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ABC’s Martha Raddatz Hammers Pete Buttigieg Over Iran, Troops: ‘This is Not John Bolton Asking, This is the Military’

ABC’s Martha Raddatz ate her Wheaties on Sunday and, throughout her interviews on This Week let no one off the hook, be it Republican Liz Cheney or Democrat Pete Buttigieg.

In fact, she was almost relentlessly thorough with Buttigieg, asking him for justification for his answers, challenging him on his experience, and basically doing the kind of interview that seems almost from a bygone era in today’s cable news environment.

The above clip is a portion of that interview, in which Raddatz hammered Buttigieg on the deployment of troops to the Middle East over the Iran threat.

“The Pentagon is sending 1,500 more military personnel over to the Middle East to deter Iran,” said Raddatz. “Is that a good idea? Is that something you would have approved?

“This is not a good sign. Escalation is the last thing we need in the Middle East right now,” Buttigieg replied. “And when you see what’s been happening, it appears that the administration, driven by the way by John Bolton, one of the architects of the Iraq War, is continuing to try to prosecute a case to lead to higher tensions, escalation and perhaps conflict with Iran as though we learned nothing from the last 15 years of armed conflict — conflict in the Middle East.”

In invoking National Security Advisor John Bolton, Buttigieg was toeing the party line on tensions with Iran. Beto O’Rourke and other Democrats have also been putting the focus on Bolton, as has Iran’s foreign minister.

Unlike in pretty much every other interview of every other Democrat or Iranian official who has said that, Raddatz actually followed-up, challenging his assertion.

“But this is also based on intelligence and the military. Central Command — you know Central Command very well — they asked for these troops for force protection, based on intelligence about missiles in some Iranian boats,” said Raddatz. “So this is not John Bolton asking for this. This is the military.”

“Look, there is clearly a pattern of misbehavior and provocation by the Iranians that goes back in different ways across my entire lifetime,” Buttigieg began to answer.

Raddatz didn’t let the topic shift form her question. “Let me stick to this because it’s based on intelligence. Do you believe the intelligence?” she asked, point blank.

“Well, I can’t weigh in on intelligence that I haven’t seen, but what I do see is a pattern –” Buttigieg waffled again.

Again Raddatz didn’t let it slide. “But you’ve heard people in the military, commanders in the military today, saying, this was the intelligence they found.”

“And I think our national security policy has to be to avoid escalation in the Persian Gulf,” said Buttigieg in what was still actually not a real answer, but closer to one.

“But how do you do that if you’re under threat?” asked Raddatz. “So if they think their forces need to be protected more and you don’t send more…”

Raddatz let the implication hang, and Buttigieg replied with a very Trumpian “I’m smarter than the generals” answer.

“I think that we have the means to protect our assets in the Middle East,” he said. He then floated a “Wag the Dog” conspiracy theory. “The way this is being talked about makes me wonder whether this — this is driven as much by domestic politics as it is by national security imperatives.”

On the next subject, Raddatz was equally hard-hitting. She asked if Buttigieg would pull troops back from Afghanistan, and he replied that leaving is an imperative agreed upon by left, right, and Afghanistan’s government.

“Do you have a plan for how we can get out?” Raddatz challenged.
As Buttigieg began to describe moves like establshing intel capabilities and removing “ground pressure,” Raddatz hit him again.

“That sounds like Joe Biden’s plan from many years ago.”

She basically said he was simply copying off his opponent and the current Dem front-runner.

“Well, many years ago would have been the time to make good on the idea of leaving,” the ex-Mayor lamely replied.

And then on North Korea, again, no quarter. Raddatz brought up another opponent and pack-leader for 2020, Sen. Bernie Sanders, saying he couldn’t fault the president for his meeting with Kim Jong Un. She asked Buttigieg if he thought it was the right move.

“Do you — was that the way to go?” she asked. “I know you’ve talked about more diplomacy, but there hasn’t been any significant progress since he met with him.”

“When the president met with Kim, he was essentially handing North Korea something they needed, which was legitimacy,” said Buttigieg. “And the way diplomacy works, the way deals work is you give someone something in return for something.”

“It hasn’t worked,” said Raddatz.

“It hasn’t worked at all,” agreed Buttigieg.

“And President Trump was — was handed a pretty tough hand with nuclear weapons, with ICBMs operational,” Raddatz continued.

“Right,” said Buttigieg.

In the next bit, not clipped above, Buttigieg referenced something “you learn in government executive roles,” which Raddatz took and segued into a biting question about his own experience, or lack thereof. You can watch the full interview at ABC.

It was a good one. Thorough, not hostile. But not softball. She had another great and news-making interview with Liz Cheney shortly thereafter.

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