Last night on his PBS talk show, Tavis Smiley sat down for a cozy conversation with Jeremy Scahill, national security correspondent for left-wing magazine The Nation. Scahill was critical of the Obama administration, as well as the journalists who fail to hold him accountable, throughout much of the interview. However, he did let his mask of objectivity slip at a few points, revealing the liberal face underneath.
Scahill was outraged over the administration’s secrecy surrounding its national security operations, particularly drone strikes. Smiley asked him why the administration has not been more forthcoming about its use of drones, and Scahill partially blamed congressional Republicans:
"Part of it is that I think it’s – the Republicans are engaged in such dingbattery with the way that they attack the president that we don’t actually have any legitimate opposition in Congress that’s calling the White House to account on these issues, whether it’s secrecy or the killing of American citizens in drone operations."
So this liberal journalist doesn’t believe Republican opposition to drone strikes qualifies as “legitimate.” He considers Republicans to be nitwits, kooks, dipsticks, etc. who don’t have the credibility to call out the president for his drone usage. It’s a shame, because Scahill and many Republicans share the same concerns about this particular form of unchecked government power. But this type of cheap shot is sadly to be expected from someone who writes for The Nation.
One Senate Republican who shares Scahill’s concerns about drones is Rand Paul. Although he admitted he was glad that Sen. Paul filibustered John Brennan’s CIA nomination over the drone issue, Scahill complained that Paul’s filibuster "diminished the seriousness of the issue," explaining that, "quite frankly, I think Rand Paul has utterly reprehensible views on so many things. I mean, we could spend hours talking about some of the despicable positions of Rand Paul and other people within the Tea Party."
Scahill then fantasized about "a credible Democratic senator, someone like Dick Durbin out of Illinois" having the courage to put his foot down and hold hearings on the drone issue. I guess Scahill is so obstinately liberal that he will only accept an investigation into drone strikes if it comes from someone who shares his world view. It’s not enough that Sen. Paul shares Scahill’s opinion on drones; only a liberal Democrat is "credible" enough to seriously tackle the issue. For his part, of course, Smiley failed to call Scahill on his hyper-partisan views.
The liberal journalist was not done griping about Republicans and their lack of credibility. After blasting Democrats for giving Obama a free pass on drones, Scahill groaned:
"And then the Republicans are engaged in bizarre conspiracy theories about President Obama. First, we went through the birth certificate stuff; now it’s the Benghazi stuff, and it’s like, there’s no one that’s actually serious that’s taking on these issues."
Scahill just showed his true colors by characterizing Benghazi as a “bizarre conspiracy theory.” The drama over Obama’s birth certificate does indeed belong in the realm of conspiracy theories, and it was never seriously entertained by the vast majority of conservatives, but the Benghazi coverup is a different matter. You would think that, because Scahill is so bullish on holding the president accountable for his use of drones, he would also realize the importance of getting to the bottom of the Benghazi fiasco.
But alas, Jeremy Scahill is the exact type of pundit PBS loves to bring on its public affairs shows. Tavis Smiley, in particular, gravitates to people like him. Can you imagine Smiley inviting a conservative journalist from National Review or the Weekly Standard to discuss drones or Benghazi? Can you imagine Smiley being perfectly silent should such a conservative journalist rail against a Democratic senator like Scahill did against Paul?
The publicly-funded network prides itself on offering calm and respectful debates. But it seems the way they produce such discussions is to book guests whose views line up squarely with those of the liberal hosts.
Below is a partial transcript of the interview:
JEREMY SCAHILL: I also think that President Obama and his advisers are very concerned that if there is some kind of a terrorist attack against the United States that the Republicans would eat them alive and say that he’s – “he’s weak on national security, we’ve known it the whole time.” So I think part of it is operating based on a fear of another attack, and part of it is that I think it’s – the Republicans are engaged in such dingbattery with the way that they attack the president that we don’t actually have any legitimate opposition in Congress that’s calling the White House to account on these issues, whether it’s secrecy or the killing of American citizens in drone operations.
SCAHILL: I think on Capitol Hill, the same reality sort of set in where you had people that were asking tough questions during the Bush era about these same policies that just shut up the second that Obama was sworn in. And to me, the fact that we’re only starting to have any kind of congressional hearings on the use of drones five years into Obama’s presidency speaks volumes about how incompetent and lazy folks are on Capitol Hill when it comes to issues that actually matter. They give the president a free pass on all of these issues – I’m talking about the Democrats. And then the Republicans are engaged in bizarre conspiracy theories about President Obama. First, we went through the birth certificate stuff; now it’s the Benghazi stuff, and it’s like, there’s no one that’s actually serious that’s taking on these issues.
SCAHILL: I think it was a two-way – a sort of two-edged sword. On the one hand, I’m glad that Rand Paul did that. And he tried to hold up the nomination of Brennan on these very serious issues. On the other hand, I think it diminished the seriousness of the issue. Because quite frankly, I think Rand Paul has utterly reprehensible views on so many things. I mean, we could spend hours talking about some of the despicable positions of Rand Paul and other people within the Tea Party. On this issue, I do think that he was being sincere in wanting to raise issues about it, but then he flips his position on it a couple weeks later and talks about drone bombing someone who robbed a liquor store. So, I mean, that’s unfortunate. If someone like – you know, if we had a credible Democratic senator, someone like Dick Durbin out of Illinois, who said, you know what? I’m a major supporter of this president, but this has gone too far, and I want to hold serious hearings on this to see, is our national security being degraded by our pursuit of a small group of terrorists and our killing of a larger group of civilians – what are the actual national security implications of that?