CNN's Berman Hits Obama from Left on 'Endless War' Denial on Afghanistan

On Thursday, CNN's John Berman took aim at a claim by President Obama moments after he announced that thousands of American troops would remain in Afghanistan. Berman highlighted that the President "did make clear he is not a president who has ever supported endless war," but continued that "if Afghanistan, at this point, is not an endless war, I'm not sure what is." Liberal historian Douglas Brinkley seconded the anchor's take: "It kind of is an endless war." [video below]

Brinkley added that "he [Obama] would like to call it, I think, something more of a police action – a security force being left behind," and underlined that "the President can't checkmark this off as something that was fully achieved on his watch." Correspondent Jim Acosta then surprisingly admitted that "the President saying...I do not believe in endless war...is right out of the rhetoric of the progressive base of the Democratic Party." Acosta also tried to find the silver lining for liberals in Obama's announcement: "While this might sound like endless war...what you do hear from people inside the administration...is they will point to what happened after the Cold War."

Berman brought on Brinkley and Acosta during his At This Hour program for their take on the President's "major reversal" on Afghanistan, as the anchor put it. The journalist turned to the historian first, and pointed out that "the President was asked one question, after he made this announcement, from a reporter...are you disappointed that you have to make this announcement? The President claimed, no." He continued with his "endless war" citation and implied critique of the Democrat. Brinkley responded, in part, that Obama "had always said he wanted to get us out of the Afghanistan situation," and continued with his "it kind of is an endless war" contention.

The CNN anchor then brought in the factor of the 2016 presidential race. He noted to Acosta that "President Obama says there will be 5,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan when the next president takes office. But that new president will have to make a decision one way or the other what to do with them." The correspondent first sympathized with the President before continuing with his point about the "endless war" term from the "progressive base" of the Democratic Party: "If you're wondering why Barack Obama's hair has gone gray, just look at Afghanistan and Iraq. Events on the ground have not cooperated with plans for his legacy."

Acosta also emphasized that because Hillary Clinton is supposedly "more moderate; more like a hawk on these issues – remember, she supported the President going after Osama bin Laden – that she will likely support this decision by the President; and Bernie Sanders won't." He then added his "Cold War" about President Obama's announcement. Berman replied, "And in the glass half full category for this White House, they do feel that they do have leadership in Afghanistan for the first time in a long time that that they can work with."

The transcript of the relevant portion of the panel discussion segment from the October 15, 2015 edition of At This Hour With Berman and Bolduan on CNN:

JOHN BERMAN: I want to bring in CNN historian Douglas Brinkley for a little perspective here. And Doug, the President was asked one question, after he made this announcement, from a reporter – I couldn't tell who it was – effectively, the question was, are you disappointed that you have to make this announcement? The President claimed, no. However, he also did make clear he is not a president who has ever supported endless war. 'Endless war' – I mean, if Afghanistan, at this point, is not an endless war, I'm not sure what is.

DOUGLAS BRINKLEY: Well, the President began his address by saying, in a victorious way, that the combat mission in Afghanistan has been achieved. And then, he gave the big but – but we still need to leave 9,800 soldiers there. So, the President does not want to be known for – he had always said he wanted to get us out of the Afghanistan situation; but hence, as you're pointing out, it kind of is an endless war. He would like to call it, I think, something more of a police action – a security force being left behind. But when you have 9,800 troops – 10,000, ultimately – with al Qaeda; with the Taliban; and with ISIS surrounding you – it's still a very dangerous situation – Afghanistan. So, the President can't checkmark this off as something that was fully achieved on his watch.

BERMAN: And Jim Acosta, it will now be an issue that the next president has to take up. President Obama says there will be 5,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan when the next president takes office. But that new president will have to make a decision one way or the other what to do with them.

JIM ACOSTA: That's right. If you're wondering why Barack Obama's hair has gone gray, just look at Afghanistan and Iraq. Events on the ground have not cooperated with plans for his legacy. And you're right. When you talked about the President saying, just a few moments ago, I do not believe in endless war, that is right out of the rhetoric of the progressive base of the Democratic Party. And I think this issue of what to do about Afghanistan is now going to be thrown right into the mix.

We're going to have to find out to see what Hillary Clinton thinks about this decision that the President is making. My suspicion is, because she's more moderate – more – more like a hawk on these issues – remember, she supported the President going after Osama bin Laden – that she will likely support this decision by the President; and Bernie Sanders won't. My suspicion is that Bernie Sanders will not support this decision by the President.

At the same time, though, I think – you know, while this might sound like endless war, John – you know, what you do hear from people inside the administration – people who talk to the administration about these foreign policy decisions – is they will point to what happened after the Cold War. We still have military bases in Germany. We still have military bases in Japan, South Korea. That is the legacy of World War II and the Cold War. And it's possible that instead of just fully withdrawing from these places, like Iraq and Afghanistan; and as the war on terrorism drags on – and, perhaps, winds down over the next ten, twenty, thirty years – you're just going to have to have a U.S. presence in certain parts of the world to make sure that there's no backsliding.

BERMAN: And in the glass half full category for this White House, they do feel that they do have leadership in Afghanistan for the first time in a long time-

ACOSTA: That's right-

BERMAN: That that they can work with.

NB Daily Campaigns & Elections 2016 Presidential Foreign Policy Afghanistan Labeling Liberals & Democrats CNN Other CNN Video Jim Acosta John Berman Douglas Brinkley Barack Obama
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