Flopping on the deck
Obama Iraq shift focus of Sunday shows
Posted July 6, 2008 3:23 PM
by John Crewdson
The Swamp watches the Sunday talk shows, so you can watch Federer and Nadal battle at Wimbledon.
You didn't miss much. It's a holiday weekend, and Washington is dead. The congressmen and senators who usually populate the Sunday talk shows are back home in their districts and states, scarfing endless amounts of BBQ with the constituents whose votes they will be seeking in just four months.
That leaves the Sunday talks with only two kinds of guests to choose from: those like Senators John Kerry and Joe Lieberman, who would swim the Potomac for a chance to be on TV, and more obscure members, like Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, who almost never get the chance.
"Meet the Press" was bumped by Wimbledon. Ironically, of the remaining shows the most worth watching was CNN's "Late Edition With Wolf Blitzer," which celebrated its 10th anniversary with a retrospective containing some of the most famous, and infamous, declarations of the past decade.
Among these were Al Gore's assertion that he "took the initiative in creating the Internet" (he didn't); Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's worry that "we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud," and her assurance that aluminum tubes being shipped to Iraq were "only suited" for use in a nuclear weapons program (they weren't); former Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld's disclosure before the invasion that the Bush Administration had "solid evidence of the presence" of Al Qaeda operatives in Iraq (it didn't); and vice president Dick Cheney's assertion--only last year--that "the world is much safer today" without Saddam Hussein. "If he were still there today we'd have a terrible situation," Cheney said.
CBS's "Face the Nation," ABC's "This Week," and "Fox News Sunday" focused on the only issue worthy of the name: Barack Obama's announcement last week that he planned to visit Iraq, meet with American commanders there, and "continue to refine my position" on the timing of American troop withdrawals from that country, should he be elected president.
Obama's statement left many of his opponents jubilant and some of his supporters confused, since it seem to modify, if not contradict, his earlier pledge, if elected, to bring home one or two U.S. brigades each month, a schedule that would have virtually all American troops out of Iraq within 16 months. Observed Lindsey Graham on "Face the Nation," "He's in a box." John Kerry's retort, that the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, John McCain, "has changed in profound and fundamental ways," fell predictably flat.
Republicans and conservative-leaning commentators on Fox dusted off the "flip-flop" label they previously applied to what appeared, to some, to be changes in Obama's positions on gun control (after he affirmed his belief that the Second Amendment guaranteed Americans the right to own a firearm) and his decision not to accept public campaign financing (after saying he would), which will allow him to spend far more money on television advertising between now and November.
Among the talking heads who had not fled Washington for Martha's Vineyard, the Hamptons or Rehoboth, several observed that the McCain campaign, which has just undergone an internal shake-up, hadn't taken full advantage of the appearance of soft spots in Obama's previously indomitable public image.
More liberal observers interpreted Obama's flip-flopping as a probably well-advised move toward the center by a presumptive Democratic presidential nominee who will have to win a handful of smaller, conservative western states (hang on--another couple months and we can stop using that unwieldy term "presumptive").
Obama's move toward the middle, if that is what it is, perhaps makes sense for a candidate who is ahead by only six points in a new Fox poll, a less-than-comfortable lead in what is expected to be a huge year for the Democrats in Congress, and whose lead is smaller than that (four points) in Ohio and even closer (two points) in Michigan, both states Obama has to win.
As Ted Koppel put it on "This Week," "The kumbaya days are over."
The biggest problems we are facing right now have to do with George Bush trying to bring more and more power into the executive branch and not go through Congress at all and thatís what I intend to reverse.
~ Senator Barack H. Obama