Kudos to Al Franken. On Tuesday's Hardball with Chris Matthews the Air America Radio talk show host, author and political pundit berated Washington Times Columnist Tony Blankley over the conservative's misstatements about the war and his misleading column this week about the circumstances surrounding former terrorism czar Richard Clarke's demotion in 2001. Franken was fired up and relentless.
It all started when Blankley minimized the significance of the Afghanistan war, attempting instead to portray Iraq as the central front in the U.S.'s war on terror, while downplaying the newly released National Intelligence Estimate which said the war has increased, not decreased, terrorist activity in the region. Blankley said that terrorists will "follow the sounds of the guns."
"I don't know what Tony's talking about," said an angry Franken. "We were told that this war would last just a few weeks. Rumsfeld wouldn't plan for after the war. We were just going to go in there, a Jeffersonian democracy was going to emerge in Iraq. It was going to be a model for the whole Middle East. It would put pressure on the Mullahs in Iran and the moderates would take over there, which they would de-fund Hezbollah. That's what we were told, and now were being told that, 'Oh, of course, we're in the middle of the war now, and they respond to the sounds of the guns.' What is that? Of course Afghanistan was the right thing to do, and the world was behind us. When we went into Iraq we did it on false pretenses. This president misled us into war. It was a huge gamble, and he has lost. And the 2700 men and women who have died have lost. And their families have lost. And the 20,000 that have been wounded have lost. And how dare you say...this is just, this is just a complete re-spin of what was said before we went in there. And I resent it."
Shaking his head and smirking, Blankley replied: "Look Al, you should've been reading my columns, and then you'd understand things a little bit better. I wrote a column before the war in September 2002..."
An even angrier, incredulous Franken interrupted: "I think I understand things perfectly well Tony. I think it's you that don't understand things. And don't be patronizing like that, ok?"
Blankley responded by saying he was merely trying to explain things to Franken, who, at this point, grew more agitated and sarcastic. "Ok, Tony. Try to explain it to me because I'm a little thick here today...because...didn't you say, didn't the president say that this was going to be over pretty soon? Weren't we going to be treated like liberators? Weren't we going to be greeted with sweets and flowers?"
Later in the segment, as Blankley was blathering on with his right wing drivel about the NY Times "cherrypicking" from the NIE, Franken, holding up papers and waving them into the camera as he read, interrupted him to quote directly from Blankley's column this week where he "misled" his readers by claiming that Clarke "demoted himself" early in 2001, rather than being marginalized and demoted by the Busheviks after they took office. Franken accused him of intentionally lying to his readers. The fact is, it was after 9/11 that Clarke, frustrated in his reduced counterterrorism role, requested a transfer to a new NSC office dealing with cyberterrorism. Clarke, who served under Presidents Reagan, Clinton and both Bushes, eventually had enough with Dubya and left government in 2003.
I have never seen Franken more aggressive, and more effective. Bravo, Al.