Additional portions of the interview of Dick Cheney showed ABC News' George Stephanopoulos letting Cheney repeat the administration's self-serving and dubious assertions on Democratic tax plans, Iraq, and the economy, including the oft-repeated Republican talking point that if Rep. Charlie Rangel were to become chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, "you would see a major tax increase."
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When portions of his interview with Vice President Dick Cheney were aired on the November 3 edition of ABC's World News, Media Matters for America noted that ABC News chief Washington correspondent George Stephanopoulos offered Cheney an opportunity to repeat the administration's self-serving and dubious assertion that terrorists want the Democrats to prevail and said nothing of the administration's recent pattern of attempting to extract political benefit from both increased and decreased violence in Iraq. Stephanopoulos also asked Cheney why President Bush isn't "getting more credit" for October's "exceptionally low" unemployment numbers and did not point out that the job-creation rate lagged, and that the unemployment rate remains higher today than when President Bush took office. As demonstrated when the additional portions of the interview aired on the November 5 edition of ABC's This Week, Stephanopoulos also failed to challenge Cheney on several other false or disputed claims about Iraq and the economy.
- Administration doesn't "make decisions based on the polls ... or whether or not it's popular"
While discussing calls from top Republicans and U.S. Army generals that a change of course is needed in Iraq, Cheney claimed that the administration doesn't "make decisions based on the polls ... based on pundits on television, or whether or not it's popular." Stephanopoulos did not challenge the claim. As Media Matters has noted, there are numerous instances in which the administration has reportedly timed events or made policy decisions in Iraq based on political considerations. For example:
- 2006: As Media Matters noted, on the October 24 broadcast of the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, CBS News White House correspondent Jim Axelrod reported that a White House official told him, "[D]o not expect to see anything significant prior to Election Day" "as far as a significant change" in the Bush administration's Iraq policy and then quoted the official as saying: "You're not going to see anything before November 8th. It would be political suicide, and Karl Rove would never allow it."
- 2004: As Media Matters noted, the Los Angeles Times reported on October 11, 2004, that the Bush administration planned to delay major assaults on insurgent strongholds in Iraq until after the 2004 U.S. presidential election, fearing large numbers of U.S. military casualties. Television news broadcasts did not mention the Times article prior to the election; however, on November 8, 2004, the top story on each of the major TV networks' morning shows was the U.S.-led forces' assault on Iraqi insurgents in Fallujah.
- 2002: The Bush administration acknowledged that it timed the launch of its campaign to build public support for invading Iraq to coincide with the first anniversary of the September 11 attacks and the 2002 midterm elections. The New York Times reported (subscription required) on September 7, 2002:
White House officials said today that the administration was following a meticulously planned strategy to persuade the public, the Congress and the allies of the need to confront the threat from Saddam Hussein.
The rollout of the strategy this week, they said, was planned long before President Bush's vacation in Texas last month. It was not hastily concocted, they insisted, after some prominent Republicans began to raise doubts about moving against Mr. Hussein and administration officials made contradictory statements about the need for weapons inspectors in Iraq.
The White House decided, they said, that even with the appearance of disarray it was still more advantageous to wait until after Labor Day to kick off their plan.
"From a marketing point of view," said Andrew H. Card Jr., the White House chief of staff who is coordinating the effort, "you don't introduce new products in August."
- Democrats would "block legislation to get a big tax increase"
During a discussion about the economy, Cheney repeated a familiar Republican talking point that if Democrats were to gain control of Congress, "you'd have ... a big tax increase on the American family, on the economy." Stephanopoulos noted that the tax cuts signed by Bush in 2001 and 2003 are not set to expire until 2010 but failed to challenge Cheney's claim that Democrats would issue "a big tax increase." In fact, as Media Matters has previously noted, Democrats have said they will consider increasing taxes only on those making more than $200,000 a year and would cut taxes for the middle class. Moreover, Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) has said that if the Democrats were to win control of the House, and he were to become chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Democrats "would not raise taxes" and "would not roll back" Bush's tax cuts. Rangel has said that Democrats' highest priority would be on reducing the impact of the alternative minimum tax on middle-class taxpayers.
