John King was back in Washington D.C. for this morning's State of the Union.
The program started with an interview with the US Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice. King asked her about the "show trial" of over 100 dissenters in Iran as well as the three American hikers who are being held in Iran (and other US citizens being held there). The Ambassador spoke of wanting to talk to Iran about stopping their nuclear program. When asked about whether the release of the two journalists from North Korea was "negotiating with terrorist", she denied that this was an official visit but reinforced that the trip was a "private humanitarian mission".
In the second part of the interview, King asked Amb. Rice about what the Obama administration is doing differently. In the list of ways that this administration was different, the Ambassador mentioned the approach taken in Afghanistan. King must have been waiting for this, for it prompted him to head to the magic wall and bring up a graphic of the troop levels currently in Afghanistan. And he asked why there weren't more allied troops helping. Rice contended that the involvement of other nations had increased with not only with troops as well as assistance in training security forces in Afghanistan. The administration's goal is to dismantle, disrupt, and defeat al Qaeda.
King's next guests were Sens. Dick Durbin (D) and John Cornyn (R) to discuss unemployment and health care reform. Cornyn wouldn't automatically oppose extended unemployment benefits if it was necessary. Durbin spoke about the negotiations that are still underway to try to get a bipartisan bill for health care. Durbin supports a public option for health care, but is open to other options if it will get the bill passed. Next was a discussion about the controversy over the town hall meetings on health care . King posed the question: "This country was founded on a whole series of events, including the Boston Tea Party in my home town, where people were organized and instructed and they were instructed to go somewhere and raise hell. Is there anything wrong with that? " Durbin: yes, when it is done just to disrupt the meeting.
The next discussion was with two pollsters: Republican pollster Bill McInturff and Democratic pollster Peter Hart. King started off at the magic wall comparing polls taken at the six month mark between President Obama and President Bush. The poll asked whether the President had been successful so far: Obama 51%; Bush 56%. He also looked at the conditions each President had faced from Carter to Obama. The discussion wrapped up with the following:
KING: Where are the American people, right now, in their new president, again, just shy of seven months?
Do they view him as a competent leader, not a politician who can win a campaign but someone to govern the economy?
HART: I think two things. One, I think they see him as competent. I think, on all the, sort of, skill sets, they see him as very good. I think the one thing that they don't know is how strong and how steely is his backbone?
And I think that will be measured in the future. If they perceive him to be strong and tough, they'll stay with him.
MCINTURFF: I think the president's been given a long rope. They want him to succeed. But to your question, we have two very important races coming up, New Jersey and Virginia governor's races. There's lots of polling that independent swing voters and others that had moved to vote for Obama are shifting back to vote for Republican candidates in those races.
I don't always take these races seriously as a harbinger of what's to come. I do this year. I think that what we seem, in terms of the vote pattern, in terms of turnout, and what we see in terms of those votes could be an early warning shot.
And I would say, by the way, if the Democrats lose both races, the Democrats in Congress are going to be taking a long, long look before they jump on some of these additional votes that they're going to be asked to make by the Obama administration.
This week's American Dispatch was from Eugene, Oregon. He talked to a homeless, unemployed, single mother.
The second hour of the program was with Howard Kurtz and Reliable Sources. The first topic was outrage at recent town hall meetings. The panel included Mark Halperin, Ana Marie Cox, and S.E. Cupp. Mark Halperin hit the nail on the head right off the bat:
HALPERIN: Yes, it distorts it and it's also bad for America. I'm embarrassed about what's going on as an American. I'm not an advocate for any position on the president's proposals, but I think this is, Howie, something you have written about and seen for years, the lowest common denominator, people taking video that is meaningless.
Yes, there should be discussion. Dissent is fine. I don't care why the protesters are showing up, but this is a horrible breakdown of our political culture and our media culture to allow people who are going in with the intent to disrupt to become the story. The biggest issue in the health care debate, things like, should there be a public plan, completely ignored by all media and crowded out the discussion by stunts and gimmicks, and the White House has exacerbated it by attacking back on the same style.
Next, the panel discussed whether Obama has put himself in the media spotlight too much.
Kurtz interviewed Linda Douglas, Communications Director for the White House Office of Health Reform, about the administration's efforts to battle misinformation about their health care policies. The White House is going to setup a website that will specifically address this problem. Douglas was a former journalist (30 years in the profession after working for both ABC and CBS). She dodged Kurtz' question about having once been on his side of the table and now working as a "sales person" for the Obama health care reforms.
