Oh God, things look bleak. What morning reporter Mac got that we missed: Lindsey Graham goes off-message, elementary school strafing milked for last glistening drop of human interest, and Jim Nantz is completely insane: "He thinks it was a major network conspiracy to depress Bush-voter turnout, and he actually says 'There should be an investigation.'" You go, girl.
This morning's pretty much All Fallujah All The Time. US forces fighting alongside Iraqi soldiers seized a hospital and some bridges. The hospital is key because Iraqi troops lead the charge there. Two US Marines were killed overnight; no other casualty stats yet. Once US and Iraqi forces actually enter Fallujah, they may be looking at the heaviest urban fighting since Vietnam. A few other stories poke through here and there. Arafat still lingers near death and the the infighting over his leadership inheritance is already in full swing. Your second-stringer Mac's got basically no funny material today.
7:05 CNN. American Morning
Dan Senor was the spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority back when it was in charge in Iraq and is now one of the more accomplished spinners touring the morning shows. His best tactic? Framing all of his talking points as Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi's ideas. He says Allawi wants to keep up a diplomatic dialogue with the insurgency even as military operations are taking place. He points up the big distinction everyone's talking about this morning - domestic Iraqi insurgents vs. foreign professional terrorists, particularly those following Zarqawi. He says there's a rift between the groups that could be widened now that Iraqi insurgents will find themselves fighting other Iraqis. Bill Hemmer asks about a New York Times article estimating that 40,000 new American troops will ultimately be needed to secure Iraq for the elections, but Senor smoothly papers over that troubling statistic by listing the numbers of American and Iraqi troops engaged in the current endeavor.
7:09 ABC. Good Morning America.
More Fallujah as Charles Gibson talks to General Tommy Franks.
Basic rundown:Gibson: Have the insurgents fled or will they fight?
Franks: They're gonna fight.
Gibson: Will the Iraqi army do better this time?
Franks: Yeah - better trained, better sense of their leadership capability and then today's best euphemistic language: "Our Marines will be doing some things, and the Iraqi troops will be in another part of the battlefield doing other things." (Like what, cheerleading?)
7:12 NBC. Today
Matt Lauer lucks out with most off-message guest of the morning, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who obviously never got the "don't admit mistakes" memo. Lauer asks if the Fallujah offensive was undermined by being delayed until after the election. Graham: "We probably put this off too long." He quickly backtracks by saying the delay happened because the US and Iraqis hoped to find a diplomatic solution first, but then he immediately acknowledged that there's a "real fear" that the delay may have allowed some Fallujah-based insurgents to fan out to other areas of Iraq. He frames the Fallujah offensive as "a pitched battle in the war on terror." Lauer: Can a legit election be held the way Iraq is now? Graham takes one more unauthorized swig of truth-serum and says "No," but then says we can change conditions in time for January elections. Damn. Now we have to actually do it! I'm guessing the distinguished Senator from South Carolina just got knocked off the Evite for the GOP whitewater rafting retreat.
7:19 CNN American Morning
File this one under "we laugh that we may not cry." Bill Hemmer is talking to Lt. Pete Newell, a commander of Marine Task Force 22, which is about to enter Fallujah. The interview is via videophone, which has the unfortunate black-comedy effect of making Newell's answers almost entirely unintelligible, so Hemmer has to change the subject with each question and can never ask a follow-up.Hemmer: How many insurgents are there?
Newell: [unintelligible] couple hundred [unintelligible]
Hemmer: What is the political dimension of winning this battle?
Hemmer turns the show back over to Kelly Wallace, who says "Thanks Bill - fascinating interview."
7:23 FNC. Fox & Friends
The Fox & Her Friends are chatting with Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX), who's written a book called American Heroines: The Spirited Women Who Shaped Our Country, but mainly they ask her questions about Bush. We learn that:
- Bush has feelings.
- Bush first came to D.C. with his hand out, "but there was no returned hand from the Democrats."
- Bush was able to compromise with Texas Democrats, but not Washington Democrats.
- Bush has feelings.