From the November 5 edition of ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos:
STEPHANOPOULOS: You also have a lot of Republican candidates for Senate out there right now -- six by my count -- who are calling either for a change of course in the war or a change of leadership.
CHENEY: George, the primary opposition to the war is coming from the Democratic Party. They haven't offered up a plan, but they've got several different positions -- withdraw; withdraw at some future date; cut off funding -- there's been legislation introduced in the House now by House Democrats to do that. The fact of the matter is, this is the right thing for us to be doing. We need to succeed here. It has a direct bearing on how we do around the world in the global war on terror.
If, in fact, [President Hamid] Karzai in Afghanistan, President Pervez] Musharraf in Pakistan -- who've been great allies in the war on terror where we've had major successes -- were to see us suddenly decide to depart from Iraq and decide that it'd gotten too tough, it would seriously undermine our efforts in all those other places. So to suggest that somehow there's a solution here to walk away from Iraq and still aggressively pursue the global war on terror, it's just wrong. It's just not valid.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yet, you're seeing that come from your own candidates now.
CHENEY: George, it's tough. This is hard to do, no question about it, but it's the right thing to do; and that's why the president is out there as aggressively as he is, and so am I. We don't make decisions based on the polls. We don't make decisions based on pundits on television, or whether or not it's popular. It's the right thing to do and that's why we're doing it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, will the vote on Tuesday have any effect on the president's Iraq policy?
CHENEY: I think it'll have some effect, perhaps, on the Congress. But the president has made clear what his objective is -- it's a victory in Iraq, and it's full speed ahead on that basis. And that's exactly what we're going to do.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, even those Republican candidates calling for a change of course are not going to get that, on Wednesday?
CHENEY: No, you can't make policy -- national security policy on the basis of that. These are people running for Congress; they're entitled to their own views on both sides of the aisle. But I think there's no question, but what -- when we get into the global war on terror, when we get into the measures that are needed to go on offense and take the fight to the enemy, if you will, that the support that we've had and continue to have is primarily on the Republican side. And I think the Democrats have come up weak on it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And in your view, the most serious consequences of the Democrats taking over would be their effect on Iraq policy?
CHENEY: No, it's not the only effect. First of all, a lot of what happens in that area obviously is up to the president. He's the commander in chief. Secondly, there are other issues like tax policy in the economy. The economy is going gangbusters. It's doing very, very well, primarily because of the tax cuts we put in place in 2001 and 2003. Democrats overwhelmingly opposed those. Those cuts have to be extended if they're going to stay in place; otherwise the old rates come back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Not till 2010, though?
CHENEY: Well, but if the Democrats were in charge of the Congress, if Charlie Rangel were chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, all he has to do is block legislation to get a big tax increase. They don't have to pass a tax increase to get one. They just have to not act, so that -- and then when those old rates came back in, you'd have a big -- a big tax increase on the American family, on the economy, and I think it would do very serious damage. I think it's one of the big issues in this campaign.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Democrats say that's what happened in the Republican Congress this year. A student loan tax cut was not extended by the Republican Congress. That's been a tax increase for those who want student loans.
CHENEY: We're talking about the -- what we did on the marriage penalty. We're talking about child credit. We're talking about death taxes. We're talking about taxes on capital gains and dividends. We're talking about the breaks for small businesses to encourage investment and expansion and job creation. All of those things have now provided about 6.8 million new jobs since August of '03 -- unemployment rate today down at 4.4 percent.
We're doing very, very well, but it all goes back to those taxes that we've put in place, the tax cuts, and the fact is the Democrats overwhelmingly opposed them. They opposed them then; they oppose them now. Charlie Rangel said there's not a single Bush tax cut that he thinks ought to be extended. Now, that's a pretty fundamental difference between the parties. If, in fact, Democrats were to take control of the Congress, Charlie Rangel takes over tax policy. I think, in fact, you would see a major tax increase.
STEPHANOPOULOS: In 2011.
CHENEY: Well, sooner than that for some of them; they're phased in at different times.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You mentioned the unemployment rate today -- 4.4 percent unemployment -- exceptionally low. Why don't you think the president is getting more credit for that?
CHENEY: Well, you guys don't help. The fact, of course, is that what's news is if there's bad news, and that gets coverage. But the good news that's out there day after day after day doesn't get as much attention.