Saturday, May 09, 2009

Wolf Blitzer interviews Karzai, Zardari, and Peres in Situation Room; Obama due for "comedy" speech Saturday night

On Saturday, May 9, 2009, Wolf Blitzer on the CNN presented three critical interviews with mid-Eastern heads of state, in his weekend "Situation Room".

First he talked to Hamid Karzai, of Afghanistan, still wearing green. Karzai said that American airstrikes against civilian positions (by accident, “friendly fire”) were not acceptable behavior on the part of the U.S. He also said that the Taliban would not be able to return with any effect in Afghanistan. I say, ask Sebastian Junger (“The Half-King”) to go over there again and report.

Then he talked to Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari, cochairman of the Pakistani Peoples Party (an ironic named) and the widower of Benazir Bhutto. Zardari said that the suitcase nukes were safe, and that they were housed 60-70 miles from Islamabad. (I was surprised to hear a head of state be even that specific; remember how Eleanor Roosevelt got into trouble for publishing her columns on just weather in the US during WWII). He said that even the military could not seize them easily, let alone the Taliban, and that fighting had occurred in areas where they are housed without their being jeopardized. He also said that he has the loyalty of his military. Pakistan’s Army is actually one of the world’s largest outside of major powers.

Fareed Zakaria, host of GPS ("Global Public Square" on Sundays) appeared and told Wolf that the greatest danger would be gradual leak of fissile materials to opportunists like A.Q. Khan, who could try to hock the material on the black market. But I was under the impression that the weapons were complete units. Older weapons might not even trigger if someone tried to use them.

Israel’s president Shimon Peres talked about the concerns that Iran and the instability of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He would not rule out a strike to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, and Blitzer mentioned previous strikes against Iraq (the Osirak facility) in 1981, and Syria (recently). Peres said that moderate Sunni Arab states including Jordan and even Saudi Arabia had more to fear from Iran than did Israel.

Then Blitzer interviewed author Neil MacFarquhar, author of “The Media Relations Department of Hizbollah Wishes You a Happy Birthday: Unexpected Encounters in the Changing Middle East,” published by Public Affairs. The author had learned Arabic relatively late in life. They talked about globalization and radical Islam. The author said that the US has to “push the sides toward peace” in Palestine.

Blitzer then interviewed the First Lady of California, Maria Shriver, whose father Sargent Shriver (now 93) has Alzheimer’s and does not recognize her. She discussed the HBO documentary “The Alzheimer Project” to air May 10 thru 12 (there are several parts). She said that the numbers on Alzheimer’s have risen sharply since 2004, when she first approached HBO about a project after writing the book “What's Happening to Grandpa?”.She said that he had been a brilliant man throughout his career, but developed Alzheimer’s rapidly in 2003. She said that the disease will bankrupt our health care system if a cure isn’t found, but actually custodial care usually must be paid by the patients, their families, or sometimes Medicaid (not Medicare).

President Obama is due to speak on CNN at 10 PM EDT, from the White House Correspondents' Association dinner (story link by Paul Steinhauser, “Barack Obama: President or Comedian?”).

A portion of the video is available from CNN now. It sounds like a "Saturday Night Live" segment. Obama refers to Thomas Jefferson's idea that it's better to have newspapers without government than government without newspapers. He also says he'll build a library on his first 100 days, and finish his second 100 days in 72 days, by taking advantage of Einstein's special relativity. ("On the 73rd Day I will rest"; I presume that the president will watch the new version of "Star Trek"). Obama referred to a friend as a "person of color" but "not a color that appears in the natural world!" He said "I will strongly consider losing my cool."

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