Kurtz then took a look at the coverage of journalists Laura Ling and Enu Lee return from North Korea and how the Clinton's became the central focus of the story with a panel including: Terence Smith, Kimberly Dozier, and Julie Mason. The panel discussed the overall coverage of the detainment of these journalists and why this wasn't a front burner story.
Next, Kurtz got Will Leitch's reaction to some NFL teams and ESPN restricting the use of Twitter and Facebook.
Kurtz' final segment was on the MSNBC vs FOX battle of words that continues.
The pundit hour of State of the Union started off with John King reviewing the Sounds of Sunday.
The first panel this week included Donna Brazile and Ed Gillespie. they debated the health care legislation including whether a public option should be part of the package. Brazile came prepared with multiple charts and talking points. As the conversation turned to the economy, King pointed out that Brazile was quoted in the Washington Post this morning in a column about what the President should focus on while Congress is on vacation.
The second part of the panel discussion focused on the international issues including the comments from General Jim Jones on the war in Afghanistan and President Clinton's trip to North Korea.
The CNN Diner segment came from Brails Restaurant in Eugene, Oregon (home of Euguene's best hangover breakfast). Matthew Jordan, Sang Joo "Joy" Knudtson, and Michael Moffitt joined King for breakfast.
Next on the program was the journalist panel: Ed Henry, Jessica Yellin, and Dan Balz. (Balz has a new book out: The Extraordinary Election of 2008: The Battle for America 2008 that he co-authored with Haynes Johnson. King gave the book a thumbs up as a good "beach read.") The panel discussed Sen. Durbin's comments on health care reform and a public option. They also discussed the town hall meeting that have been getting a lot of attention because of the outbursts that have been occurring at them. Balz summed it up well: "failure is not option" this time around as it comes to health care. The Democrats couldn't get this done the last time that tried- they may be determined to pass something.
When they came back from the commercial break, the panel discussed how the President has been reacting to criticism (something that he wasn't very good at prior to the campaign). The next topic was Afghanistan and the possibility of needing to send additional troops which is not what many Democrats want to see nor do the left wing of the party.
One more commercial break and then the lightening round: Sarah Palin vs Howard Dean and who to watch over the next week.
That wrapped up the third hour of the program and thus started the repeat of the 9AM hour as well as the Brazile/ Gillespie panel discussion. 43 minutes later...
Live programming returned with John King talking to Senator Arlen Specter in the Last Word segment. Specter was at one of those town hall meetings where things got heated. Specter supports (and wants) the public option for health care, but is willing to listen to Republican proposals. The Senator helped to kill the Clinton health care reform plan. King asked the Senator to respond to criticisms that Rep. Sestak made on a previous State of the Union program. The Senator cast a few stones at Rep. Sestak in response. King asked the Senator two questions about recent polls that were done about his re-electablity and the Senator had an issue with both polls. The Senator will campaign in all 67 counties in Pennsylvania and let the voters decide.
There was no behind the scenes staff briefing this week, but I did catch this image during the pollsters segment.
Here is your listing of this week's podcasts:
And there's a new way to follow CNN's State of the Union: Black Planet. From the look of the page, this was something that was only added this week (they only have one friend at the moment).
And a few side notes:
First, an article I noticed on CNN.com: First daughters balance privilege and pressure. The article by Kristi Keck takes a look at the life long impact of accidentally finding yourself growing up in the White House.
If you're looking for Ali Velshi this week, he's taking the bus- the CNN Express bus to the Iowa State Fair:
- 8/10: Chatanooga
- 8/11: Franklin,TN, Paducah,KY
- 8/12: Mt. Vernon,IL, Fulton,MO
- 8/13: Sedalia & Cameron,MO
- 8/14: Des Moines
Tom Foreman's latest column in Metro this week was titled A snake in the grassroots:
One of the great joys of being an American (aside from ridiculing the French, of course) is sharing in certain enduring myths: Bigfoot, the cultural value of ice shows and the grassroots political movement.
That last one has never been more popular. The more our politicians research, poll and prepackage their positions, selling them to voters like so many burgers in a fast-food joint, the more fervently they deny any such marketing. The audiences they face are increasingly handpicked, the posters the crowd waves come from the print shop, and the letters from citizens to their opposing colleagues are cranked out of the laser printer by the thousands. Yet our fearless leaders insist every scrap of support for their position is nothing but a great, natural uprising of common voters. They call it grassroots, but when the opposition does the same thing, that’s sod.
The entire article can be found on Metro's website.