Tuesday, September 26, 2006

NBC, Unfair and Unbalanced

"But all many will remember is that a former President became so irked on a morning talk show that he was drawn into the often-unseemly debate in a divided America about who to blame for our terrorism nightmare instead of about what to do next. Mike Taibbi, NBC News, New York."

That's the way the Today show ended its story yesterday about the Fox News interview. Put aside for the moment the obvious bias inherent in that sentence. Perhaps that's all people will remember because, as Jon Stewart brilliantly highlighted, that's all the media focused on.

It's too bad Mike doesn't watch NBC's own MSNBC. Immediately after the Chris Wallace interview, President Clinton sat down with Keith Olbermann for an actual interview, rather than a hatchet job.

When the President was asked, "Why didn't you do more?" he was drawn into a debate. Wouldn't you be? Is that a question a "journalist" would ask?

"Why didn't you do more?"

Particularly when that is a White House talking point rather than a question supported by the 9/11 Commission findings? When you're attacked unfairly, getting defensive is a reasonable response, not an unreasonable one.

But back to Mike Taibbi and his forlorn cry for help.

When Clinton sat down with Keith Olbermann, Keith actually asked him what advice he would give President Bush -- in other words, Mike Taibbi's "what should we do?"

Yeah, Mike... Check out MSNBC before you go all smart-ass. (And then ask yourself why Today virtually ignored the weekend's real story: the intelligence assessment that says the Bush administration has made us less safe.)

President Clinton's answer is long, but worth reading, because its reasonableness has no place in the media. Just shows if you ask a question instead of attacking, you'll get light instead of heat.

OLBERMANN: Let me throw the craziest, unrealistic political hypothetical to you in our current environment. The phone rings tomorrow and it’s the current president, and he says things aren’t go as well as they might, either for me or the country. I need a piece of advice, and I’m asking you sincerely for it, for one thing that I can do tomorrow that will improve things. You’re the genie now in the political realm again, as you were in this building these last three days. What would you say to him if that request came through?

CLINTON: I would say that—I would give him, actually, two pieces of advice. I would say, first of all, I think if you can find some way, consistent with our commitment to Israel’s security, to resume the Palestinian-Israeli peace process and move fairly quickly to a Palestinian state, I think that would do more to change the image of the United States and—than anything else.

I think there’s so many Arab-Muslim countries that are frightened by this instability and all this violence, and I think you would find that Israel would actually get more credit and a more positive response from other Arab nations by doing this than ever before. And I think we would have a chance them to stabilize a lot of other problems in the Middle East. That’s the first thing.

The second thing I’d say is no American president can possibly please people all over the world all the time. If you have an unusual political, military and economic position, you’re always going to do things that some people won’t like.

But there are two things that are important. You should look like we prefer cooperation over unilateralism and act alone only when we feel we have to. And you should let people know that we have no anger or animosity and we wish them the best.

I’ll give you an example. I think the president did quite a good thing by going to the U.N. and trying to have a personal outreach to the people of Iran and while he plainly disagreed with President Ahmadinejad, he resisted the temptation to overly demonize him.

That’s the kind of thing I think we need to do more of. People don’t really want to be mad at America. They get mad when they disagree with our policies, but they also get mad when they think we’re too unilateral, when they think it’s not just Iraq, it’s the test ban treaty and the criminal court and the Kyoto climate change accord and all that.

So I think I see in the last couple months that this administration is trying to rely more on diplomacy and more on multilateralism and I would advise that. But if I had two pieces of advice, it would be make more friends, tell your people you care about them, make them think you’re pulling for them.

And if we can do it consistent with Israel’s security, let’s get back to work on this Palestinian-Israeli peace process, because that’s half the juice that’s feeding terror all around the world.

1 comment:

norm said...

After I saw Olbermann's interview with Clinton I couldn't stop telling people about his advice.

I'd forgotten what it was like to have an intelligent, reasonable President.

I especially liked the part where Clinton, in the midst of personal attacks and revisionist history lies heaped on him by the Republican Party, said it was important to keep your temper and communicate with the other side in such a way that they can hear you.

Who's the uniter and who's the divider?