In the fourth half-hour of NBC’s Today on September 11, co-host Matt Lauer chatted with Washington Bureau Chief Tim Russert and former anchorman Tom Brokaw about what's happened to America in the last five years. It wasn't pretty. Lauer cited lost civil liberties, Russert lamented we're "pretty much alone" in Iraq, and Brokaw found both parties weren't enthusiastic enough about demanding more "sacrifice" -- as in tax increases.
MRC's Geoff Dickens found that around 8:35 AM Eastern time, Brokaw suggested that while it was politically dangerous to sound the usual partisan notes on this anniversary, "Nonetheless the country is fully engaged in a very robust debate, as they say these days, about the wisdom of the policies." Lauer grew specific: "And some of the changes and some of the controversial subjects we've talked about in the last several years here. The loss of some personal liberties as a result of this war on terrorism and yet when you poll people and you ask them are they willing to give up those personal freedoms and feel safer a majority of people say yes."
Brokaw responded: "Yeah, and if you go through airports and I go through a lot of them I'm always struck by the orderliness of it all and the lack of rancor. I mean here in New York City people will honk if you don't move out very quickly and give you a bad time but people do understand and they're giving up Chapsticks and shampoo and other things saying that this is something we may have to do. The real question, is of course, are we safer as a result of all that or are we fighting the last war?"
From there, the NBC panel predictably walked down the usual path of squandered global will, around 8:53:
Lauer: As we look at the outpouring of emotion and we look back five years and remember the outpouring of patriotism in this country and, and not only in this country but also the way the people around the world held Americans and this country in their hearts and in their thoughts, where do we stand today?"
Brokaw: "I think we're more isolated than ever. I think all the international polls show that and the fact of the matter is that the United States stands more alone than it ever has in this campaign because of the manner in which it has been conducted. Now it doesn't mean that, that the other countries are right and we're entirely wrong. I think, in fact, a lot of the central European countries have their own problems with terrorists, probably not being as candid about it as they need to be. You know one of the remarkable events of five years ago was that one of the largest demonstrations in the Middle East in solidarity with the United States took place in Tehran. The Iranians went into the streets because culturally they've always had an enormous affection for this country. We have a huge diaspora in this country of Iranians who came here. There's been a lot of traffic back and forth, the Persian culture is very proud. And now we are at swords points, so to speak."
Lauer: "And the day after 9/11, September 12th, 2001 the headline in Le Monde, the French newspaper, the French daily was, 'We're all Americans.'"
Lauer: "And you look at what these five years have done and the strain its placed on the relationship between the United States and France. Tim Russert is standing by in Washington. And, and Tim this strain and this isolation that, that Tom just talked about. How has that affected our ability to carry out foreign policy in these last couple of years and how will it affect our ability to deal with, with threats that are still looming on the horizon?"
Russert: "Well it makes it complicated, Matt. There's no doubt about it. As we see being played out in the war in Iraq where we are pretty much alone as opposed to Afghanistan where NATO now has picked up much of the initiative. I think the big issue confronting us and the world will be Iran. Whether or not they will get a nuclear weapon and there we are going to need alliances, need the support of our European allies and our Asian allies if it comes to imposing sanctions against a country like Iran. There is no doubt this is a day, a reflection on all this and more. As you try to reel back what happened five years ago I don't think the English language has yet found the words to express the shock and grief and anguish that we felt on that day and feel rising up again today."
Lauer: "For you Tim and you Tom, as well, this war on terrorism that we've talked about, usually wars involve sacrifices. And when it comes to what changes we faced over these last five years and we've talked about some of the more superficial ones. You know you can't bring liquids on an airplane right now but have we really sacrificed as, as a country and as citizens or are these more inconveniences in your opinion?"
Brokaw: "Well I think that there have been some sacrifices in terms of gasoline prices and certainly there have been enormous sacrifices on the part of the families who sent young ones off to the war in Iraq. But even on that we're divided because we now have an all-volunteer military, uniformed military services and families that don't have someone going there feel removed from the consequences of all that. I've talked to the President about this, I know that you raised it with him as well. He's often summoned up FDR and World War II but at that time this country was joined in so many ways by the day to day, not just inconveniences but sacrifices they made about gasoline rationing, about food that was available and a reminder constantly that we are at war because every family was involved."
Brokaw continued: "A lot of people have talked about a patriot tax on energy, for example, might be a way of reminding people of what we need to do. There's a great concern in the administration, as Tim knows as well, that, that will unhinge the economy. But I, I do think from a political point of view that there has been a failure on the part of the political leadership in the administration to bring the country together on these issues. For that matter I don't think the Democrats have done a very good job either. I think that in recent months, especially they've been mostly on the attack and not talking about the kinds of sacrifices and solutions that are gonna be required however we get this worked out."
That's fairly amusing, since Brokaw in one report is lamenting how Montana "worries a lot" about high gas prices, and then in another segment, suggests an energy tax to drive up the gas price even higher.