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FRIDAY OUTLOOK

Tonight the fires in California have our attention. And if it's true, as investigators suspect, that this fire was arson, someone has blood on their hands. The fire exploded in size and intensity today, and we have two correspondents now on the ground covering the story. We'll also check in on the dirt being thrown prior to the election, and Tom Brokaw will report from California on the turnaround mounted by the Governor. We will also have our regular Friday evening "Making a Difference" report.

LETTERS TO THE BLOG
To the fan of Eisenhower who wrote in: while I can't address the political point you made, the General is always top of mind whenever I visit Walter Reed, as I did yesterday: I think of the time Ike spent there, and I think of his dramatic death scene -- and it makes the planned demolition of the facility a sad event to contemplate.


I noted there was a letter from someone (who lacked the courage to use his/her own name) that criticized Richard Engel for calling himself "basically a pacifist" in the Washington Post profile by Howard Kurtz that was published yesterday. The letter asked if Richard could be "trusted" to be "around American troops." It's a comment that I'm afraid sums up what's happened to our discourse these days (the practice, dormant for 60 years or so, of raising vague or overt questions about the patriotism of those you don't like), and rather than answering it myself, (and after having read a related comment on a political Web site last night), I've asked Jack Jacobs to respond, at the bottom of this posting.  Jack is one of our NBC military analysts, but more important for the purpose of this discussion, he is one of 111 living recipients of the Medal of Honor. I sit on the board of the Medal of Honor Foundation, and have come to know Jack as one of this nation's truly extraordinary citizens. I'll let his comments speak for themselves.

BRUSH WITH GREATNESS
I've waited 24 hours, so this differs from Gawker Stalker, but I witnessed a great New York scene while stopped at a light at 49th and Park Ave. in Manhattan yesterday. Former Treasury Secretary John Snow crossed the intersection carrying a canvas tote bag. What made it great was the schoolboy-like reaction of two older and very staid-looking business types -- who passed Snow on the sidewalk feigning nonchalance -- and then wheeled around the very instant he passed by them, bursting out into spasms of delighted recognition. This was a rock star sighting for these guys -- they had just spotted a man who just months ago was 5th in line to the presidency -- and it clearly made their day.

Have a good weekend. On Monday, I'll be anchoring the 1 p.m. EDT hour on MSNBC, as they devote the entire day to political coverage. Remember to turn your clocks back. We hope you will join us for our Friday night broadcast.

GUEST BLOG FROM JACK JACOBS, COL., U.S. ARMY (RET.)
RECIPIENT, CONGRESSIONAL MEDAL OF HONOR

While nobody is bereft of opinions and even biases, these don't preclude delivering balanced reports. One could argue persuasively that journalism isn't even a profession: no objective standards of performance, no meaningful peer review, and no centralized enforcement. Plumbers, electricians and even taxi drivers all meet the criteria... but not journalists. Nevertheless, one doesn't have to be a member of a recognized profession to be a recognized professional. Richard is a professional.

If Richard Engel is a pacifist, it's news to me, and it certainly doesn't surface in his reporting. I can't recall a single report he's filed that would betray a bias against soldiers or what they are trying to accomplish in the fight against terror.

Furthermore, an opposition to war doesn't disqualify one from reporting accurately about war, any more than being a capitalist would disqualify a reporter from filing an unbiased report about communism. If that were the case, we would have had nothing useful out of Moscow from Western journalists for more than 70 years.

Finally, if there is an implication, no matter how subtle, that pacifism precludes patriotism, let me offer just one example to the contrary. Last year, a friend of mine of 40 years, a pacifist, passed away. Although he was excused from serving in World War II because of his beliefs, he loved this country and volunteered to be a combat medic. His name was Desmond Doss, and for his heroic battlefield gallantry in saving the lives of his comrades under fire, he was awarded the Medal of Honor.