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Pepe Escobar and Paul Jay react to Lieberman’s speech to the RNC

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PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR: Good evening, and welcome to our ongoing coverage of the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis, St. Paul. Joining us just a few minutes after the keynote speech from Senator Joe Lieberman is The Real News analyst Pepe Escobar. Hi, Pepe.

PEPE ESCOBAR, SENIOR ANALYST: Hi, Paul. How are you doing?

JAY: Good. So I was struck by one line in Senator Lieberman’s speech in particular, although I thought he was trying to hold back on some of the more aggressive rhetoric we’ve heard from him in the last few weeks or months, particularly about Iran. There was one line that jumped out at me. He says we need a president that our allies will trust and our enemies will fear. What did you make of Lieberman’s speech?

ESCOBAR: Well, I simply cannot see Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad trusting John McCain, first of all because Nouri al-Maliki wants American troops out, just like most of the Iraqi population of Sunni Shiites and Ayatollah Sistani in Najaf. And I cannot see Hu Jintao in Beijing or Vladimir Putin in Moscow fearing John McCain, especially after John McCain’s embrace of Georgia in this last adventure, which McCain, advised by Randy Scheunemann, he was au courant—he knew exactly what was happening, I’m sorry. And he started to spin that Russia invaded Georgia when it was the other way around. Georgia started the whole thing, invading South Ossetia and destroying its capital.

JAY: So tell us a bit about Lieberman. Give us some context for this speech, who he is. And right in the beginning of his speech, he asked the question, “What’s a Democrat like me doing in a Republican convention like this?”

ESCOBAR: Exactly. Okay. We can define him as a Trojan horse or a fifth column, in fact. The Republicans obviously like it, because he came here basically to be a traveling salesman for John McCain. The real inside story is what we won’t get, especially from the mainstream media. The real inside story is what reporters over here have been discussing for the past two days. The Bush family wanted Mitt Romney as the VP, and McCain wanted basically Lieberman. So there was a war between the Bush family and McCain, and the go-between was no one other than Karl Rove. Karl Rove, in fact, pressed by the Bush family, was trying to convince McCain to get Romney as the VP. In the end, McCain, in a typical gambling impulse, he chose Sarah Palin. And for the past two days we have had the extraordinary, cosmically soap-opera-ish story of Sarah Palin and Bristol Palin. The day of Hurricane Gustav, yesterday in the convention, the real hurricane was Bristol, the 17-year-old, pregnant daughter of Sarah Palin. So Lieberman came here. And I’ve seen some of his speeches for the past few months, and I was expecting a lot of rhetoric, especially against Iran. Today we talked to John Bolton, and John Bolton practically advocated that Israel strikes Iran before the next president comes to power. I was expecting something similar from Lieberman, and nothing happened.

JAY: Yeah. Let’s just point out, for the people that don’t remember, John Bolton was Bush’s appointee to the UN. Lieberman himself, until very recently, in fact until tonight, had been talking about Iran on the way towards nuclear weapons within a year or two. He and McCain have both been talking about that Iran would then give these weapons to terrorists to come after America. We didn’t hear any of that more inflammatory rhetoric tonight.

ESCOBAR: Exactly. He didn’t even talk about foreign policy. The only quote—this is my handwritten notes—the only quote was about the surge, the success of the surge. And McCain, because McCain has supported the surge from the beginning against public opinion US, and even reticence from the White House in the beginning. And that was all. Nothing. They didn’t say anything about Russia, about China, and foreign policy challenges. And he praised Sarah Palin, but very vaguely, just like Fred Thompson, who spoke before Lieberman, was much more extensive in his praise of Sarah Palin. And Lieberman didn’t say, basically, anything. So I detected a lot of frustration in his speech, in fact.

JAY: One of the things that the mainstream media has completely ignored—and seems to be allowing McCain to reposition himself, and tonight even Lieberman, ’cause nobody comments on it—but Lieberman is co-chair of this organization called the Committee on the Present Danger, which is co-chaired by Senator Kyl, and the actual active chairs are George Schultz and James Woolsey, former head of the CIA. This is Woolsey. He called for the bombing of Syria. Tell us a little bit about Lieberman and his connection to the neocon Scheunemann, what that agenda is, because McCain isn’t running on that agenda. You wouldn’t know that’s what he seems so connected with.

