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On my way back from New York last night, I had the misfortune to catch a few minutes of CNN -- allegedly America's most serious cable news network -- while waiting around Penn Station. Those four or so minutes of cable television summed up how much farther we have to go as a nation before we can have a coherent debate about the appropriate ends, ways and means related to counterterrorism. Anderson Cooper was interviewing -- wait for it -- Paul Begala and Ari Fleischer about the death of Osama bin Laden and the effectiveness of U.S. counterterrorism efforts.
It should go without saying that neither Begala nor Fleischer -- partisan, bilious mouthpieces -- have anything substantive to offer with respect to issues related to counterterrorism. Both men are bottom-feeders in the U.S. public discourse. Even when Mitt Romney issues a classy statement on the anniversary of the death of Osama bin Laden, you can always count on people like Fleischer to soil it with their partisan hackery.
I listened to these two clowns do their political theater and got on the train angry. That anger, though, turned to sadness when I ran into former Bush Administration counterterrorism official Michelle Malvesti* on the train. If there is anyone that should have been on the television talking to Americans about counterterrorism policy and strategy, it's people like her. I would love to have heard a substantive discussion between her and, say, Aki Peritz about Presidents Bush and Obama and their respective counterterrorism strategies. Instead, we get political hacks whose lines could have been scripted beforehand.
[For those seeking an antidote to cable news and not afraid to dig into some substance, check out the great back-and-forth between Will McCants and Mary Habeck on al-Qaeda.]
*The last name should sound familiar to graduates of the Ranger Course. You have her father to thank for the worm pit.