Melinda Henneberger Sets Washington's Week

Monday, June 06, 2011

Welcome to Politics Bites, where every afternoon at It's A Free Country, we bring you the unmissable quotes from the morning's political conversations on WNYC. Today on the Brian Lehrer Show, Melinda Henneberger, contributing editor to, rounds up the national news.

Fighting Shape for 2012

President Obama is gearing up his political campaign for the 2012 race. The New York Times reported that the campaign is expecting a tougher race than initially predicted as the president faces unhappiness over the economy and poor jobs numbers. Though the Obama administration had some recent successes, such as the capture and killing of Osama bin Laden, the job now for the administration is to recapture the energy and enthusiasm that marked the 2008 campaign.

The reelection campaign could be a distraction for a president already working on so many fronts, both domestic and international, but Henneberger pointed out that that there is more overlap than distraction in the areas he will be focusing in on.

I mean, his job is bringing down the jobless rate, addressing the economy, and if he does that, that will help him politically, obviously.

The front runner of the GOP contenders at this point appears to be Mitt Romney, with his massive war chest. Henneberger said John Huntsman also has substantial funding, though he lacks Romney's name recognition. Huntsman was until a few weeks ago President Obama’s ambassador to China, and before that was governor of Utah. As governor Huntsman was very popular and left office with a high approval rate, but his views on the environment and his approval of same-sex civil unions have some conservatives calling him too moderate for the party. 

Palin’s History Lesson

Sarah Palin too continues to be a favorite of the Republican party and of the media. This weekend she drew ridicule for her command of history with a unique take on the story of Paul Revere.  Though the media poked fun at her muddled story, that mockery may only make those loyal to her stand firmer in their anti-establishment, anti-elitism support.

The more we say ha-ha, she didn’t know about Paul Revere’s ride, the better that is for Sarah Palin. She gets great mileage about of perceiving herself, and her followers believing, that she is treated very poorly by the so-called “lame stream media.” In a way she’s doing exactly what she promised, because she promised that this trip around America would be to get us talking and remembering and being grateful for American history, and I can’t remember when Paul Revere got more ink.

Weiner’s Tweet

The story about the risqué tweet sent from Congressman Anthony Weiner’s Twitter account refuses to die. Though Weiner has steadfastly denied that he sent the photo, he has been much less forthcoming about the origins of the photo. Henneberger said she thinks the scandal may have an effect on the congressman’s career. 

The question isn’t so much whether he sent it. It seems he did not send it, but he has acted squirrelly about the whole thing and won’t say it wasn’t him… He’s just sort of made this worse day by day, by behaving bizarrely about the whole thing.

Edwards Indictment

Yet another big story this week is the indictment of John Edwards on charges related to his affair and the child conceived during it. Henneberger said legally this calls into question the interpretation of campaign finance laws, and whether a personal gift from a campaign contributor is allowable. Though Edwards did try to negotiate a plea deal last week, Henneberger thinks he didn’t try hard enough. 

I’m disappointed, personally, that he wouldn’t find a way to avoid a trial for his kids’ sake, kids who have obviously been through so much.

Iraq and Afghanistan

Five service members were reported killed in military base in Baghdad this morning. Beyond the tragedy of the loss of life, Henneberger said there might be political implications for President Obama. The war has been declared over twice, she said, yet it continues.

[US Defense Secretary Robert] Gates just said again yesterday that we just need six more months and we’ll turn this baby around…We’ve really been hearing that for the last ten years, and politically there is not the will to continue.

Regarding Afghanistan there seems to be some disagreement within the administration. While some are pulling to reduce troops even more quickly than previously discussed, Secretary Gates has said that decisions must be based on the ground and should wait until later this summer. The trememdous cost to the US budget will contitnue to make drawdown an attractive option to the president.


The sudden departure of the wounded president of Yemen Ali Abdullah Saleh has left Yemen with a sudden leadership vacuum. The opposition has said they are prepared to fight to keep Saleh from returning. Henneberger said the White House definitely does not want involvement in yet another conflict, yet the immediate future for Yemen is still very unclear.

 I think that Saudi Arabia probably won’t let Saleh back in to Yemen if they can help it, and I think they can.

Isrealis Fire on Palestinean Protesters

Israeli forces fired on Palestinian protesters on the Syrian border yesterday. While the Arab spring has brought new hope to the region, it continues to come at a very high cost.

This thing on the Syrian border is really so serious, and a lot of the hopes remain high, but so do the casualties, so it is certainly — going into a long hot summer — very unclear where we’re going.



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Comments [13]

Carol from Brooklyn, NY

A friend and HuffPo blogger, Susanna Spier, did some research and found that indeed there were bells and there were warning shots.

In other words, Palin made a lucky guess -- an assumption about the Midnight Ride that is not part of the standard lore, yet turned out to be factually correct.

Does she deserve credit for getting it right?

Um. Not really.

Lucky guesses count for game shows and gambling. They do not qualify a person to be president.

Jun. 06 2011 04:12 PM
amalgam from Manhattan by day, NJ by night

@ gray from queens -

"Obama is a gaffe machine, especially on history."

Sure; let's hear the litany. Oh not there. If Obama is a gaffe machine, then what does that say for GW Bush, Alzheimer affected Reagan, etc., let alone Palin and Bachmann.

Get real.

