Andrea Mitchell on Obama’s media coverage in Afghanistan and Iraq

Interesting (transcript of a segment of this evening’s Hardball via Newsbusters):

ROGER SIMON: The optics are all very good on this trip. I mean, the beginning of this trip is so good, Senator Obama might just want to call off the end and just keep running the videotape. He goes into a gym, everybody, all the service people there cheer. He shoots a basket, you know, it goes through the hoop.  He’s obviously standing there with troops, they seem to be liking him, smiling. They don’t seem to feel that Barack Obama wants to desert them, to leave them in Iraq.  This is exactly what the Obama campaign hoped for, and this was supposed to be the tough part of the trip.  The meatiest part of the trip in Jordan and Israel may be tough in terms of foreign policy, but the back end of the trip to cheering European crowds will certainly be as good if not better than this. So I think he’s feeling very good right now.

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Andrea, I want to get ethnic a little bit here —

ANDREA MITCHELL: This is message —

MATTHEWS: Yeah, go ahead, please.

MITCHELL: Let me just say something about the message management.  He didn’t have reporters with him, he didn’t have a press pool, he didn’t do a press conference while he was on the ground in either Afghanistan or Iraq. What you’re seeing is not reporters brought in.  You’re seeing selected pictures taken by the military, questions by the military, and what some would call fake interviews, because they’re not interviews from a journalist.  So, there’s a real press issue here.  Politically it’s smart as can be.  But we’ve not seen a presidential candidate do this, in my recollection, ever before.

**When Matthews inquired about the atmospherics of the trip, Mitchell made clear her frustration as a reporter.**

MATTHEWS: Let me ask you to access to the troops, Andrea.  A lot of African-American faces over there, very happy, delighted faces.  Is that a representation of the percentage of servicepeople who are African-American, or did they all choose to join someone they like, apparently?  What’s the story?

MITCHELL: I can’t really say that.  Being a reporter who was not present in any of those situations, I just cannot report on what was edited out, what was, you know, on the sidelines.  That’s my issue. We don’t know what we are seeing.

In related news, ABC Nightline’s Terry Moran recently sat down for an interview with BO  and parts of the transcript were revealing (via a video snippet):

TM: “And then we sat down with [BO] to talk about what has become an open disagreement between military commanders here and Obama, over his plan to withdraw all U.S. combat troops from Iraq on a 16-month timetable. Did General Petraeus talk about military concerns about your timetable?” 

BO: “You know, I would characterize the concerns differently. I don’t think that they’re deep concerns about the notion of a pullout per se. There are deep concerns about, from their perspective, a timetable that doesn’t take into account what they anticipate might be some sort of changing conditions. And this is what I mean when I say we play different roles. My job is to think about the national security interests as a whole, and to have to weigh and balance risks, in Afghanistan, in Iraq. Their job is just to get the job done here. And I completely understand that.” 

Moran: “But the difference is real. Commanders here want withdrawals to be based on conditions on the ground. Obama emphasizes his timetable, but he insists he would remain flexible. I’m going to try to pin you down on this ”

Obama: “Here let me say this, though, Terry, because, you know, what I will refuse to do, and I think that, you know ”

Moran: “How do you know what I’m going to ask?”

Obama: “Well, then if I don’t get it right, then you can ask it again.” 

Moran: “All right.”

Obama: “Is to get boxed in into what I consider two false choices, which is either I have a rigid timeline of such and such a date, come hell or high water, we’ve gotten our combat troops out, and I am blind to anything that happens in the intervening six months or 16 months. Or, alternatively, I am completely deferring to whatever the commanders on the ground says, which is what George Bush says he’s doing, in which case I’m not doing my job as commander-in-chief.”

Make sure to watch the full interview tonight on ABC at 11:35 PM ET.

Update 1- 12:28 AM: Good grief! I can’t make heads or tails of his position on the surge anymore.

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