Sunday, August 28, 2011

A few moments of actual news analysis from Mark Shields and David Brooks

The PBS Newshour for 08/26/2011 had the A Team - such as it is - on hand for the weekly Political Wrap segment, Sleepy Mark Shields and David "Bobo" Brooks: Shields and Brooks on GOP's Zeitgeist, Whether Obama Gets Credit for Libya. The non-dynamic duo actually had some notable things to say about the Libya War in the first couple of minutes.

Seemingly cutting-edge reporting is not something we usually associate with Bobo. And I don't want to give him too much credit. But my eyebrows did pop up when I heard Bobo say this:

JIM LEHRER: David, does President Obama deserve any praise or credit for what happened in Libya?

DAVID BROOKS: I think he does, and a lot more than he's getting, actually.

You have to remember, when the -- Gadhafi was marching on the rebels and threatening to massacre them, a lot of people in this country wanted to do nothing. A lot of people in Europe who were more upset about it just wanted to have sort of a no-fly zone.

And Obama has pushed them more aggressively than they wanted to go, so it wasn't just a no-fly zone. Were -- we actually ended up helping the rebels. We ended up helping the goal of regime change. And people have criticized whether it is was slow enough or fast enough, whether it was more aggressive or not.

But I think, more than anybody outside the country, I think Obama does deserve a lot of credit for showing that you can do an intervention reasonably well, achieve at least the first step of your objective, and do some large good for that country and potentially the region. [my emphasis]
What Bobo says here is that not only did NATO go beyond the no-fly zone which was the only military action in Libya authorized by the UN Security Council, but it was President Obama who pushed the NATO allies to do that.

Bobo doesn't mention that little business about Congress not authorizing the President to go to war. But I know that's so, like, 1940s to even mention. Still, it bothers some of us who like parts of Article 1 of the Constitution.

And Sleepy Mark, who I also don't want to give too much credit, is actually often decent on military issues. And he managed to mention something about the scope of the NATO intervention:

JIM LEHRER: Yes. Why? Why is he not getting any credit?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, I think because, when the economy is bad, the economy is the only issue. I really do. I think American opinion or interest in Libya has been episodic at best.

There was a lot at the beginning. But the people who most strenuously supported intervention now refuse to -- mostly Republicans -- refuse to give the president, the prime intervener, any credit. And most of the people who opposed the intervention were Democrats.

So they're reluctant to -- seem to be reluctant to crow, although they do acknowledge the president's role. And it is a case of NATO working. The stalemate that was -- loomed is over. A despot has been removed -- 17,000 sorties were flown. You know, it's a...

JIM LEHRER: Seventeen thousand sorties, that's a lot of hardware.

MARK SHIELDS: Seventeen thousand. That's a lot. It sure is. It sure is. [my emphasis]
A sortie in this context is an aircraft combat flight. Sleepy Mark didn't get into the reports suggesting that US Special Forces and/or CIA were operating on the ground in Libya. Also without Congressional authorization. But then, that's not so unusual these days, as Nick Turse explains in A Secret War in 120 Countries: The Pentagon's New Power Elite TomDispatch 08/03/2011. Personally, if I heard about a foreign military running its own hostile operations in the United States, it would irritate me. I would probably think of it as an act of war. Something that might make a lot of Americans resent the foreign country running hostile military operations on our soil. I guess that's another way I'm just sort of old-fashioned. But I digress.

The rest of the segment is pretty much standard, mostly pointless political chatter about the Presidential race. With Bobo, as he often does, rehashing the content of his latest New York Times column. In this case, President Rick Perry? 08/25/2011, in which Bobo warns that Perry is another warmongering Texan backed by demon-fighting Pentecostalist fanatics explains that Perry is a Good Ole Boy with a charmingly distinctive style.

Still, you have to give the Political Wrap Twins credit for jarring their viewers' brains for a few seconds.

This video extra, though, shows that such moments of lucidity are likely as not entirely accidental. Sleepy Mark and Bobo give a brief repeat of their Political Wrap segment, then chatter about sports for a few minutes.

They have to still fake being serious analysts for the PBS audience, an especially hard pull for Bobo. But they see their business as infotainment.

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