Friday, December 22, 2006

The Iraq Study Group Report...An Interview/Conversation with Ruben Navarrette...Part One

After a couple of emails, I got the chance to speak by phone with Ruben Navarrette last Friday. At first, I asked him what his basic reaction was to the Iraq Study Group Report, but realized that I needed to get more specific. So I asked him how this report affects the way we, and by we I mean the average citizen in America, receive our information from the mainstream media? He responded by saying that at first glance people looked at the report in two ways. He explained that, "A lot of people divided this up, in the commentators, and the media, in terms of 'okay, one this is the assessment, you know the situation is grave and deteriorating'. Or, they go into phase two and say, 'well, no its which is the recommendation?" From there he went on to explain the following:
"I think the bigger way to look at this is sort of a big picture of the group and the recommendations versus sort of a small picture, specific as in "okay, let's really look at that they've proposed." I think that most people looked to what they proposed and as soon as they got to the clause about Iran and Syria, made it all about Iran and Syria. I say to myself, well jesus, there's no way I'd go along with bringing Iran and Syria to the table. They have no reason to come to the table, anyway. They benefit from chaos and they get with that and their 'interests' work against ours. What we want is diametrically opposed to what they want so they'll say, "well, gee," which is that's enough of that. They take a look at one recommendation and they throw out the rest of it.
I think what I prefer to do is take a look at the principal behind it. A big picture, and there's lots of reasons for me to feel good about this report, and for Americans to feel good about the report. There's the bi-partisan nature of the report. There's the fact that it didn't just do what I think a lot of government reports do, which is tell people what they want to hear, as opposed to what they need to hear, and clearly not what the President wanted to hear. They had a lot of guts in putting it out there.
Again, I think it was great that it was bi-partisan, that it was straight-talk, and as I mentioned in my column that I really liked the fact that they finally got off this notion of 'winning'. Because for the last three to four weeks or so, I would continue to hear commentators in the media talk about, "Well, this is what we need to do to win in Iraq." And I thought, my goodness, haven't we moved on, even if speaking as someone who supports the President and supported the War, I gave up the notion of winning in Iraq some time ago. I think my definition of winning in Iraq is no more 'dead kids'. You already have what will reach three thousand dead in a couple of weeks. If you can pull out before you get to four thousand, than that's victory. I commend the commission for deliberately not talking about victory, didn't say winning. They didn't talk about terms like that. In that respect, the committee was made up of those who were serious people, and took their job seriously.
We also talked yesterday with Alan Simpson, who is one of the ten on the committee. He was here in town. We talked for about an hour discussing the report in person. You know, it's clear that they had a lot of information at their fingertips, that they asked hard questions. A lot of them are big supporters of the President, you know, people like Ed Meese, Sandra Day O'Connor, and Al Simpson, all were Republicans. It had Jim Baker. People who hold the Bush family, not just the President-but the entire family, in really close regard. For them to have the guts to come forward and just tell W., clearly something he didn't want to hear, is amazing. And I think that he was clear about the fact that he wasn't happy with the recommendations he didn't favor. He never said it publicly, but I think in meetings with them, we were told, he said, "I thank you for your work, I thank you for your time, I know you did what you thought was the right thing..." etc. I think he was disappointed that they came back and told him what he didn't want to hear. So more power to them. That's how I'd break down the study group."-Ruben Navarrette from a phone interview/conversation conducted December 15, 2006.
This concludes Part One of my interview/conversation with Ruben Navarrette. Next Tuesday, I'll conclude with his thoughts of where the country finds itself after the recommendations, and the debate of whether or not to send more troops to Iraq.
Ruben Navarrette is an award winning, nationally syndicated columnist based in San Diego, and serves on the editorial board at the San Diego Union Tribune. He is the author of the book, "A Darker Shade of Crimson: Odyssey of a Harvard Chicano".


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