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John Gibson sides with Republican in 1:1 debate, making it 2:1 defending Bush speech

Reported by Chrish - September 12, 2006 -

What could have been a "fair and balanced" argument on The Big Story today 9/12/06 was skewed to the right by the supposedly impartial host's obvious agreement with Republican strategist Karen Hanretty. Democratic strategist and former Howard Dean campaign manager Joe Trippi held his own, repeating his point that Bush's use of his speech last night to put forth political talking points was "inappropriate."

Trippi was immediately put on the defensive by Gibson, who asked why shouldn't Bush say that (he believes) the war in Iraq is intimately connected with the war on terror? Trippi answered simply that he thought it was the wrong time; Bush was using the occassion, when Americans of all opinions were watching, to try to win some back to his way of looking at it. Trippi pointed out that the majority of Americans now think that invading Iraq was a "mistake."

Gibson misinterpreted what Trippi had just said, saying his point was if most people thought Iraq was a mistake, should he just shut up about it? Hanretty laughed at the absurd argument (that Trippi did NOT make), and proceded to recite Bush's talking points verbatim.

Trippi responded that it was a "one-two punch", with Cheney's comments Sunday essentially saying that anyone who disagrees with Bush is helping the enemy, and Bush following up the next day (September 11th) and trying to change the way the country is looking at his mistake in Iraq.

Gibson tried again to put Trippi on the defensive, saying that with the majority in opposition to Bush on Iraq ("when he's under attack"), doesn't he have the right to make his case, and defend himself? Trippi reiterated that on the night of September 11th, in a speech memorializing those killed in 2001, Bush should have left politics out of it.

Gibson asked Hanretty if that was so - should Bush have left the politics out of it? Hanretty maintained that it is Democrats, not Bush, who have made Iraq political - Ned Lamont, Nancy pelosi, Harry Reid are to blame. Note she has diverted the topic from the appropriateness of Bush's speech to pointing the finger of blame on Democrats.

Trippi replied to that by saying it (attacking Iraq) was a mistake and Hanretty had the nerve to say that that was not the point! Gibson then joined her in piling on Trippi, asking why Bush should be "silenced" because Trippi believes it's a mistake?

Trippi started to explain that Bush has finally admitted out loud that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11, and Hanretty interjected "He's always said that."

Umm, no. She's parroting the official line, direct from Bush himself:

"First, just if I might correct a misperception, I don’t think we ever said – at least I know I didn’t say that there was a direct connection between September the 11th and Saddam Hussein."

In fact, Bush justified the war against Iraq by directly linking it to 9/11: "The use of armed forces against Iraq is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations or person who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001." [Bush’s Letter to Congress, 3/21/03]

(H/T ThinkProgress.org)

That didn't get by Trippi, who retorted "No. he said that in his speech last night" because he's lost credibility. (Comment: that's pretty funny, telling a whopper to regain credibility with a disenchanted electorate.) Trippi reminded Hanretty tyhat there are plenty of places to make that kind of appeal - paid political advertisiements, political functions - but not in an address to the nation promoted as commemorating the victims of 9/11 .

Hanretty, party girl with a capital P, indignantly opined that the Democratic "whininess" today was a measurement of Bush's "effectiveness" last night, which leads one to conclude she is acknowledging it was not a solemn tribute but rather an attempt to, well, have an effect. She also believes that we were "told" last night that 3,000 of our fellow Americans were killed (more contrived indignation) and here's what Bush is doing about it. Again, not commemorating or remembering, just more using of the occassion to trumpet and defend the Bush administration's policies. Ranting by now, she said that Democrats don't want to talk about the bigger picture, they just want Bush to "shut up" on Iraq so they can go campaign against his record. Democrats, she says, are looking weak today.

Trippi tried to get a word in "I'm happy [Bush] is talking about Iraq" but Hanretty was on a roll, and said that he's not happy Bush is talking about Iraq, because he made a strong argument last night (in that solemn, non-political, commemorative address honoring the dead) and if he hadn't made a strong argument he wouldn't be whining about it!

Trippi said he's not whining ("You are whining about it!") and is happy when Bush talks about Iraq, he just thinks last night was inappropriate.

Well, huffed Ms. Hanretty, Democrats should quit playing politics with Iraq! As Trippi said Dems are not playing politics, Gibson asked if he would concede that Democrats make political statements about Iraq all the time?

Trippi shrugged and said sure, and so does the administration - he just doesn't think last night was not a place for either party to do it, and Bush did it.

How disengenuous of Hanretty to pretend that it's Democrats only who are amking political statements about Iraq EVEN AS she defended the Republican big cheese for politicizing what should have been a non-partisan, respectful tribute.

Gibson put Trippi on the defensive several times, obviously siding with Hanretty, but Trippi remained assured and calm.