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Notes on the September 16, 2012 Broadcast of Meet The Press

September 16, 2012

This morning’s broadcast began with a map showing over a dozen countries where anti-American protests have been held in the past week, some leading to American deaths, ostensibly sparked by an anti-Muslim video posted on YouTube. US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said, “This is a spontaneous reaction to a video,” and she could not predict how much longer it would go on.

Rice said the demonstrations in Benghazi, which lead to the death of the US ambassador and three other American, began spontaneously but then “opportunistic extremist elements” used this protest to escalate the violence. Host David Gregory asked about calls to suspend foreign aid to Libya and Egypt. Rice says we give that aid because it serves American interests, and the governments there are providing security to our facilities.

Next, Gregory turned to the Iranian nuclear program, and he played a quote from his upcoming (though already taped) interview with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “Iran is six months away from having about 90% of the enriched uranium needed for an atom bomb,” he said. Rice said President Barack Obama’s bottom line is, “Iran will not acquire a nuclear weapon.”

Rice added that the US and the world are mounting unprecedented pressure on Iran. The sanctions are crippling, and there is time and space for this pressure, according to Rice.

She made that case that when President Obama came to office, the international community was divided over Iran and Iran was very united internally. Today,she says the opposite is true. We have greater international unity on Iran, and Iran’s society is fractured. She repeated that the US does not have a “policy of containment” regarding Iran.

All rights NBC NewsNext up was that interview with Prime Minister Netanyahu. He said that President Obama has consistently said that Israel has the right to defend itself. “President Obama has said that he is determined to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons, and I appreciate that,” Netanyahu added.

Then he proceeded to parse the word “prevent” to say we need to find a “red line” that would trigger military action. We have to make it clear that Iran cannot proceed with impunity, he said. At this point Gregory could have noted that the current international reaction is pretty far from “impunity.”

Instead, Gregory pivots to the US presidential election, and Netanyahu wisely says he will not insert himself there. Gregory persists, noting that both candidates seem to have the same position regarding Iran, and Netanyahu agrees. (So why are we talking about this?)

Next, Gregory asks about using a “containment strategy” on Iran (even though the Obama Administration has said this is not the US strategy). Netanyahu said that Iran is guided by “unbelievable fanaticism.” Those who say a nuclear Iran would stabilize the region, said Netanyahu, are setting a “new standard for human stupidity.”

Then, showing a firm belief that world events revolve around the magnetic pole of US presidential campaigns, Gregory tries again to ask about the American elections. Netanyahu again resists.

Netanyahu called the anti-Muslim video “reprehensible and irresponsible,” and said it was only a “spark.” Instead we should focus, he said, on the extremist groups against all the things we value. “The very existence of the United States, its values, and by extension Israel, they view as an intolerable crime,” Netanyahu concluded.

In the roundtable, I was happy to hear Jeff Goldberg of The Atlantic lead off by warning that seven weeks from an election, there is a tendency to turn everything that happens in the world into an election issue.

To me, one of the strangest things about US politics has been how some US elected officials see themselves as more pro-Israeli than the elected leaders in Israel. In the roundtable, Congressman Peter King (R-NY) worked himself into a lather about President Obama not meeting with Netanyahu next week in New York, even though Netanyahu had just said moments before that it was no big deal. (Netanyahu even pointed out that Obama has probably spoken with him more than any other world leader.)

In reaction to so-called apologies for the anti-Muslim video, Goldberg said we have to remember, “There is a perpetual grievance machine in the Middle East.” People will be angry no matter what, so we need to explain our support for free speech and explain that we will not give up on this.

Goldberg also said. “I have never seen an Israeli prime minister mismanage the relationship with the United States or with a president the way this one has.” King vehemently disagreed. When asked if he would “double down” on Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s statement that President Obama has “thrown Israel under the bus,” King said, “Yes.” Congressman Keith Ellison (D-MN) said this should not be a “political football” in an election year.

Today’s Meet The Press transcript will be here.

Also follow the show on the MTP Facebook page, track Twitter feeds from host David Gregory, Meet The Press, and Executive Producer Betsy Fischer, watch the midweek PressPass interview, and don’t forget Gregory’s blog.

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