The Emmy- and Peabody Award-winning journalist weighs in on the new foreign policy challenges facing the president and the sudden resignation of Pope Benedict.
ABC News’ Martha Raddatz
Tavis: Martha Raddatz is an Emmy and Peabody award-winning journalist who serves as the chief global affairs correspondent for “ABC News,” who’s just launched a new project in conjunction with Yahoo, called “On the Radar.”
She also continues, of course, her role as frequent guest and part-time host on ABC’s “This Week.” Last year, as we all know, she of course moderated the vice presidential debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan. She joins us on the State of the Union eve from Washington.
Martha, good to have you on the program. Before you say anything, let me just apologize to the audience that Martha is actually on the phone. Just before we came live on the air, our satellite feed took a hit.
But with all the news of the day and the news that will be made tomorrow, I didn’t want to lose a conversation with this iconic reporter, Martha Raddatz. So Martha, thank you for doing this under these difficult situations.
Martha Raddatz: It’s great to be with you, Tavis.
Tavis: You’ll be happy to know there’s a big, beautiful picture of you on the screen right now.
Raddatz: (Laughter) But I’m on the phone, so –
Tavis: But you’re on the phone.
Raddatz: I don’t know how any of that works, (laughter) but I know we’ll make it work somehow.
Tavis: Well I know I value your intellect and your hard work, so let me just jump right in. First of all, tell me about this new project, “On the Radar.”
Raddatz: “On the Radar,” tracking the world, it’s our digital project with Yahoo and ABC News network. It’s a great new project, it’s part of our power players on “ABC News” and Yahoo. I think the power players get about 100 million hits a year, so it’s great.
It’s a real opportunity for me to sit down, kinda like you get to do, Tavis, and do lengthier interviews about national security, about foreign affairs. So it’s been a really wonderful project for me.
Tavis: That raises two questions for me right quick, before I get into the news of the day. Number one, given the number of years you’ve been at this, what’s your sense of how the delivery of news has changed thanks to the Internet and technology?
What do you make of the way that the business has changed so much, just in your tenure?
Raddatz: Boy, it’s changed a lot. As you said, I’ve been around a long time. I think one of the things that we all have to do is look at it as opportunity, and that’s the way I look at it. We still have our major broadcasts, we still have world news, we still have “Good Morning, America,” we still have “Nightline.”
But the Internet and the digital world is really what we should all be looking at. It’s a fabulous opportunity to get different types of audiences, to get I think probably a younger audience.
I’m sure you’re hitting the Internet as much as I am, but definitely young people are – my adult children probably get their news from the Internet, even though their mom’s on “World News” every night. They probably go to the Internet first.
Tavis: Is there less interest or more interest in global affairs, in world affairs? I ask that in part because of the way that news is being delivered, to your point, via the Internet and beyond.
But I also ask that because – you tell me, I could be wrong – it seems to me that our interest in these kinds of affairs that you cover so well ebbs and flows depending on our proximity to trouble spot X, Y, or Z.
Raddatz: Well, I think it’s a really good point, and of course people are going to be more interested in global affairs or foreign affairs if it affects us.
Raddatz: That’s just human nature. I think when I look back on the last decade, of course, most of the things I covered, which is conflict in Afghanistan and Iraq, affected us.
Tavis: I’ve got just a couple-few minutes with you. Let me run, then, through, if I can, quickly some of the issues that Americans do seem to care about at the moment, of the issues that you cover, and get your take on it.
Tavis: In no particular order, number one, women in combat.
Raddatz: Love that story. That was one of the first stories I ever covered at the Pentagon, and it was female aviators. I did a story this year on a female aviator, a combat pilot, a fighter pilot, the first female fighter pilot in the Air Force, who’s now the first female fighter wing commander.
I actually flew with her in her F15 to see her go through this. Now opening that up to ground combat is stunning. I was honestly just stunned when Secretary Panetta came out and said the joint chiefs supported that.
I think it’s a challenge going forward. I think the military has to take this slow. I think they will take it slow. I don’t think they can lower physical standards. Then you really end up with problems. But what people don’t really understand, I think, is that part of the reason having women in combat is so important to females having that opportunity is leadership positions.
You are just not going to advance in the military if all of the men have “official” combat experience and you don’t. You have seen amazing women over the years; I have seen amazing women in Iraq and Afghanistan who’ve been awarded Silver Stars because they were in the middle of a firefight.
But you don’t see those women up in the combat outposts, you don’t see those women in the infantry units, officially, and I think this is a great opportunity for women going forward.
Tavis: Is Chuck Hagel going to get through, speaking of Mr. Panetta? He’s in line to take that job if he can be confirmed. Will he be?
Raddatz: I would predict he probably will be. I said yesterday on “This Week” that I don’t think any of us disagreed. He probably will be. I don’t think you get this far, I don’t think you come this far and not have that happen, and I guess we’ll find that out tomorrow.
Tavis: Two questions: Will John Brennan get through at CIA, and are you I don’t want to say pleased, I don’t want to put words in your mouth. Let me ask it this way – how do you read the fact that finally – that’s my word – finally, there is at least a conversation about drones?
Raddatz: I am completely with you on that, Tavis. I think that this country needs to debate drones. They need to know more about what’s going on with the drone strike program.
I interviewed, in fact, on “On the Radar,” General Stanley McChrystal, who used to be in charge of the Joint Special Operations Command, in charge of the drone strike program, and even he is saying look, we are at a stage where mid-level Al Qaeda are being hit, and Americans don’t really know who these people are.
They don’t know why, they don’t know how this happened. Obviously, the sensitivities are to the country where drone strikes occur. Those countries don’t really want to talk about it publicly.
Raddatz: But we as Americans, war is changing, and we should know more about how it is changing, how we are employing basically a death strike on someone, and who these people are, how it works. I think that was a very good thing to come out of John Brennan’s hearing. I don’t think we learned that much, but I think at least opened the door enough where we should start to find out more.
Tavis: Your thoughts on the news today of the pope resigning?
Raddatz: Like everybody else, that was pretty stunning news. I got the call about 6:00, just after 6:00 this morning, like everyone else, and turned on “Good Morning, America,” and we were talking about the first time in 600 years.
I think it’s remarkable that one of the things I think that happens is Pope Benedict will still be around. He’ll still be there when the next pope is chosen, so having him oversee, in a way, the other pope is I think what’s remarkable about all of this, and that’s what hasn’t happened in 600 years. It’s kind of like you move in the new boss, but the old boss is still there.
Tavis: Finally, Syria.
Raddatz: Syria is a huge, huge problem in so many ways. Israel, when I was in Israel last week, I went up to the northern border with Lebanon and Syria. First of all, after the Israeli airstrike inside Syria on those missiles, it is extremely tense in Israel.
They’re worried about retaliation, but more than that, 60,000 people have died, and no one can come up with a solution on how this is stopped. How many times have we heard “Assad has to go,” “He’s going to go imminently?” It just hasn’t happened, and it gets more worrisome every day because there’s fragmentation now.
We don’t really know who all these rebel groups are. We don’t really know who they’ll support if Assad goes. This is a crisis that has not been resolved.
Tavis: For my entire conversation with Martha Raddatz, hit our website at PBS.org/TavisSmiley. Martha Raddatz from “ABC News,” thank you for coming on, and I’m sorry about the satellite hit.
Raddatz: No problem.
Tavis: But I appreciate your insights.
Raddatz: Tavis, I’m thrilled to be on the show. Thanks so much.
Tavis: Thank you, Martha.
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