Sunday, January 12, 2020

Don't Bite the Hand that Feeds You Propaganda

A few days after his skirmish with the Iranian ambassador to the UN, NPR's Steve Inskeep interviewed Trump's National Security Adviser, Robert O'Brien.  It's instructive to compare the two.  Inskeep put his foot in it immediately, asking O'Brien about the briefing about the assassination of Qasem Soleimani he gave to lawmakers the day before.  O'Brien noted that it wasn't he but Mike Pompeo, Mark Esper, Joseph McGuire, and Gina Haspel who gave the briefing.  Inskeep's full response: "Right."  O'Brien went on:
I've heard from a lot of people that it was a fantastic briefing. So there's always mixed reviews on those, depending on what people's viewpoint is on the subject matter. Mike Lee's a friend of mine, and someone who I greatly respect and the president really respects. And so I was disappointed to hear that he wasn't happy with the briefing. But I've also heard from other senators, including Chairman [James] Risch of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — he thought it was one of the best briefings he'd ever had. So I think there's there's always mixed reviews on these things.
I think these claims should be taken with a grain of salt.  It wasn't only Mike Lee who was displeased with the briefing, quite a few other Senators were unhappy.  If James Risch thought well of it, he should say so publicly.

O'Brien, it should be remembered, is the fellow who tried to help Trump cover for Anne Sacoolis, a US diplomat who ran over a young Englishman, by tricking his parents into meeting with her.
The Dunn family blames National Security Adviser O’Brien for the misstep. “It struck us that this meeting was hastily arranged by nincompoops on the run and in particular Mr. O’Brien, who appeared to be extremely uptight and aggressive and did not come across at all well in this meeting which required careful handling and sensitivity,” [Dunn family spokesperson Radd] Seiger wrote. “The family remain open to the possibility of meeting Mrs. Sacoolas one day in the future but in a neutral and appropriately controlled environment.”

In other words, not in a reality-TV setting. 
More recently, O'Brien got attention for his apparent belief that the family name of the leader of North Korea is "Un" rather than "Kim."  To be scrupulously fair, numerous better-informed individuals, such as the lefty journalist Amy Goodman, have made the same blunder.  But O'Brien's gaffe fits so well with the general level of professionalism in Trump's White House that it deserved the whoops and cackles he got for it.  (And really, "the most notorious dictator in the world"?  More notorious than Mohamed bin Salman, Sisi, and other US buddies?)

O'Brien basically bullshitted his way through the interview with Inskeep, who was not totally subservient (just mostly) but still collegial as his subject repeated Trump / US propaganda.  It's different when a bold journalist is shooting the breeze with one of our guys.