Secretary Clinton Gets a Taste of Pakistani Anti-Americanism

Oct 28, 2009 3:00pm

ABC News’ Nick Schifrin reports:

ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN — If you have access to Pakistani television and you want to get a taste of how anti-Americanism has risen here, watch the roundtable that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton subjected herself to tonight with Pakistan’s most popular Urdu-language talk show hosts.

While Clinton did occasionally seem like she was having fun, mostly she faced questions that she wouldn’t hear from her traveling press party but reflect Pakistani public opinion — if only because this group of anchors so strongly influences that opinion.

One of them, Hamid Mir, is nearly as popular for Pakistanis as Walter Cronkite once was for Americans.

There wasn’t too much news made in the roundtable, at least half of which focused on deep mistrust over the Kerry-Lugar bill, a foreign aide bill offered by Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Dick Lugar, R-Ind., that Pakistanis perceived as an infringement on their sovereignty.

The anchors complained about drone strikes; a perceived lack of understanding by the U.S. of Pakistan; secret motives; and poor policy in the region. They also discussed private, heavily armed security guards hired by the U.S. embassy driving around Islamabad at 3am “breaking the law” – a charge not completely true; and 1,000 marines brought in to guard the embassy – which is not true at all.

At one point, slightly exasperated, Clinton seemed to surrender during the long debate over the Kerry-Lugar bill, saying, “You don’t have to believe it! You don’t have to take the money!”

Perhaps the best sound from Clinton that came during the roundtable and best represents what she’s trying to do here: “That’s why I’m here. I want to clear the air.”

–Nick Schifrin

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