:

Look, so many people in media and elsewhere called this guy a whistleblower. He’s not a whistleblower. He’s a felon. He has endangered the lives of Americans. I think this story is beginning to turn, and that’s important.

ABC host George Stephanopoulos could have pointed out that being accused of a crime isn’t the same thing as being guilty. Or he could have asked Haass to explain how Snowden has endangered millions. Instead, he said this:

And the majority of Americans, as you point out, do believe he should be prosecuted.

Well, thanks for that.

So is the center “holding” on Snowden and the NSA’s surveillance? That’s hard to say. A Gallup poll (6/12/13) found 53 percent disapproved of the NSA surveillance program, with 37 percent approving. Much of the public discussion about Snowden notes that there are certain incongruities; many support prosecuting Snowden, but also believe that his disclosures served the public interest–49 percent to 44 percent, according to a recent USA Today/Pew poll (6/18/13).

Interestingly, ABC (6/19/13) has its own polling on the issue of prosecuting Snowden. They found 43 percent supported charging him–and 48 percent opposed. So “the majority of Americans” are not telling Stephanopoulos’ network that they believe Snowden should be prosecuted.

Given the media debate about the Snowden revelations–when shows like This Week have discussions that feature three different flavors of Snowden criticism–the fact that many in the public still support his whistleblowing suggests that Senor’s fears of a broad pro-transparency movement might be well-placed.



About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.