Bill Maher Can’t Get NYT Baghdad Correspondent to Bash Bush

As the new season of HBO's "Real Time" began Friday night, I watched with great trepidation, especially given host Bill Maher's disgraceful special on that network back in July wherein he spent virtually two-thirds of the program bashing President Bush and anyone with an "R" next to his/her name.

With that in mind, my stomach started turning during his opening monologue as he made joke after joke about our president. I was put in further unease as he introduced his first guest, New York Times correspondent Damien Cave, currently in Baghdad, who seemed likely invited on to speak the liberal party line about how the surge is failing, and how things are much worse in Iraq than the Administration wants to admit.

Miraculously, my concerns were all for naught, for Cave, much like the Times' Baghdad bureau chief John Burns, sees good things happening in Iraq, which appeared to catch Maher off guard. For instance, when Maher asked, "What is the morale of our troops, because I know President Bush always says that the troops are steadfastly all behind him - uh, I have my doubts. What is your view?"

Cave's response was clearly not what Maher was expecting (video available here courtesy of our friend Ms. Underestimated):

You know, it's actually kind of a mixed deal. I mean I talked to a commander the other day who said that the political debate at home is bizarro-land and something that he doesn't connect with at all. He's just here to do his mission. And I think that's probably the view of most soldiers in Iraq. They're just here to do their job and they don't think too much beyond that. Morale, I would say, is probably surprisingly high in some units. And then in other units, there is the sense of ‘well, gosh, is this really working?' ‘why am I here for the third time?' But, I have to say that's probably rare. Most of the units that I spent time with, again are just focused on trying to do the job in front of them. It's about clearing the neighborhood that they're in, or trying to get the guys that they know are there. But you don't hear a whole lot of the chatter that you might hear in Washington when you're out with the soldiers.

This didn't make Maher happy. So like a typical liberal, he moved the argument in the direction of whether or not our enemy was happy:

But what about the morale of the insurgents? Is there any doubt among these people that we are not going to outlast them? I mean we do have debates on how long the surge will last. It seems to be a debate about a matter of months, sometimes a matter of years. Come on...these guys are gonna wait us out for as long as it takes. Isn't that the bottom line in Iraq?

Amazing. Just another liberal who can't possibly believe that America indeed can win this crucial battle in the war on terrorism regardless of what's being said to him by someone there.

However, Maher's position became even more disgusting when he posed the following to Cave:

If Saddam Hussein were alive and running for president right now, and he used the old Reagan line, "Are you better off now than you were four years ago," do you think that would attract voters?"

Extraordinary. Yet, to fully comprehend the nature of this disgraceful question, the reader has to watch the video to see the sickeningly smug look on Maher's face after he posed it. Fortunately, Cave didn't see it Maher's way:

Well, I mean, I have to say that there's a lot of people who do believe that their lives were better under Saddam Hussein. But to think that they would want Saddam Hussein back is I would say probably incorrect. I mean, what they're trying to say when they say that is that "We don't want to be part of an occupation. At least he was one of us, and at least then we knew what the rules were." I mean, in this situation, walking down the street could get you killed for reasons that have nothing to do with anything but your name. Under Saddam Hussein it was a little more organized, and for a lot of people, that's what they'd like to return to. But the idea that Iraqis want a dictatorship is, you know, is something that's, I, I just find hard to believe.

Not for people like Maher, of course, who has stuck to this absurd view for years that Iraqis were actually better off with a murderous dictator than the possibility of democracy. Sadly, Maher wasn't finished trying to get Cave to bash the Administration:

Do we have a moral obligation, you think, to this country that we're not living up to now that we've pretty much wrecked it?

Almost as if Maher wasn't listening to anything this man said, wouldn't you agree? Cave responded:

Well, it's funny, one of the things that comes up a lot here among commanders and among the press corps is the way that the debate at home seems to be mainly focused on the impact on Washington or among constituents. You know, it's hard to see that there is deep, there is some real deep thinking going on about what the moral responsibility is to Iraqis. I think Americans forget often that, as I said, most Iraqis are victims of violence and not perpetrators. And, we, you know, I think the country needs to figure out a way to decide what role we need to play or what the responsibility is. You know, for the Iraqi woman who has three kids and has fled her house, or the college students who I talked to a few months ago who were forced out of their country because they might get killed because they have a degree. You know, what America owes these people is something that at some point public officials and the public at large need to decide and need to think about beyond just the political debates at home.

Exactly right, and something that is missed on folks like Maher.

The reality is that to Maher and his ilk, Iraq is exclusively a political issue at home to be solely used to bash Bush and Republicans. As such, they ignore the millions of Iraqi lives at stake, as well as what happens to the war on terror if America loses this battle.

Sadly for them, this is only about poll numbers and the next election, and this is why folks like Maher and most of the media can't bear the thought of the surge working, and America turning what looked to be a huge loss in this region into an historic victory.

Alas, you have to wonder what kind of a person puts vindication and political opportunism ahead of America and Iraq's future.

*****Update: Glenn Reynolds isn't surprised by Cave's fair and honest assessment.

*****Update 2: Allah weighs in --

Given all the Times-bashing the righty blogosphere does, it’s worth acknowledging that their Iraq team plays it pretty straight: Cave, John Burns, Michael Gordon (whom the left loathes for his military “stenography”), Ed Wong, etc. It’d have been easy for Cave to seize this as an opportunity to make himself a media property by telling Maher what he wanted to hear. Kudos to him for resisting.

*****Update 3: Glenn Reynolds has more coverage concerning how the surge is working.

Iraq War on Terrorism New York Times HBO Real Time Damien Cave
Noel Sheppard's picture

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