Thumbs Down from Brokaw on Bush Address: Rhetoric Doesn't Match Reality

MSNBC brought back former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw for some post-Bush 9/11 commemoration speech analysis with Chris Matthews. Brokaw wasn't impressed: “I was surprised that there was not more poetry in it, a, and b, that he didn't take us to a different place in terms of where he wants to go next. This is the kind of speech that he could have given three years ago, not five years after 9/11. The American public now has been through a lot in five years, Chris, and with all due respect to the President, they'll be measuring his rhetoric versus the reality that they see almost every day in their newspapers and on television.” Forwarding a liberal world view, Brokaw proposed: “The policies versus the reality, I think is what a lot of people are going to be looking at. And whether or not we have to find other ways, than just militarily going in to deal with these issues, is the question on the minds of a lot of people."

He soon elaborated on the point: “The question is, do we advance the goals of trying to suffocate this Islamic rage, which is real, we are still under threat from a lot of jihadists around the world, by fighting the war the way we are in Iraq and doing what we have been doing in Afghanistan, or is there another way worth examining?” (Transcript follows)

Brokaw delivered similar sentiments on Monday's Today, as recounted in a NewsBusters item by Tim Graham: “Matt Lauer, Tom Brokaw, and Tim Russert Feel the Gloom on 9/11"

The first half of the Matthews/Brokaw exchange on MSNBC, as the two sat with Ground Zero in the background, just after President Bush finished his 9pm EDT national address on the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 anniversary:
Chris Matthews: “What did you hear in that speech tonight?”

Tom Brokaw: “I was surprised that there was not more poetry in it, a, and b, that he didn't take us to a different place in terms of where he wants to go next. This is the kind of speech that he could have given three years ago, not five years after 9/11. The American public now has been through a lot in five years, Chris, and with all due respect to the President, they'll be measuring his rhetoric versus the reality that they see almost every day in their newspapers and on television. When he talks about all the people who have voted in Iraq, for example, he's absolutely correct on that, but that's touched off this terribly violent struggle over there for power between the Shiite and the Sunni. In Afghanistan, where they've had elections, as well, and I've spent a lot of time in that country, if you get just outside of Kabul, you'll find that women are living a very traditional Islamic life. They're not able to go to a clinic where there are male doctors, for example. That has not changed. It doesn't mean that this is not a noble effort. But, in fact, the policies versus the reality, I think is what a lot of people are going to be looking at. And whether or not we have to find other ways, than just militarily going in to deal with these issues, is the question on the minds of a lot of people.”

Matthews: “You've spent a lot of your life and career involved in the dialogue between the media and political power. It seems to me if you watched the last couple of weeks there's been a dialogue back and forth, almost a deposition, between the media -- especially the White House press corps -- and this President. Getting him to the point where he admitted there was no connection between what happened here and the war in Iraq, the Vice President, because of Tim Russert this weekend, agreeing to that, even though he had been the hardest man to convince on that point. And now here is the President, in a formal speech saying even though there's no confection directly between 9/11. It seems that is how democracy works, a dialectic, an argument back and forth, where one side finally says I don't have the evidence to keep making my case, therefore I'm going to ask you to accept my leadership, that it is a threat to our country even if they weren't involved with 9/11.”

Brokaw: “People have been saying all day long, is this a political speech, are these political appearances? But of course they are. We live in a political system. This is how we work all that out. When he said tonight, for example, that Saddam Hussein was a clear threat to this country, if you watched Tim Russert yesterday, he had the Vice President on saying that, in fact, there was no connection between Saddam Hussein and Iraq. And we had Saddam in a box, which a lot of people believed at that time. The question is, do we advance the goals of trying to suffocate this Islamic rage, which is real, we are still under threat from a lot of jihadists around the world, by fighting the war the way we are in Iraq and doing what we have been doing in Afghanistan, or is there another way worth examining? It's not just a choice between cutting and running, as the administration likes to put it, and what a lot of Democrats would like to do, which is to just get out of there. There are other positions there, as well. This is a very complex war in which we're involved and it requires, it seems to me, more complex analysis than we're able to get in the current political debate.”

Iraq War on Terrorism MSNBC
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