Monday, July 28, 2008

Meet the Press Transcript /Brokaw and Obama

Original Link:

By LisaB

The transcript from Meet the Press where Obama and Brokaw talk right before Obama started his trip back to the US is very interesting. At NQ, we’ve pointed out before that Obama isn’t verbally facile without a teleprompter, and that certainly came through here.

Brokaw, with taped bits relating to Obama’s opposition to the surge and his assertion that the surge would not work asked Obama if his thoughts had changed. In true form, Obama could not even answer intelligibly:

MR. BROKAW: Let’s begin there in Iraq, and that judgment of yours that violence has lessened and that there is a possibility now that Prime Minister Maliki can take on more responsibility. You engaged in some verbal kung fu with reporters and others as well this week about the surge. You opposed the surge, the addition of other American troops in there. Many analysts believe that the reason that violence has decreased is because the American troops were deployed in a more effective manner…

Read the rest ->

Brokaw plays McCain radio ad talking about Obama’s opposition to the surge. Brokaw then plays a tape of Obama’s assertions that 20,000 additional troops would “only make things worse.”

MR. BROKAW: Do you believe that President Maliki would be in a position to more or less endorse your timetable of getting troops out within 16 months if it had not been for the surge?

SEN. OBAMA: You know, we don’t know, because in my earlier statements–I mean, I know that there’s that little snippet that you ran, but there were also statements made during the course of this debate in which I said there’s no doubt that additional U.S. troops could temporarily quell the violence. But unless we saw an underlying change in the politics of the country, unless Sunni, Shia, Kurd made different decisions, then we were going to have a civil war and we could not stop a civil war simply with more troops. Now, I, I…

MR. BROKAW: But couldn’t they make that political decision because troops were there to help them make it.

SEN. OBAMA: Well, the–well, the–look, there’s no doubt, and I’ve said this repeatedly, that our troops make a difference. If–you know, they do extraordinary work. The troops that I met, they were proud of their work, they had made enormous sacrifices, they had fought, they had helped to construct schools and, and rebuilt the countryside. But, for example, in Anbar Province, where we went to visit, the Sunni awakening took place before the surge started, and tribal leaders made a decision that, instead of fighting the Americans, we’re going to work with the Americans against al-Qaeda. That was a political decision that was made that has made a huge difference in this entire process.

So the, the point I want to make is this, Tom, I mean, you know, if we want to look at the question of judgment which is the one that John McCain raised, John McCain’s essential focus has been on the tactical issue of sending more troops, and he’s, he’s made his entire approach to foreign policy rest on that support of Bush’s decision to send more troops in. But we can have a whole range of arguments about past decisions–the decision to go into Iraq in the first place, and whether that was a good strategic decision, where we’ve spent a trillion dollars at least by the time this thing is over, lost thousands of lives in pursuit of goals John McCain supported that turned out to be false. We can make decisions about does it make sense for us to set a time frame for withdrawal to encourage the kind of political reconciliation that needs to take place to stabilize Iraq. We can talk about the distractions from hunting down al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan, where there is no doubt that we would be further along had we not engaged in some of these actions, and…

MR. BROKAW: But we have to talk about the reality of what’s going on in Iraq right now.

SEN. OBAMA: Well, but, but, but, let me…

MR. BROKAW: And the Anbar awakening, most people believe, was successful in large part because the American troops did come in and make it possible for them to have the kind of political reconciliation…

SEN. OBAMA: Tom, look–Tom, I’m, I’m–the fact that–the…

MR. BROKAW: Do you disagree with that?

SEN. OBAMA: As I said before, our troops made an enormous contribution, but to try to single out one factor in a very messy situation is just not accurate, and it doesn’t, it doesn’t take into account the larger strategic issues that have been at stake throughout this process. Look, we’ve got a finite amount of resources. We’ve got a finite number of troops. Our military is stretched extraordinarily because of trying to fight two wars at the same time. And so my job as the next commander in chief is going to be to make a decision what is the right war to fight, and, and how do we fight it? And I think that we should have been focused on Afghanistan from the start. We should have finished that job. We have not, but we now have the opportunity, moving forward, to begin a phased redeployment and to make sure that we’re finishing the job in Afghanistan.

And now we know why Obama went to Germany - to “get tough” - well, sorta.

MR. BROKAW: Now, you’ve just been meeting this week with French President Sarkozy and the German Chancellor Merkel. She is prepared to add another 1,000 German troops, but that’ll take their contingent up to only 4500. And both independent military analysts and certainly the Pentagon believes that the Germans are not doing their fair share of the fighting. They want to stay in the north; the hot zone is in the south.

SEN. OBAMA: Right.

MR. BROKAW: Did you bring that up with her?

SEN. OBAMA: I did. Look…

MR. BROKAW: And what was her response?

SEN. OBAMA: We’ve got NATO troops who are doing terrific. Some of them are in the direct line of fire. The British, they’re fighting.

MR. BROKAW: And the Canadians.