ESCOBAR: Yes, absolutely. And Lieberman, Graham, and Kyl, they are all Israelis first, basically. So this agenda is basically the Likudnik agenda in the US, it’s basically the Likud Party in Israel, it’s the Netanyahu agenda, which is against Oslo, against a comprehensive Palestinian-Israeli agreement. It’s an agenda that—it’s basically derived from the Project from the New American Century. It’s the same agenda for the past ten years, actually, even when Bill Clinton was still president. What they want is a greater Israel. This is something that they would never say on the record in the US. And in the Middle East, you know, you can imagine the repercussions if it’s admitted in public. And, obviously, this [inaudible] through alienating Iranian opposition to the agenda of [inaudible] Israel. This is what people like John Bolton, neocon, former UN ambassador, because Bolton is not connected to anybody at the moment, he can say that explicitly, as he told us today. We’re going to see this interview in the next few hours.

JAY: This is Bolton supporting an Israeli attack on Iran, right?

ESCOBAR: Exactly. Bolton practically is—on the record he practically said that he was expecting an Israeli strike against Iran before the next president comes to power. He’s the only one who can say that so openly now in the current political situation in the US.

JAY: But I think it’s also important to point out that this Project for a New American Century goes past Israel. It’s about projecting American military might to reshape the entire world.

ESCOBAR: Absolutely. And Israel is the [inaudible] that will be conducting this American expansion in the Middle East, which passes through, you know, eliminating Hezbollah, eliminating Hamas, especially eliminating Tehran.

JAY: What final thoughts do you have on Lieberman’s speech?

ESCOBAR: I’m sorry, Paul. Could you repeat? I cannot hear you well.

JAY: I’ll try it again. Final thoughts on Lieberman’s speech tonight?

ESCOBAR: Look, he characterized McCain and Palin as two mavericks. This is really incredible. This is the current Republican Party narrative since Palin last weekend, and since Gustav yesterday, and since the extraordinary scandal involving Palin’s daughter. They are not mavericks. Palin has no national experience and no foreign experience.

JAY: Pepe, let me ask you a question.

ESCOBAR: Yes, please.

JAY: Let me ask a question, ’cause I think much more significant than Palin’s daughter, because lots of people’s daughters get pregnant—personally, I don’t see why it’s even considered a scandal. But the thing that I thought was more significant, we did a report this morning that made it very clear that Palin lied about turning down the money for the bridge to nowhere, and then tonight CBS did the story. So it has broken through mainstream news. Is there any sense on the floor of the convention there or people you’re talking to that Palin’s been caught in a lie here?

ESCOBAR: Today we spent, like, one hour on the floor talking to a lot of delegates, you know, Texas, New Hampshire, Indiana, women, and also some men, and they were all repeating the same party line: no, Palin has executive experience because she’s been governor of Alaska for two years. She is not corrupt. She is a mother. She is an example for the working families in America. You know, when you question, “What about her foreign policy experience?” some people actually repeat the same McCain and Laura Bush line: she has foreign policy experience, because Alaska, after all, borders [Canada]. And it’s getting into a kind of a Desperate Housewives soap-opera-ish thing which has no report with any reality whatsoever. And this is the party line; this is what everybody is repeating on the convention floor.

JAY: Okay. Well, tomorrow night after Palin’s speech, let’s talk again. I assume she’s going to speak tomorrow. She’s apparently disappeared in the last two or three days, but I guess *one could only think it’s in serious breifings.

ESCOBAR: *What we heard today is that she was working on her speech today. She’s probably doing it as we speak now. She will speak tomorrow night. She’s the keynote speaker for Wednesday night at the convention.

JAY: Alright. Thank you very much, Pepe.

ESCOBAR: Thank you, Paul.


Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

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Pepe Escobar, born in Brazil is the roving correspondent for Asia Times and an analyst for The Real News Network. He's been a foreign correspondent since 1985, based in London, Milan, Los Angeles, Paris, Singapore, and Bangkok. Since the late 1990s, he has specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central Asia, including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. He has made frequent visits to Iran and is the author of Globalistan and also Red Zone Blues: A Snapshot of Baghdad During the Surge both published by Nimble Books in 2007.