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Notes from the March 27, 2011 broadcast of Meet The Press

March 27, 2011

Note that Meet The Press has really gone big on Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media. They had a dozen or so posts this week on the MTP Facebook page. Same with the Twitter feeds from host David Gregory, Meet The Press, and Executive Producer Betsy Fischer. Then there is Gregory’s blog, and they have even started posting photos on InstaGram.

On top of all this activity, Meet The Press launched a new mid-week, online interview segment this week. The first guest was Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH). Next week will be RNC Chairman Reince Preibus.

Today’s broadcast (the old-fashioned TV one) began with Richard Engle live in Ajdabiya, Libya where allied airstrikes have helped rebels make big advances.

Next up was an interview Gregory conducted yesterday with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Bill Gates. According to them, the airstrikes appear to have had an impact. We have prevented a huge humanitarian disaster.

When asked if the US would provide weapons to the rebels, Gates said no decision has been made. But he noted that it would be allowed under UN Security Council Resolution 1973.

They both said the effort to strengthen sanctions against Libya is strong, as is the political effort with regional countries. Secretary Clinton said a lot of people around Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi are reaching out and trying to make Gaddafi’s case. The UN Secretary General’s special envoy will be in Benghazi and Tripoli soon to deliver the international community’s message.

The people around Gaddafi need to understand how high the stakes are for all of them, but they added that we will not take Gaddafi out militarily.

Regarding the ongoing criticism from Congress, Clinton said they have the right to criticize, but we should also remember that the US Senate passed a resolution calling for a no-fly zone on March 1 and a bipartisan group of House leaders also called for military action. On the other hand, if thousands had been slaughtered in Benghazi and millions fled over the border into Egypt, the Congressional criticism would be even greater.

Gates repeats that there will be no American troops on the ground in Libya.

Asked about Syria, Clinton said that across the region we want to see no violence, and we want political and economic reforms. On Saudi Arabia, we still have a strong relationship. The Saudis are concerned that unrest in the region will allow Iran to have greater influence.

Gates seemed to falter a little in his answer about Libya’s role in US vital interests, but Clinton picked up the ball and made a strong defense of US actions and reasoning.

Clinton also responded to Gregory’s thoughts about the death of Geraldine Ferraro. Note that Gregory did not ask Clinton about reports that she will not serve in a second Obama Administration and has no intention of running for president.

Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) was the next guest for a short interview. He said US action in Libya must have clear objectives and a clear path of action, and he sees neither. He says there should have been a debate. “I don’t believe we should be engaged in a Libya civil war,” said Lugar.

In the roundtable, Ted Koppel (now with the BBC) said there are lots of humanitarian disasters in the making around the world, so why are we intervening here?

NBC News’ Savannah Guthrie said the president’s own reluctance to use military force is evident in all his statements. She reported that one member of the administration told her the whole situation is a “turd sandwich.”

Foreign policy expert Tom Ricks said it is astonishing that we are bombing an Arab country while many Arabs are cheering us on.

Bob Woodward said Obama knows there are many “T sandwiches” all over the region, but the regional story is really his 9/11. If he manages it well, this will be a big win for him. He added later that Saudi Arabia is the country in all of this that really matters. It is at the top of the list of Obama’s problems.

Ricks added that many in the military are worried about the “limited war” terminology. But this action in Libya is the same sort of gunboat diplomacy we have often done going back to the Eisenhower Administration. But Woodward says, once war starts, it is hard to find the off switch.

Koppel reminded us that our involvement in Somalia started as a humanitarian mission. And we were so shell-shocked from the result that we could not respond to genocide in Rwanda.

Gregory played a clip from the midweek interview with Kucinich who raised the possibility of a “pro-peace” primary challenge to President Obama.

Today’s Meet The Press transcript will be here.

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