Jun. 06 2011 02:06 PM

WNYC demonstrated its worst bias yet again this morning by continuing its practice of slanting all news of the Middle East to create a falsely favorable picture of Israel.
On today’s BLS, the opening segment was devoted to the important news of the weekend, but WNYC swept Israel’s killing of more than 20 unarmed protestors under the rug, deliberately burying the weekend world news event that was most important to the USA. Not only did the guest host, Jamie Floyd, hold off any mention of Israel and its killing of unarmed protestors until the very last question in the segment, she proceeded, after noting that she had to raise the issue of the killings, to direct her guest not to focus on Israel’s actions but instead to consider the wider Arab spring.
Is this how WNYC would have reported the news if Palestinians had shot dead over 20 unarmed Israelis? That is the touchstone that has to be applied to every report of news concerning Israel by WNYC. And until the reports are equivalent, WNYC must be recognized as a Israeli propaganda arm, deliberately harming USA in order to help Israel.
If WNYC was willing to make even one true statement about Israel’s killing of the unarmed protestors, it would have had to report that the Israeli government was acting just like the Syrian government, not only killing protestors but blaming the protests on subversive actions by the other government.
How could WNYC elide the crucial fact that the killing of unarmed protestors is just what USA has caused USA to condemn governments of Mubarak, Ghaddafi, and Assad--and that such criminal behavior is much worse when committed by a government that USA supports?
WNYC’s constant distortion of its reportage to paint Israel as if it were a decent democratic nation--when in fact it is racist, war mongering, terrorist state, dedicated to merciless ethnic cleansing and apartheid in order to hold on to territory that it has stolen from the indigenous people by force of foreign arms--plays an important role in misinforming the American people, tricking us into misguidedly supporting a vicious nation whose crimes against humanity have raised up enemies against America around the world
Given that there was a enormous pro-Israel parade taking place in NYC while the Israeli army was shooting down unarmed demonstrators, I call on WNYC to do a minute-by-minute report showing the smug marchers on Fifth Avenue crosscut with the Israeli soldiers they are supporting as those soldiers are murdering people who are only asking for the human right to be allowed to return to their homes. Something like the christening celebration scene in The Godfather, enabling the world to see what lies under the media-polished mask that Israel parades in public.

Jun. 06 2011 12:36 PM

Can you please stop speculating about and covering #Weinergate? Maybe his yFrog, Twitter or Facebook wasn't "hacked", but a little research will prove that anyone could post a pic to someone else's yfrog account and then spoof a DM to a follower. The story should be that Andrew Breitbart and cronies inc. sockpuppets like @patriotusa76 (Dan Wolfe) and @goatsred (Mike Stack) who do not have any journalistic credibility. . . Or does that not matter anymore in the age of sensationalistic yellow journalism? Please stop amplifying & covering fake news.

Jun. 06 2011 12:05 PM
Michael from Port Washington


I love the show. Today, I was a little disapointed when Jamie Floyd had Melinda Henneberger on the show. The last question was about pro-Palestinian Syrians. While the larger question was about the Arab Spring, she also specifically asked Melinda to comment on the fact that pro-Palestinian Syrians were shot by Israelis on Syrian soil. It is unfortunate that Jamie did not say that these pro-Palestinian protesters were storming the Syrian-Israeli border. Here is the New York Times opening sentence on this story, "Israeli forces fired at pro-Palestinian protesters on the Syrian frontier on Sunday as they tried to breach the border for the second time in three weeks." In all stories, but particularly the Arab-Israeli story, one must be careful to give the proper context.

Jun. 06 2011 11:52 AM
Jack Jackson from Central New Jersey

The metadata for the photo in question does not match any known camera. The posted picture was most likely photoshopped.

Rep. Weiner is now free to say the picture isn't me. The follow-on question, 'Have you ever taken a picture of your genitals?
is really too seamy to ask but some *wad pseudo-journalist will ask.

The Weiner twitter is a false flag prank. The shame of it goes to the journalists - mostly CNN but also WNYC - that have given this story air without adequate investigation.

Do a little protecting of the public airwaves willya? It's your duty.

Jun. 06 2011 10:22 AM

Your commentator didn't mention one big fundraising/vote-getting problem for Pres. Obama.

His base voter has been hard-hit by the continuing jobs crisis & his black voter base has been hit even harder!

His small donors in 2008 aren't able to donate at the same levels & those who didn't support his slates in 2010 have even more economic reason not to vote for the Prez.

In short, he's removed most, if not all, differences between him & the GOP Southern bloc.

Jun. 06 2011 10:20 AM
gary from queens

Hugh Samson:

Obama is a gaffe machine, especially on history. But the media is in the tank for him. So it never gets much play, if any.

Jun. 06 2011 10:18 AM
CL from NYC

Palin "put it in context"??? She offered public-intelligence-insulting disingenuousness.

[[This comment has been edited. Please remember the WNYC posting policy, which asks that you remain civil. Thanks, -BL Show]]

Jun. 06 2011 10:17 AM

Palin supporters certainly don't care about facts or truth. BUT there is sense in which Palin is right -- the one which the guest just mentioned (that we were all British before the Declaration of Independence).

Imagine the hysterical charges of anti-Americanism, un-patriotism, if a Democrat or liberal made the mistake Palin did!

Jun. 06 2011 10:16 AM
Jack Jackson from Central New Jersey

You cut off the SP quote before "and we're going to be armed."

Far more insidious.

Jun. 06 2011 10:15 AM
gary from queens

My advice for politicians:

1. Don't admit that you use social media like twitter or facebook. Everyone who does knows it's a time sink. Rather, you should be spending your time serving the public (per the term, "public servant"). you know, things like reading the legislation you vote for. Etc.

2. Do NOT take photos of you crotch and post them ANYWHERE. ESPECIALLY if your name contains the words, Weiner, Dick, Woodcock, etc.

Jun. 06 2011 10:13 AM
Lloyd from Manhattan

Jeffrey Toobin said on CNN last Tuesday that his network should never have run the fraudulent comments about Rep. Weiner made by the Fraudster Breitbart. Time to put this non-issue in the trash.

Jun. 06 2011 10:09 AM

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