Major print outlets repeated GOP's "cut and run" criticism of Democratic calls for Iraq withdrawal, ignored public support for pullout

››› ››› JOSH KALVEN

In articles on Senate Democrats' efforts to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq, numerous print outlets focused on differences between two Democratic proposals on the issue and highlighted Republicans' dismissals of the measures as "cutting and running." But these outlets failed to note that recent polls show a majority of Americans support some form of withdrawal from Iraq.

In their coverage of Senate Democrats' recent efforts to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq, numerous print outlets focused largely on the differences between two Democratic proposals on the issue and highlighted Republicans' dismissals of the measures as "cutting and running." But these outlets -- including The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Associated Press, and Reuters -- all failed to note that recent polls show a majority of Americans support some form of withdrawal from Iraq, even as Republicans continue to claim this represents a "cut and run" policy. Further, these outlets not only ignored reports that Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi requested a timetable for withdrawal during a June 13 meeting with President Bush, but they also did not mention a poll taken earlier this year that found that more than two-thirds of Iraqis support the exit of U.S. troops by the end of 2007.

On June 19, Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI) and Jack Reed (D-RI) introduced a nonbinding amendment calling for "the beginning of a phased redeployment of U.S. forces from Iraq by the end of the year." Further, it urges the administration to "submit to Congress its plan for continued redeployment beyond 2006." The measure also calls on the president to expedite "the transition of U.S. forces to a limited mission" that would consist of providing training and support to the Iraqi forces, protecting U.S. personnel, and conducting counterterrorism operations.

That same day, Sens. John Kerry (D-MA), Russ Feingold (D-WI), and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) announced their intention to introduce a separate amendment that sets a deadline of July 1, 2007, for the redeployment of U.S. troops.

In their articles on Senate Democrats' push for withdrawal, numerous print outlets highlighted Republicans' criticism of the Democratic proposals as "cutting and running." Further, several of those outlets focused on the contrast between the two Democratic approaches, which they construed as further evidence of divisions among Democrats over how to handle the situation in Iraq:

  • In their June 20 article, New York Times reporters Kate Zernike and Carl Hulse described Levin's proposal as an effort to "bridge divisions" among Democrats and noted that Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had referred to the amendment as "cut and jog." Further, they quoted McConnell saying, "The last thing you want to do when you have the terrorists on the run is give them notice that you're going to leave," and noted Bush's assertion that an "early withdrawal would embolden Al Qaeda and [Osama] bin Laden."
  • The June 20 article by Los Angeles Times staff writer Maura Reynolds reported that "Democratic leaders have been working to develop a consensus to rebut Republican accusations that they are divided and indecisive." She went on to quote Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) saying of the Levin amendment, "Cutting and running is bad policy that threatens our national security and poses unacceptable risks to Americans."
  • Associated Press writer Liz Sidoti reported that Frist had "chastis[ed] Democrats for espousing a 'cut-and-run' strategy that 'threatens our national security and poses unacceptable risks to Americans.' "
  • Reuters noted that Frist had "blasted the Levin measure as a 'cut and run' policy that 'threatens our national security and poses unacceptable risks to Americans.' "

But missing from each of these articles was any mention of polling on the issue, which shows that most Americans support the general idea of withdrawal, as Reed noted during a June 19 press conference with Levin announcing their amendment:

REED: These are tough, tough issues. And the sense that we have is that, as long as we're there to do this heavy lifting, even though they want to do it themselves, they won't do it. So I think this amendment deals with the realities on the ground. And with respect to this notion of deadlines, in the polling I've seen, 54 percent of the American people are now talking about they'd like to see a deadline. I've tried, and I Carl has tried, too, not to reflect simply the current moods of the people, but look on the ground to see what will allow us to finish this mission as successfully as possible. And that, in our view, is a phased redeployment of our forces out of Iraq in the most timely fashion; the timing to be determined on the ground by military commanders based upon the conditions on the ground.

A CNN poll conducted June 14-15 found that 53 percent of respondents favored a timetable for withdrawal, while 41 percent opposed such a measure. Similarly, an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll conducted June 9-12 showed that 57 percent of respondents supported reducing troop levels now, compared with 35 percent who favored maintaining the current deployment.

The print outlets similarly overlooked Iraqi public opinion on the issue. A poll conducted by the Program on International Policy Attitudes from January 2-5 found that 70 percent of Iraqis surveyed favored setting a deadline for withdrawal of U.S. forces, as the weblog Think Progress noted. Of that 70 percent, half of the respondents supported a short-term withdrawal of six months, while the other half preferred a gradual pullout over the course of two years.

Furthermore, the print coverage ignored an AP report that Hashimi personally requested a timetable for the pullout of U.S.-led troops during a June 13 meeting with Bush in Baghdad. According to the article, Hashimi made the request with the support of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.

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