SEN. OBAMA: The French, they’re fighting. The Canadians, they’re fighting. The Dutch are, are fighting and, and involved in very difficult work. Countries like Germany are doing important functions in Afghanistan, and it’s not as if there’s not work to do in the north. But what is true is the rules of engagement that have been set up are ones that constrain them. I think that Chancellor Merkel is very serious about Afghanistan. I think she is doing as much as she can, given her politics in her country right now. Part of the reason that I wanted to give a speech in Berlin is to–and speak directly to the German people is to remind them of the historic alliance that has been formed post World War II that served as the cornerstone of our mutual security. And this is the first effort by NATO outside of the European theater. We can’t afford for it to fail. And, and my hope is, is that if the German people get a sense that this is–Afghanistan is very different than Iraq, that this is a war that we needed to fight. These people attacked a NATO member, killed 3,000 civilians, that they are plotting to kill more of us, and…

And about that residual force to be left in the region after the great pullout:

MR. BROKAW: And the troops that you take out of Iraq, those that don’t go to Afghanistan, will they stay in the region and protect Saudi oil fields and the idea that there could be another resurgence of the insurgency in Iraq? And where will they be deployed?

SEN. OBAMA: Well, these are issues, obviously, that you’d have to work through with the commanders. I have committed to making sure that we’ve got a residual force that can do a couple of things. We can provide logistical support, intelligence support. Training for Iraqi troops is still going to be critical. They are now at a point where they are taking the lead in actions, but they are not completely independent of us, and we’ve got to make sure that that oversight, overwatch role continues. And we’ve got to have a counterterrorism, a counterinsurgency strike force in the region. Where it’s most effectively deployed, I think, is a decision that would be made in consultation with the, with the generals. How large that force might be, I think, is also something that we would want to consult with folks on the ground about, as well as the Iraqi government. But…

What about that USAToday editorial asking about the surge?

MR. BROKAW: All right. Well, let me show you what the USA Today said in its editorial, and then we’ll move on to Afghanistan. This is what USA Today had to say about your position on the surge. “Why can’t Obama bring himself to acknowledge the surge worked better than he and other skeptics thought that it would?” That’s a conditioned response on their part. “What does that stubbornness say about the kind of president that he would be?”

SEN. OBAMA: Well, listen. I, I actually think that there’s no doubt that the violence has gone down more than any of us anticipated, including President Bush and John McCain. If you, if you would–if you had talked to them and, and said, “You know what? We’re going to bring down violence to the levels that we have,” I think–I, I, I suspect USA Today’s own editorial board wouldn’t have anticipated that. That’s not a, that’s not a hard thing to acknowledge, that the situations have improved more rapidly than we had anticipated. That doesn’t change the broader strategic questions that we’ve got to deal with.

So, if USAToday didn’t anticipate the reduction in violence, then Obama couldn’t anticipate it either.

But what did he say about his first trip to Afghanistan?

MR. BROKAW: Let’s talk about Afghanistan. That war, as you’ve emphasized a lot in the past week or so, that war’s been going on since shortly after 9/11. This was your first trip. You’re a member the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. I know schoolteachers and NGO volunteers

SEN. OBAMA: Right.

MR. BROKAW: …who go there on a regular basis. How is it possible that, as a candidate for president of the United States and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is making his first trip to what you call the central front in the war on terror?

SEN. OBAMA: Well, look, the, the fact is, is that I’ve been busy also working on issues like Iraq, on nuclear proliferation. There are a whole range of issues that we’ve got to deal with. But my assessment of Afghanistan has not been incorrect, it’s been correct.

Brokaw also asks about the housing / finance meltdown, $4 gasoline and race relations. Obama walks a thin line on the last one, saying that inequities today are due less to current racism than are simply legacies of racism past. Clearly he doesn’t want to imply his white supporters are otherwise racists (although we do know that whites who don’t support Obama are always racists. . . ), but he implies that it will take lots of money to fix these race-based problems.

The transcript is worth the read since Obama is unfiltered and without a teleprompter. If you’d like to see the interview, Realclearpolitics has it here.


At rightwingnuthouse, Rick Moran has a humorous and yet fair list of the “Top Ten Things that Creep Me Out About Obama.” Although lightly written and with some humor, the list will be familiar to NQ readers. It’s stuff we’ve been saying for some time. Here are a couple to get started:

10. It creeps me out that whenever Obama makes an appearance, the rain stops falling and the sun comes out. As a rationalist I am loathe to ascribe a direct cause and effect to this phenomenon except that it happens quite frequently and the rainbow created by the sun breaking through the clouds spells out “Yes We Can!”

Probably just a coincidence…

9. It creeps me out that there are about twice as many women at Obama rallies as there are men. Now I am not of the Melvin Udall School of anti-feminist thought (when asked how he writes women so well, Udall responds “I think of a man, and I take away reason and accountability”). But what is one to think when watching the reaction of females as Obama is speaking? I’m sorry, but it is hard to imagine a man covering their mouth, chest heaving, barely able to contain himself and then ooooohing and aaaaaahhing when the messiah says something particularly vapid and innocuous.

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