Wash. Post, Fox's Baier uncritically reported Bush's attack on Dems that it's been "57 days" without receiving a war-funding bill

››› ››› BEN ARMBRUSTER

Washington Post staff writer Peter Baker and Fox News' Bret Baier uncritically quoted President Bush's claim that "it has now been 57 days" since Bush asked Congress for more money to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, neither noted that in 2005 and 2006, the Republican-controlled Congress took significantly longer than 57 days to act on Bush's funding requests for Iraq and Afghanistan.

In an April 4 Washington Post "analysis" of President Bush's April 3 press conference, staff writer Peter Baker uncritically quoted Bush's claim that "it has now been 57 days" since he asked Congress for more money to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and that Bush "still has not gotten" the funding. Similarly, on the April 3 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, Fox News chief White House correspondent Brett Baier uncritically reported that "[t]he president pointed out that it has been 57 days since he requested emergency funding from Congress for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan." However, neither Baker nor Baier noted that in both of the two previous years, the Republican-controlled Congress took significantly longer than 57 days to act on Bush's funding requests for Iraq and Afghanistan. Moreover, Baier's report also uncritically aired a clip of Bush criticizing Congress for using the war funds supplemental bill "as a vehicle to put pet spending projects on that have nothing to do with the war." In fact, each emergency war-spending bill since the Iraq war began has contained similar provisions, at times at Bush's request.

In addition, Baker's analysis uncritically quoted Bush's assertion that "if we were to leave [Iraq] before the job is done, the enemy would follow us here," despite the fact that his own newspaper published a recent article challenging that narrative.

Baker began his analysis noting Bush's complaint that he has yet to receive an emergency war-funding bill from Congress:

He strode alone into the Rose Garden and complained that "it has now been 57 days" since he asked Congress for more money for the Iraq war and still has not gotten it. For President Bush, the fight over war-spending legislation has become the only talking point -- an opportunity, his strategists hope, to demonstrate strength and turn the tables on a Democratic Congress that may be overreaching.

Fox's Baier similarly reported:

BAIER: The president pointed out that it has been 57 days since he requested emergency funding from Congress for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. He repeated his vow to veto legislation approved by the Senate and the House before Congress left for spring recess, expressing blunt confidence that Democrats don't have the votes to override a veto.

However, as the weblog Think Progress noted, in both 2005 and 2006, when Republicans controlled Congress, legislators took significantly longer than 57 days to approve Bush's supplemental war-funding requests:

February 14, 2005: Bush submits $82 billion supplemental bill

May 11, 2005: Bush signs the supplemental

Total time elapsed: 86 days

February 16, 2006: Bush submits $72 billion supplemental bill

June 15, 2006: Bush signs the supplemental

Total time elapsed: 119 days

Baier's report also uncritically aired a clip from Bush's press conference in which Bush criticized Congress for using the Iraq and Afghanistan war-funding bill to insert funding for unrelated projects:

BUSH: Congress shouldn't tell generals how to run the war. Congress should not shortchange our military. Congress should not use a emergency war spending measure as a vehicle to put pet spending projects on that have nothing to do with the war.

In fact, not only has every previous supplemental funding bill for the Iraq war contained money for projects unrelated to those missions, some of those projects were inserted into the bills at Bush's request, as an April 4 Washington Post article reported:

To President Bush, they are "pork-barrel projects completely unrelated to the war," items in the House and Senate war-spending bills such as peanut storage facilities and aid to spinach farmers that insult the seriousness of the conflict and exist only to buy votes.

But such spending has been part of Iraq funding bills since the war began, sometimes inserted by the president himself, sometimes added by lawmakers with bipartisan aplomb. A few of the items may have weighed on the votes for spending bills that have now topped half a trillion dollars, but, in almost all cases over the past four years, special-interest funding provisions have been the fruits of congressional opportunism by well-placed senators or House members grabbing what they could for their constituents on the one bill that had to be passed quickly.

[...]

