Why Is a CBS News Anchor Scoffing at Blowback and Diplomacy?

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Bob Scheiffer's antagonistic interview with Ron Paul is notable for the mainstream beliefs the broadcaster cavalierly dismisses



The sneering contempt that Bob Schieffer shows Ron Paul in the interview above is something to behold. Watch it yourself, for words can't do his dismissive manner justice. But a mere transcript of the exchange is enough to show what the CBS newsman gets wrong on the merits, and to lay bare a bias in his purportedly objective journalism. As you read, ponder what is, in this case, an interesting question: What sort of bias is at work here?

Here's exchange number one:

BOB SCHIEFFER: I want to ask you some questions. Now that you're among the front-runners we need to know more about your positions on the issues. And I want to start with foreign policy, because your statements over the years, posted on your Web site and elsewhere, some of the things you have said in the debates, suggest that you believe that 9/11 happened because of actions that the United States took. Is that correct?

RON PAUL: I think there's an influence. And that's exactly what the 9/11 Commission said. That's what the DoD has said. And that's what the CIA has said. And that's what a lot of researchers have said. And, um, just remember immediately after 9/11 we removed the base from Saudi Arabia. So there is a connection. That doesn't do the whole full explanation. But our policies definitely had an influence. And you talk to the individuals who committed it, and those who would like to do us harm. They say, yes, we don't like American bombs to fall on our country. We don't like the intervention that we do in their nations. So to deny this I think is very dangerous. But to argue the case that they want to do us harm because we're free and prosperous I think is a very dangerous notion because it's not true.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, I would question the import of what some of those commissions found that you cited, but basically what you're saying, Mr. Paul, is that it was America's fault. That 9/11 happened and it was our fault that it happened.

RON PAUL: No, I think that's misconstruing what I'm saying, because America is you and I. We didn't cause it. The average American didn't cause it. But if you have a flawed policy, it may influence it. When Ronald Reagan went into Lebanon, he deeply regretted this, because he said if he'd have been more neutral, those Marines wouldn't have died in Lebanon, because the policy was flawed. The same thing that McNamara said after the Vietnam War. He wrote in his memoirs that if we don't learn from our policies, it won't be worth anything. So I'm saying, policies have an effect. But that's a far cry from blaming America. I mean, in America, you're supposed to be able to criticize your own government without saying you're unAmerican.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Of course.

RON PAUL: And that's what the implication is.

BOB SCHIEFFER: But you are saying it was the government's fault. That's basically what you're saying. But let me move on to something else--

RON PAUL: I'm saying it's the policymakers' faults, they contributed, contributed to it. Contributed.

This is the sort of interview I expect from the Fox News Channel. What's deemed the most important matter, circa 2011, to find out about a presidential candidate? How he attributes responsibility for 9/11. The method used to pin down his views? Repeatedly attributing to him a more extreme, inflammatory position than he holds.

What to do when Paul points out that his actual, longstanding position -- that American foreign policy was one factor that inspired the attacks -- is shared by lots of Americans, including the authors of various official government inquiries into the matter? Schieffer's response is the inexplicable, "Well, I would question the import of what some of those commissions found." Why?

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Conor Friedersdorf is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he focuses on politics and national affairs. He lives in Venice, California, and is the founding editor of The Best of Journalism, a newsletter devoted to exceptional nonfiction.

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