First to Negroponte, apologist for the administration's failed policies (but also a man without any discernible personality).
Shorter Lil' Russ: How can we expect meaningful elections with a growing insurgency and very little in the way of Iraqi security help (*Sen. Biden says only 4000 Iraqi security personnel on the ground)?
Shorter Negroponte: I don't subcribe to those theories.
Here's a snip:
MR. RUSSERT: The CIA and other intelligence agencies have done an analysis for our government leaders. This is how The Miami Herald reported its contents. "New U.S. intelligence assessments on Iraq paint a grim picture of the road ahead and conclude that there is little likelihood that President Bush's goals can be attained in the near future. Instead of stabilizing the country, national elections Jan. 30 are likely to be followed by more violence and could provoke a civil war between majority Shiite Muslims and minority Sunny Muslims, the CIA and other intelligence agencies predict."
What's your reaction?
AMB. NEGROPONTE: Well, first of all, I simply don't subscribe to that prediction. Secondly, I would say that most Iraqis, including Iraqis of all ethnicities and religious persuasions, want their country to move forward in a peaceful, democratic fashion. We're already seeing signs that the various groups and parties that are participating in the elections want to reach out in a hand--extend a hand of friendship to the other parties after the election. People talk a lot about participation and consensus, and I think even with respect to the Sunni areas, a lot of people are thinking about if, indeed, they are underrepresented in the national assembly, might there be other ways to involve them in the political process? There will be a three-person presidency. There will be a new Cabinet, and, of course, there will be the drafting of a constitution. So I think people here are looking at ways to include all elements of Iraqi society in these very, very important future political steps.
And here is another beauty:
MR. RUSSERT: Do you expect a newly elected Iraqi government would set a specific timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops?
AMB. NEGROPONTE: I don't know whether it would do that. The presence of United States forces and the multinational force is mandated by a Security Council resolution, which says that our forces will be here during--for the duration of the political process. But the nature and extent of our military presence is always something that we're open to discussing with Iraqi governmental authorities.
MR. RUSSERT: But if they set a specific timetable, would we honor it?
AMB. NEGROPONTE: Well, we are here at the invitation of the Iraqis, and we are here in complete respect for their sovereignty. But you are asking a hypothetical question, and I wouldn't want anything I say to be construed as predicting whether or not that might actually happen.
We're there at the Iraqi's invitation. Man that is a statement so profoundly absurd it defies comment.
On to Bill Thomas. First my disclaimer, this guy is nothing like Delay and some of the other nutjobs, at least in terms of how he talks about the issues. That said, is it too much to ask to have some balance in presenting the issue of social security privatization? And on his statement from earlier in the week about the issue being a "dead horse", Thomas showed real courage by blaming it on some young journalist taking him out of context rather than incur the further wrath of the Rove.
Shorter Lil' Russ: There's plenty of money until 2018 and really aren't in financial trouble until 2042. Is there really a crisis?
Shorter Thomas: Well there isn't a crisis but there is a problem and we should thank preznit Bush for leading on this issue and giving us the opportunity to have a discussion about this and other problems.
MR. RUSSERT: 2018, the surplus keeps growing until that date, and then we start using it down. But not until 2042 do we lose--we will not have the funds to pay 100 percent of all benefits, 37 years from now. Why worry about it?
REP. THOMAS: Well, one of the reasons is the funds that you talked about beginning to go downhill in 2018 began to be built up in 1983 when we increased the payroll tax far beyond what we needed to fund the system at that time. So we've been riding the up part of the roller coaster since 1983. We tip in 2018. And quickly we go down in terms of that fund and it does go below the zero mark in 2042. So in terms of these fundamental funds for society's well-being, 20 years is a relatively short period of time. We need to be concerned now. And I really want to compliment the president for getting the discussion of what we do with Social Security on the table.
As you well know, given your background, it had been the so-called third rail--touch it and you die--of politics for a long time. The president, by proposing a particular approach, putting more money in the money that's available, has led, I think, the society to a great service. We shouldn't be attacking his proposal even before it comes out. We should be complimenting him on discussing it. Now, let's look at solutions.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me ask you about a comment you made at the National Journal Forum and give you a chance to talk about it. "I look forward to those discussions [on Social Security reform] and not continual beating of what will soon be a dead horse of their proposal, and I look forward to that."
Many thought you were suggesting the president's proposal had become a dead horse.
REP. THOMAS: No. The phrase for that, as you well know, is dead on arrival. I didn't say it was dead on arrival. What I said was I hope we didn't have our friends on the other side of the aisle attacking the president's proposal once it's introduced, because once it's introduced, it becomes part of the legislative process. Suggest changes or suggest substitutions, but don't continue the arguments against the president's plan because it's now part of the legislative process. That would be beating a dead horse.
Some of these young journalists, I'm concerned. Had I said, Tim, "You're barking up the wrong tree," they may have accused me of being anti-environmentalist. So I've got to watch the old phrases that used to mean something when you say them. The point is we should deal with the legislative process and the president's proposal will then be part of the legislative process. Let's debate the legislative process, not the president's proposal.
Then the pundits roundatble, unremarkable in every way excet for this ludicrous exchange:
MR. RUSSERT: What's going to happen in Iraq a week from today?
MS. WRIGHT: Well, I suspect you will get over 60 percent turnout, which is about what we got in our presidential contest, and that will allow a lot of players to say, "Well, that's legitimate because you've got the majority of people." I suspect the Sunnis will turn out in very low numbers. A lot will be determined, of course, in the middle seven days--how much violence there is, if there are new tactics. The danger is that once they identify the polling stations, that in the last-minute drive, the extremists or the old regime loyalists try to attack those facilities. There are over 500 of them.
I think this election, though, is so complicated for the average Iraqi who's never voted. You're going into a polling booth and you face a ballot that has 111 options on it that you can vote for. And you also have to vote for a regional council, and you have to pick from 75 different parties, nine coalitions and 27 individuals and--most of whom are not campaigning, you're not sure of who their identify is except in the case of the individuals. It's a very--for a first test, I mean, I'm numbed and I'm very--if they don't get a lot of bad ballots, I'd be surprised as well.
MR. RUSSERT: Dangling chads?
MR. HAYES: I think most Iraqis, however, are going to say, "Give me complicated. I would much rather have 111 choices than one." I mean, Saddam Hussein in the most recent election, when he was in power, won something like 99.6 percent of the vote and there were pictures throughout the Western media of Iraqis voting with blood for Saddam Hussein to show their loyalty. Now, you have Iraqis who appear to be, in the face of all of these threats, willing to shed blood potentially to go and cast votes. You have Iraqi Americans here in the United States traveling 12 hours to register to vote and then being willing to travel another 12.
MR. RUSSERT: You see a big turnout?
MR. HAYES: I do see a big turnout.
Which prompts me to ask: what in the world do they know, sitting in their cushy offices in Washington, D.C.? Even the journalists stationed in Baghdad are under virtual house arrest and can't even do much real reporting. Nobody knows until the election is over and the victors set a timetable to allow us to declare the world safe and beat a hasty retreat.
All we are saying here at Rising-Hegemon is give balance a chance Lil' Russ. Fox news ain't so great.