If you watch or read a lot of the coverage from the Middle East, you'll eventually run across a lot of good questions being asked by various analysts -- some of which defy easy answers. Last night, a Lebanese politician asked: Why did the Israelis blow up the jet fuel tanks at the Beirut airport if Hezbollah doesn't have any aircraft? Today, a left-leaning American political analyst asked if anyone is struck by the contradiction of the American flag proudly draped over those 40-or-so cartons of aid that arrived today in Beirut -- to be distributed to those who have been displaced by the American-made bombs dropped by American-made jets in an American-sanctioned bombing campaign? Still others routinely ask: Who will pay for the Marshall Plan that is going to be needed to rebuild 80 percent of Lebanon's highways and 95 percent of Lebanon's bridges... not to mention the buildings that have been reduced to dust? And here's another one: How does Israel begin to calculate the width of the "no-go" zone between it and Hezbollah to the north? Based on the range of the Katyushas... or perhaps a longer-range missile? All of these questions come as the coverage now takes on a harder edge, and as the conflict drags on. Required reading on the overall topic includes Tom Friedman's piece from this past weekend (requires TimesSelect subscription), and this week's Newsweek cover story (behind the scenes with the traveling White House), which reveals extraordinary access.
By the way, our analyst tells me the answer as to the fuel tanks has to do with the overarching Israeli attempt at immobilizing Hezbollah: that means by ground and air, and that includes cutting the power grid and even the ability to power generators... even though the generators I'm familiar with don't run on Jet-A.
While the public utterances of the administration have changed since the start of this conflict, today saw a new turn, as Andrea Mitchell will report tonight from the road: a more direct reference to Iran's role (as the administration sees it) than we have ever heard before. And now begins the discussion of this "international force" -- everything to uniforms to area of operation to rules of engagement and beyond. Andrea will of course join us tonight, along with Messrs Engel and Fletcher, and David Gregory on the Iraq front, vis-a-vis today's visitor to the White House. About the Engel piece tonight: it is modeled after the writing he has been doing in this space -- his stories of what he's found on the road in Southern Lebanon are heartbreaking. We will hear one of them tonight. Richard reports there are "outgoing rockets" where he is in Tyre -- that confirms a print report from earlier today, and that would indicate an incoming Israeli round before too long.
Elsewhere in the broadcast tonight: A good piece of reporting on what is happening to home sales, the 19th day of temperatures over 100 in California (and an explanation of the strain on the power grid) and a story that caught our eye in the Washington area, as told by Bob Faw.
About the Early Nightly, our newest addition in this space: It's intended to do what the Daily Nightly does... only with moving pictures and audio, and earlier in the day. Ideally, I will tape something when I'm clear of our morning editorial meeting. Today, for example, I was on an extended shoot outside the building, and David Gregory again did a great job in my place. That is going to happen many mornings -- as my calendar is always quite full, and events call me away from this building at exactly that hour. So, forgive me for handing off to a guest-vlogger from time to time. It will be someone, like David, who is a pro -- aware of our editorial roadmap for the day and/or covering a chunk of it himself. My other goal is to coax some of our notoriously publicity-shy senior-level producers into allowing cameras into their shrouded, secretive lives. They need the exposure. Our readers deserve the transparency. Just who are these shadowy figures behind "NBC Nightly News"?
All kidding aside and back to serious topics: We hope you can join us for tonight's broadcast.