Thursday, June 23, 2005

David Gregory: A Breath of Fresh Air

All this week, NBC White House correspondent David Gregory has been guest hosting Hardball in place of Chris Matthews...and what a difference a host makes. It's almost an entirely different show. I no longer feel like taking a shower after watching it -- I actually feel as though I just learned something and that I just saw a real debate. (For those who would chide my disgust with Chris Matthews claiming he's a typical media liberal, you should know that he recently admitted to having voted for Bush "at least once.")

Last night's episode was interesting. The marquis debate of the night was between Bob Schrum, Democratic strategist (he ran Kerry's and Gore's campaigns, a real winner) vs. David Frum, former Bush speechwriter (he wrote "axis of evil.") During the debate, I of course sided with Schrum, but was most impressed by Gregory's evenhanded moderation of the debate. He would ask biased leading questions but to both guests. And while I would have liked Gregory to call Frum out on what was clearly his intention: to define those that are anti-war as "crazy" or "hysterical," what transpired was a rare unraveling of the conservative's talking points.

At one point, when talking about the Guantanamo Bay detention center, Frum was demonizing Richard Durbin (D-IL) who last week likened the treatment of prisoners there to that of oppressive regimes such as the Nazis or Russians. It was a salient point put in a manner that unfortunately allowed Republicans to liken Durbin to a traitor who is against the troops when that couldn't be further from the truth. Frum continued the anti-Durbin rhetoric:

It is a sign to which this anti-war craziness that is boiling on the fringe of the Democratic Party has infiltrated the minds of people like him.

Anti-war = crazy and fringe. Ya know, 60% of the American people are crayyyzee.

In the midst of this spinning, he managed to let his guard down because when confronted about the Guantanamo detainees, Frum inadvertently told the truth and poked a hole in one of Bush's premier first term talking points: that the Iraq War is a central front in the global war on terror. Frum said:

The Guantanamo detainees are not from Iraq. It has got nothing to do with the Iraq war. It's got to do with the war in Afghanistan and the global war on terror, which people like Dick Durbin say they support.

Whoopsie. A rare slip by the usually robotically on-message conservatives.

But the thing that truly made last night's Hardball notable was the appearance of a true anti-war voice given the time and the deference to speak her mind. In the final segment of the show, two mothers of soldiers appeared, one whose son was wounded in Iraq and one whose son was killed. The latter, Cindy Sheehan, has been a vocal anti-war activist ever since her son died and was part of the panel at John Conyers's Downing Street Memo hearing last week. Here she was on Hardball expressing true anti-war rhetoric, rhetoric that is virtually banned by the mainstream media. It was truly startling to hear these things emanating out of my television without her being cut off or argued into silence. She spoke calmly, sympathetically and intelligently. This exchange was particularly moving:

GREGORY: Cindy, do you still believe in it?
SHEEHAN: Do I still believe in the war? Is that what you just asked me?
GREGORY: Yes. That's my—that's my question.
SHEEHAN: I never—I never believed in the war. I never believed that Iraq was a threat to the United States. I didn't see why we were rushing to invade a country that posed no threat, was no danger to the United States. My son didn't believe in the war. My entire family don't believe. We didn't believe in it then and we certainly don't believe in it now, with all the proof that has come out about the lies and betrayals that our government led us into this war. And the newest thing is the Downing Street memo that just confirms what we already suspected, that this administration wanted to invade Iraq at all costs. And they would even fit the intelligence around that, around the policy of invading Iraq.

And Cindy did what Gregory didn't: she called Frum out on his attempt to marginalize those that oppose the war:

SHEEHAN: ....And I don't really like being called an anti-war crazy, like your previous—previous guest did. I think everybody should be against war, especially wars that have no basis in reality.

And the last word of the entire program went to Cindy:

SHEEHAN: This war, nobody should have been there in the first place. Not one person should be killed. And I don't believe that we support our government when they're wrong...We try and fight and make it better and make it a better place. And we need to keep pressure on the administration. They don't support the troops. You know, my son was killed doing a job he was not trained for. He was not wearing the proper body armor. He was not in an armored vehicle. And he was killed in a political mess, a political mess that our leadership made. That's not supporting the troops, as far as I'm concerned.

They have to pay for their own laundry when they're over there. They're getting killed guarding mercenaries who make $1,000 a day, when they barely bring home $2,000 a month. They're losing their homes here in America. They're not being supported by their government. I think the only way we can support our troops who are only there doing their jobs and doing the best they can to stay alive and doing their duties is to bring them home, because it is a lie.


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