The president's own request last year for emergency war spending included $20 billion for Gulf Coast hurricane recovery, $2.3 billion for bird flu preparations, and $2 billion to fortify the border with Mexico and pay for his effort to send National Guardsmen to the southern frontier.

[...]

The 2005 emergency war-spending bill included $70 million for aid to Ukraine and other former Soviet states; $12.3 million for the Architect of the Capitol, in part to build an off-site delivery facility for the Capitol police; $24 million for the Forest Service to repair flood and landslide damage; and $104 million for watershed protection -- the lion's share meant for repairing the damage to waterways in Washington County, Utah, at the request of the state's Republican senators.

Finally, after noting that Bush received a question regarding criticism from Matthew Dowd, his former chief campaign strategist, over the Iraq war and other issues, Baker's analysis uncritically quoted Bush's oft-used defense of his Iraq war policy, that "if we were to leave before the job is done, the enemy would follow us here." Yet just over two weeks ago, Baker's own newspaper published a report challenging the basis of Bush's claim.

According to a March 18 Washington Post article, "U.S. intelligence officials and outside experts" have said that Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) "poses little danger to the security of the U.S. homeland." The article differentiated AQI from Osama bin Laden and his desire to continue to carry out attacks inside the United States. However, the article continued:

But the likelihood that such an attack would be launched from Iraq, many experts contend, has sharply diminished over the past year as al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) has undergone dramatic changes. Once believed to include thousands of "foreign fighters," it is now an overwhelmingly Iraqi organization whose aims are likely to remain focused on the struggle against the Shiite majority in Iraq, U.S. intelligence officials said.

The Post added that according to "government and outside experts," "AQI's new membership and the allied insurgents care far more about what happens within Iraq than they do about bin Laden's plans for an Islamic empire" and "[t]hat is likely to remain the case whether U.S. forces stay or leave."

The article also noted that according to terrorism expert and Georgetown University professor Bruce Hoffman, AQI "owes its existence to the U.S. invasion." Hoffman noted that "[t]here were no domestic jihadis in Iraq before we came there. Now there are. ... But the threat they pose beyond Iraq is not so certain. There will be plenty of fighting to keep them there for years."

Moreover, the experts reportedly added the Iraq war has not only served as a recruitment tool for bin Laden but also that AQI's military and terror tactics learned in Iraq have proved useful to Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan:

[Osama] bin Laden has continued to reap benefits from the Iraq war. After a lull following his ignominious retreat from Afghanistan in 2001, bin Laden appears to have regained his stature among Muslim extremists and bolstered his ability to draw recruits. "As people around the world sign up to fight jihad," the intelligence official said, "before they were always going to Iraq. Now we see more winding up in Pakistan."

As al-Qaeda recoups its numbers and organizational structure in the lawless and inaccessible territory along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, it is seen as having little need for major bases in western Iraq, where the flat desert topography is ill-suited for concealment from U.S. aerial surveillance.

Al-Qaeda has also learned tactical lessons from AQI, adopting the suicide-bombing and roadside-explosive techniques perfected in Iraq and putting them to use in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

"That genie is already out of the bottle," Hoffman said. "The lesson of Iraq," he said, is that "a bunch of guys with garage-door openers and cordless phones can stymie the most advanced military in the history of mankind."

From the April 3 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:

BAIER: In a Rose Garden appearance turned news conference, President Bush called congressional Democrats irresponsible, charging that they are more interested in fighting political battles in Washington than providing U.S. troops funding for battles on the front lines.

BUSH: Congress shouldn't tell generals how to run the war. Congress should not shortchange our military. Congress should not use a emergency war spending measure as a vehicle to put pet spending projects on that have nothing to do with the war.

BAIER: The president pointed out that it has been 57 days since he requested emergency funding from Congress for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. He repeated his vow to veto legislation approved by the Senate and the House before Congress left for spring recess, expressing blunt confidence that Democrats don't have the votes to override a veto.

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