Thursday, February 17, 2011

Michael Vick and Oprah Unlikely to Happen

My sources at the Eagles say that Vick was strongly discouraged from appearing on Oprah because she is such an avid dog lover. Oprah now has a total of five dogs. She recently adopted and brought on her show two new springer spaniel pups.
At first, Vick was flattered that Oprah wanted him on the show. (Piers Morgan of CNN never had a chance.)Traditionally, she is a soft interview. Her rabid love of dogs may have made her growl with displeasure.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Rumsfeld Still Defends Going to War

Donald Rumsfeld, who served as Secretary of Defense under President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2006, kicked off the book tour for his memoir, “Known and Unknown,” at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on February 9. Rumsfeld had Michael Beschloss, the author of 8 books on US Presidents, to moderate the discussion.

The title “Known and Unknown” is a wink and nod to Rumsfeld’s much ridiculed answer about Iraqi plans to supply terrorists with weapons of mass destruction. At a press conference in 2002, Rumsfeld said, ““There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”

In a private conversation with Secretary Rumsfeld while he is signing my book, I asked him about his current thoughts about Israel in light of the recent monumental changes in the Middle East. He said, “If I was Israel, I would be worried with Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

Rumsfeld spent much of the public part of the program defending Bush’s decision to invade Iraq. Curiously, he admitted that Bush never directly asked Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Advisor Condileezza Rice, or himself if he should invade Iraq. “He knew that if we thought he was wrong we would have voiced our objections,” said the former Secretary of Defense.

“The Iraqi army had fired more than 2000 missiles at American and British planes that were patrolling the no fly zone,” said Rumsfeld. “What is they had killed someone?”

Rumsfeld insisted, “Saddam Hussein and his family were offered safe passage out of the country, but Saddam refused. There was no regime change after Bush senior invaded Iraq so I think he did not think that this Bush would force him to go.”
In his list of good results from the Iraq invasion, Rumsfeld revealed for the first time, “Omar Kadafi of Libya told the United States that he abandoned his nuclear program after the United States invaded Iraq.”

He surmised that Kadafi did not want to suffer the same fate as Saddam Hussein. “He even offered us the opportunity to inspect his nuclear arsenal,” stated Rumsfeld.
Bizarrely, Rumsfeld mentioned that the John Hopkins Smallpox Study “Dark Winter” influenced his decision to go to war. This study found “If Smallpox virus was released into three locations that 800,000 would die and many more would be infected.”

An audience member requested that Rumfseld, who also served as Secretary of Defense under President Ford, to explain the difference between the Iraq and Vietnam Wars. Rumsfeld replied, “We never feared that the Vietnamese would attack America.” Rumsfeld ignored my question -What is the role of Intelligence Services now that they have been proven horribly wrong about 9/11, Iraqi WMDs, and the uprising in the Middle East?

When he went to meet Bush, Rumsfeld never expected that Bush would ask him to become Secretary of Defense. He joked, “I was old man. Joyce (his wife) was telling friends at our 50th high school reunion that this was our rural period.”
When asked by Beschloss about Bush’s intelligence, Rumsfeld first went into a long tangent about the fact that the public considers all Republic Presidents from Eisenhower to Bush stupid. He reminded the audience that Ford, possibly the finest athlete to live in the White House, was considered clumsy.

“Bush is intelligent. He asked penetrating questions. He worked his way with foreign leaders so that they would do constructive things for the US,” he finally answered.

He applauded Bush for implementing the surge in Iraq at a time when Congress was ready to vote the war out of existence. “When the rebels saw the additional troops, they knew that Bush meant business and was not going to give up. They fell into line.”

The audience did learn one interesting statistic about the Department of Defense. Rumsfeld disclosed that the department employs 10,000 lawyers. The Defense Authorization Act ballooned to 574 pages in 2006 from 74 pages in 1976, when he was Secretary of Defense the first time.

Rumsfeld surprisingly mentioned only Democrats as political heroes. They were Franklin Roosevelt and Adlai Stevenson. He did not list well known Republicans such as Arnold Schwarzenegger or Kelsey Grammer as his friends in the entertainment business, but Sammy Davis Jr. and Elvis Presley.

