Media ignored Bush's vow that "[w]e're not leaving" Iraq "so long as I'm the president"

››› ››› SIMON MALOY

Various media outlets ignored President Bush's statement during an August 21 press conference that the United States will not withdraw its forces from Iraq as long as he is president. Those outlets simply reported that Bush pledged to keep U.S. forces in Iraq until "the mission is complete," and offered no indication that Bush pledged to keep troops there for the remainder of his term.

In reporting on President Bush's August 21 press conference on Iraq and the Middle East, various media outlets ignored Bush's statement that the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq will not happen as long as he is president. During the press conference, Bush stated affirmatively: "We're not leaving, so long as I'm the president. That would be a huge mistake. It would send an unbelievably terrible signal to reformers across the region. It would say we've abandoned our desire to change the conditions that create terror. It would give the terrorists a safe haven from which to launch attacks." Certain media outlets, however, simply reported that Bush pledged to keep U.S. forces in Iraq until "the mission is complete," offering no indication that Bush pledged to keep troops there for the remainder of his term.

From Bush's press conference:

BUSH: The strategy is to help the Iraqi people achieve their objectives and their dreams, which is a democratic society. That's the strategy. The tactics -- now, either you say, yes, it's important we stay there and get it done, or we leave. We're not leaving, so long as I'm the president. That would be a huge mistake. It would send an unbelievably terrible signal to reformers across the region. It would say we've abandoned our desire to change the conditions that create terror. It would give the terrorists a safe haven from which to launch attacks. It would embolden Iran. It would embolden extremists.

Fox News chief White House correspondent Bret Baier went so far as to claim that "[t]he president said as long as he is president, U.S. troops will not leave before the mission is complete," but did not provide the actual quote from Bush. From the August 21 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:

BAIER: The president said as long as he is president, U.S. troops will not leave before the mission is complete.

BUSH: There are a lot of people in the Democrat Party [sic] who believe that the best course of action is to leave Iraq before the job is done, period, and they're wrong.

BAIER: The president said while he will continue to challenge anyone who favors a quick withdrawal, he will not question their patriotism, saying, quote, "They're just as American as I am."

On the August 21 broadcast of ABC's World News with Charles Gibson, ABC News chief White House correspondent Martha Raddatz reported:

RADDATZ: The president acknowledged that he is sometimes frustrated by the lack of progress in Iraq and worries about civil war. But he was adamant that the U.S. will stay the course.

BUSH [video clip]: There's a lot of people -- good, decent people -- saying, "Withdraw now." They're absolutely wrong. Leaving before the job is done would be a disaster.

On the August 21 broadcast of National Public Radio's All Things Considered, NPR White House correspondent Don Gonyea reported:

GONYEA: On Iraq, the president has been facing growing criticism of his policies. When pressed today on whether it's time to change his overall strategy, he said no, that it's vital to remain in Iraq until the new government can provide for its own security.

BUSH [audio clip]: If you think it's bad now, imagine what Iraq would look like if the United States leaves before this government can defend itself and sustain itself. A, you know, chaos in Iraq would be very unsettling in the region.

An August 22 Washington Post article by staff writers Michael A. Fletcher and Glenn Kessler reported:

While acknowledging that raging sectarian violence and mounting U.S. casualties in Iraq are "straining the psyche of our country," Bush said that withdrawing U.S. troops before the nation is stabilized would be disastrous.

"Leaving before the job would be done would send a message that America really is no longer engaged, nor cares about the form of governments in the Middle East," he said. "Leaving before the job was done would send a signal to our troops that the sacrifices they made were not worth it. Leaving before the job is done would be a disaster, and that's what we're saying."

However, the Post's Dana Milbank noted Bush's promise to remain in Iraq "so long as I'm the president" in his "Washington Sketch" column that same day.

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