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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Wartime Criticism An American Tradition

Aired March 27, 2003 - 02:53   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Only a week into the war with Iraq, we've already heard voices of doubt and skepticism about how it's all going, and there are reasons for that. And there's been some tough questioning, too, for the people at the Pentagon. Reasons for that. Surely, they were expecting it. Wartime criticism is an old American tradition.
Here's CNN's Jeff Greenfield.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

QUESTION: But we were told we would then get the big picture...

QUESTION: ... a seeming contradiction...

QUESTION: ... are not hitting their targets.

QUESTION: ... ones that don't go off...

QUESTION: Do you think you made the wrong decision...

QUESTION: What other options are there?

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST (voice-over): Skeptical questions from the press.

GEN. TOMMY FRANKS, CMDR., U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: We've placed ourselves in a risky proposition...

GREENFIELD: Somber warnings from the experts. Isn't the country supposed to come together when a war begins? Isn't that part of our history?

(on camera): Well, as a matter of fact, no. Whether it's right or wrong, criticism in wartime is an American tradition.

(voice-over): All through the Civil War, Abe Lincoln was savagely attacked as a fool, an incompetent leader. In fact, his first commanding general, George McLellan, ran against him in 1864 as a peace candidate. And but for some victories by General Grant, McLellan might well have won.

All through World War II, FDR's political and journalistic opponents kept up a barrage of criticism. They attacked him for everything from wartime shortages to seeking special favors for his sons in the military. His 1944 rival, Tom Dewey, said, "This is a campaign against an administration which was conceived in defeatism." HARRY S. TRUMAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are fighting in Korea for our own national security and survival.

GREENFIELD: During Korean, President Truman was attacked for pursuing a no-win policy. And when he fired General Douglas McArthur, Truman's foes brought McArthur to Congress for a speech. Some Republicans even threatened impeachment. In 1952, "Korea, corruption and communism" was the Republican campaign slogan.

As the war in Vietnam dragged on, the opposition grew. Senator Robert Kennedy broke with Johnson, Eugene McCarthy and then Kennedy challenged him in the primaries. And Republican nominee Richard Nixon made Vietnam a campaign issue. He said in his acceptance speech, "If after all this time and all of the sacrifice and all of the support, there is still no end in sight, then I say the time has come for the American people to turn to new leadership not tied to the mistakes and policies of the past."

And once Nixon became president, Democrats showed no hesitancy in attacking the war, even speaking out at anti-war demonstrations.

(on camera): And as for the press, at one point, during World War II, President Roosevelt got so fed up with one "New York Daily News" columnist that, at an informal White House news conference, he presented that columnist with a medal, an iron cross from Nazi Germany. It's hard to imagine George W. Bush or Donald Rumsfeld looking for an Iraqi medal to hand out to even the most skeptical member of today's press.

Jeff Greenfield, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BROWN: A quick break, and we'll wrap up our time here in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BROWN: The daily briefing out of Qatar is still ahead. Anderson and Carol will have that. We leave you with some of the images of the day, and we'll see you tomorrow. Have a good day.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com




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