Rumsfeld left the crowd wanting more. Many complained that Beschloss was much too deferential to Rumsfeld. He did not ask questions about Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo Bay, or waterboarding.

Beschloss explained, “After he served as Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara never spoke in public again for thirty years. I also wanted to cover different ground than the Diane Sawyer interview.”

There was only one protester outside of the National Constitution Center. She had to stand about 100 feet from the entrance of the building. Maybe, the cold stifled dissent.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Comcast Executive Lets Loose

Metro was able to catch up with an exultant David L. Cohen, the executive vice president of Comcast, by phone from his Philadelphia office hours before the Comcast-NBC deal closed. Comcast now owns 51% of NBCUniversal in a joint venture with General Electric. Comcast assumes management control of the network.
Cohen, along with a team of Comcast employees in Philadelphia and Washington, has spent over a year working on gaining regulatory approval for this deal. “I can not believe that we (Comcast executives) are going to wake up in the morning and be the proud owners of NBCUniversal. Brian Roberts, the CEO of Comcast, is both exhilarated and humbled,” said Cohen.
Comcast headquarters will stay in Philadelphia notwithstanding that NBC is New York City based. Although Brian Roberts recently bought an apartment in Manhattan in the same building as Sting and Denzel Washington, he is not decamping there. Cohen insisted, “Brian and Ralph Roberts and Comcast executives are proud to head a Philadelphia based company. We just opened the center city headquarters in June 2008.”
For the city of Philadelphia, the merger will not mean a gain or loss of any jobs. Cohen stressed, “Comcast employees will not be moving to New York. We do not intend to move NBC, Universal or Telemundo employees here. Maybe, a few additional administrative positions might be needed locally”
Cohen was clearly taking a victory lap. “During the week before the FCC vote, more than 110 Congressman and Senators signed a letter urging approval. Governors, mayors, and City Council members supported the deal. Only two people –Congresswoman Maxine Waters and Senator Al Franken-were against the deal at the end,” said Cohen.
Congresswoman Waters, reached over the weekend, said, “When no African American received an Oscar nomination this year, I am right to be worried about diversity.” Queen Latifah spoofed her outspoken criticism of the merger on “30 Rock.”
Critics charged that the FCC did not extract major concessions from Comcast when they approved the merger. Cohen also downplayed the significance of the conditions that FCC imposed on Comcast to approve the merger. “We voluntarily agreed to most of the conditions because we would have done them anyways. For example, we have agreed to supply an additional 1000 hours of local news and public affairs programming and partner with hyperlocal non- profit news organizations because we believe in local news,” he asserted.
Cohen argued that ceding management control of Hulu, the online video service that is a joint venture between NBC, News Corp, and Disney, was a “nonevent.” “Before the merger, NBC had a minority, non controlling stake that afforded limited governance,” he contended.
Comcast is now required by the FCC to offer stand alone hi speed Internet at the price of $49.95 for the next two years with a cost of living increase only allowed in the third year. Cohen contends, “Comcast was doing this anyways. We currently charge $49.95 -$54.95 for this service.”
Jeff Zucker, previously the CEO of the network; MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann; and Angela Bromsted, the programming executive responsible for “House” and “Heroes” have been recently terminated. One person that does not seem to have to worry about a job is Steve Capus, the head of NBC News.
Cohen said, “NBC News is the crown jewel of the network. We have enormous respect for the people that work there and have made it the leading news network. Steve Capus is staying and will now be reporting directly to Steve Burke, the incoming CEO of NBCUniversal.”
While the acquisition of NBC was Brian Robert’s vision, his 91- year- old father, Comcast founder Ralph Roberts, has reason to be proud. On a video conference for NBCUniversal employees today, the senior Roberts said, “Only in America could a cable company in Tupelo, Mississippi with 1200 customers turn into a company with $50 billion in revenues and 130,000 employees.
NBC and ATT Broadband will probably not be the last purchases of Comcast. Cohen, refusing to comment, said, “I joined Comcast because they are a growing company, not content to stand still.”
I reported part of this for Metro.