Sep 1 2011


September 2011

More Bombs, Less Debate

NBC correspondent Richard Engel (Meet the Press, 6/19/11), calling for more bombing in Libya and less democracy in the U.S.:

I just came from Libya before I came here, and the fact of the matter is the war in Libya right now is not very serious, that NATO is not doing a terribly good job. The rebels need a lot more help. The bombing campaign in Tripoli barely exists. Every once in a while there’s a few bombs on mostly empty compounds, and people go about their lives more or less unaffected. It’s not the kind of thing that’s going to drive Gadhafi from power.

And a lot of European nations who are now trying to lead this fight–and are struggling to do it–are looking at this debate within the United States to end the U.S. support for NATO. If the U.S. ended its support for NATO in Libya, NATO really is dead.

Puffing Petraeus

Newsweek (7/17/11) began a piece on David Petraeus becoming CIA director with an account of how he got the “short-term job done” after the Army general was named commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan:

Now, after 13 months, the 58-year-old Petraeus is coming home to head the Central Intelligence Agency. Since that day in the Oval Office, hopeful signs have begun appearing that he may have performed the seemingly impossible task of stabilizing the Afghan battlefield.

The article, by reporter John Barry, doesn’t provide much detail on what these “hopeful signs” are, but Afghan civilian deaths were up 15 percent in the first half of 2011 vs. the first half of 2010 (L.A. Times, 7/15/11). (Maybe that’s why an Afghan media executive cited in the piece contended that “not everyone in Afghanistan fully appreciates what Petraeus has achieved in his year there.”) As for U.S. troops and their non-Afghan allies, 723 of them were killed in the 12 months Petraeus was in charge of Afghanistan–as opposed to 725 in the 12 months before that ( Other than that, no doubt he had a great war.

Who’s the Tea Party’s Real Policy Expert?

A Newsweek cover story on Sarah Palin (7/10/11) tried to make the case that the former Alaska governor is really a policy expert–“conversant on the subject of quantitative easing”–by quoting an anecdote she told about her husband’s snack food habits: “He buys a Slim Jim–we’re always eating that jerky stuff–for $2.69. I said, ‘Todd, those used to be 99 cents, just recently!’ And he says, ‘Man, the dollar’s worth nothing anymore.’” Unfortunately for Palin’s reputation as a wonk, in reality neither the cost of Slim Jims nor prices more broadly have risen much lately (Politifact, 7/10/11). (8/8/11), meanwhile, argued that the Tea Party’s real thinker was Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann:

Whereas Palin can stumble over simple questions, Bachmann is far surer on her feet…. During a 2010 interview on MSNBC‘s Hardball, Bachmann stuck so resolutely to her talking points that the exasperated host, Chris Matthews, asked whether she was “hypnotized.” She smiled and repeated them again…. Few other politicians so effectively combine policy, ideology–and pure star power.

Note that robotically repeating pre-memorized talking points is not usually described as evidence of being sure on one’s feet.

One-Sided ‘War of Words’

ABC‘s This Week anchor Christiane Amanpour (7/24/11), declaring that “the rhetoric has boiled over” in Washington, reported on “the war of words between two Florida congressmembers, Republican Allan West and Democrat Debbie Wasserman-Schultz”:

Wasserman-Schultz fired the first shot on the House floor, criticizing West for supporting a debt deal that would cut Medicare.

West’s response, a furious e-mail to his colleague when he said: “You are the most vile, unprofessional and despicable member of the U.S. House of Representatives. You have proven repeatedly that you are not a lady and, therefore, shall not be afforded due respect from me.”

So how does Washington move past this partisan rancor?

Amanpour can’t say the obvious: that one member of Congress made an unremarkable criticism of another’s political stance, and the second member responded with a vitriolic personal attack. Pointing that out, you see, would be partisan.

‘Greatest Generation’ a Bunch of Sponges

Tom Brokaw has built a second career on lionizing the cohort before his as the “Greatest Generation,” the ones who beat the Great Depression and won World War II. He seems to be having second thoughts about that, though, since, as he explained on Meet the Press (7/31/11), the old folks (and people who don’t deserve houses) have actually been bankrupting the nation by freeloading on the government dime:

This is not just a Democratic problem or a Republican problem–the whole country was in on this to get us to this stage. Now, we’re in a huge spending binge in this country. Everybody was along for the ride for a long, long time…. We have prescription drug benefits for the seniors that are not paid for…. Democrats were pushing house ownership for people who didn’t really deserve and shouldn’t be buying houses. At the same time, they were not willing to step up on reforming Medicare and on Medicaid and Social Security. The country itself, they were spending money like crazy, and they’d gotten used to having Washington take care of whatever they needed.

Unfit for U.S. Consumption?

The story that appeared on Time‘s August 8 editions for Europe, Asia and the South Pacific:

The story that appeared on the same issue of Time in the U.S.: