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Sellers Does Well -- Too Bad FNL's Producers Don't

Reported by Nancy - August 25, 2005 -

Today (8/25) on FNL Bob Sellers anchored the last hour & turned in a much better performance in terms of interviewing skills than he did yesterday.

Two examples stood out:

At 12:12pm (EDT) Sellers interviewed Sen John Thune (R-SD) about the proposed closure of Ellsworth AFB in SD & today's Base Realignment & Closure (BRAC) hearings. Thune reiterated the talking points about why the base should stay open (e.g., "America needs Ellsworth", praising the B-1). Thune did admit, as Sellers had pointed out, that Ellsworth is SD's second-largest employer. Sellers didn't shy away from tough questions, asking whether Thune thinks it's a "good idea to consolidate" military bases in general, & what political repercussions closure might have for him personally, since he campaigned as a "friend" of the administration who could successfully prevent that closure.

At 12:21pm Sellers interviewed Leon Panetta (former chief of staff to Pres BClinton) about progress in Iraq. The initial focus was on concerns about the Constitution, but expanded to include the future of Iraq in general. Panetta pointed out that it "doesn't have to be a choice beween endless war & cut-&-run" & that the US public "need ... some kind of timetable" with regard to our responsibility towards Iraq. Sellers asked "What's the downside" of setting a timetable, pointing out that the US "can't leave too early." Panetta agreed that we "can't leave too early" but added that we shouldn't "set up a situation where you can't leave at all". Panetta suggested that the US should "put pressure on Iraqis" to do things for themselves (develop, stabilize) because that's how we've achieved some progress in the past (e.g., elections). Sellers brought up the scenario of different regions trying to become autonomous & asked "Do we need to play more of a role?" Panetta said that if we want a stable Iraq, "everybody has to be at the table", & the discussion went back to how the Sunnis feel they've been cut out of the political process with the proposed Constitution.

Comments: Kudos to Sellers, in both cases, for asking tough, intelligent questions & for not resorting to typical FNL techniques (injecting personal opinion, interrupting, talking over). Boo to FNL producers for giving a platform only to Thune -- there are plenty of other states going through the same agony with BRAC, but this is the first time I've seen it covered on FNL. It was actually a pleasure to watch both these interviews: each ran slightly longer than the usual FNL interview & each segment had only one guest (who therefore had time to finish his sentences). Wouldn't it be nice if FNL stopped doing the screaming-match smackdown interviews?

NOTE TO READERS: Please stay on topic (Sellers interview style/technique, FNL's choice of guests & formats for interviews). O/T comments will be deleted. Thanks.