Hutchison's book, non-partisanly enough, includes portraits of Madeleine Albright, Geraldine Ferraro, and Sandra Day O'Connor. She then wastes a bit of warmth on blonde velociraptor E. D. Hill by saying that the female journalists she interviewed for her book all listed curiosity as the most important quality in a reporter. Hill responds by talking about something and not asking Hutchison a question.
7: 32 NBC. Today
Head vs. Head! Okay, not really, more like Guy Who's Never Been On TV Before And Never Will Be Again gently coexisting with Other Guy Who's Never Been On TV Before And Never Will Be Again! Matt Lauer's two guests are on to talk about the accidental strafing of a New Jersey intermediate school by an Air National Guard fighter plane. Rather awesomely, the Guard's spokesman's last name is Wherley. Major General David Wherley says it's too early to know whether the strafing was a case of pilot error or mechanical error, but that there are two separate investigations going on. (Isn't one enough, if it's thorough?) Alan Bossard, the school's principal, says "We have emergency plans for everything else, but not for anything like this." Wherley's next stop is a town hall meeting tonight with parents, so you gotta figure Matt Lauer's the easy part of his day.
7:38 MSNBC. Imus In The Morning
An unflattering photo of Senator Chris Dodd (D-Conn) guests on Imus this morning. Imus is still working the What Went Wrong story, and asks Dodd if celebs hurt Kerry. Dodd's read: almost all endorsements neither hurt nor help candidates. Exceptions are politicos known for non-partisan stances like John McCain, suggesting that Kerry's all-out battle to get McCain on his ticket was as smart as it was futile. Imus: Will you run for governor of Connecticut? Dodd: No. Imus:Well, plans change.
7:46 FNC Fox & Friends
Super-Head Senor's now on Fox, talking about the Iraqi troops who took the hospital back from the insurgents. Hill: "They're really ready now, aren't they?" Senor slickly ducks answering that question just before a battle that will definitively answer it, and glides in his talking point about the rift between home-grown insurgents and foreign terrorists. He says Fallujah will be a big test of whether those domestic insurgents -- Senor calls them "the outer circle" -- will fight their own countrymen. Once again, he credits all his talking points to Allawi. One way he differentiates between types of insurgents: "Iraqis don't do suicide bombings. They don't know how." They don't know how? I'm no expert, but if you know how to bomb, why wouldn't you know how to suicide-bomb? (I told you nothing funny happened today.)
8:06 CNN American Morning
Retired General Tony Murray on Fallujah: Once we get into the city, our firepower advantage disappears in close combat. Critical questions about the insurgents: 1) Will they fight? 2) Do they have command-and control capability, or will it be "pockets of bad guys here, pockets of bad guys there"? Murray says his experience in Vietnam is that one battle isn't enough in a town sympathetic to an insurgency. In Vietnam, after US forces would move on after taking a given town, the insurgents would return for aid and comfort. You can tell Murray's retired 'cause he never got the Don't-Ever-Mention-Vietnam memo.
8:28 FNC. Fox & Friends.
Bill Gammon, author of Misunderestimated, tells the Friends that Bush's burden is lightened by shaking off the legacy of losing the popular vote and his father's one-term Presidency: "He'll move even more boldly now." (Put me down for "air-strikes on Chelsea and the South of France.") Then the Friends talk about Chazz Palminteri's upcoming film Noel, which they're all excited to see because Penelope Cruz and Alan Arkin are in it. No mention of Susan Sarandon, who plays the lead in the film.
8:41 MSNBC Imus In The Morning
Imus is catching grief from an extremely flattering photo of Jim Nantz of CBS Sports. Nantz decries exit polling, particularly the early results that put Kerry so far ahead. He thinks it was a major network conspiracy to depress Bush-voter turnout, and he actually says "There should be an investigation." Why not two investigations, like they're doing at that New Jersey National Guard base? Nantz: "I looked at all the places on the map that were blue, and I realized they all had Imus affiliates!"
OVERALL: A non-partisan morning, by and large; everyone's rooting for Fallujah to come out okay. Message of the day: Why settle for one investigation or one type of insurgent when you can have two?