Fox News Sunday host portrayed Dems as obstructers of defense authorization bill

››› ››› RYAN CHIACHIERE

On the July 22 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace cast the Democrats, rather than the Republicans, as the party that is obstructing legislation on Iraq, asserting that "after Democrats failed to win a vote to pull troops out, Senator [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid [D-NV] pulled the defense authorization bill, blocking votes for any other ideas for how to deal with Iraq." In fact, Republicans blocked an up or down vote on a Democratic amendment on withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq -- which is why "Democrats failed to win a vote." Also, as reported in a July 20 New York Times article on the vote, following the defeat, Reid "proposed that the Senate take up a series of Iraq proposals and make them all subject to a simple majority vote, including the withdrawal plan that had just failed." Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-KY) objection to that proposal prompted Reid to pull the legislation altogether.

The Times explained:

Senate Democrats fell short this morning, after a rare all-night session, in their attempt to force President Bush to begin withdrawing American troops from Iraq.

The measure, which called for troops to begin departing within 120 days, was defeated in a procedural vote on what is known as a cloture motion. It received 52 "yes" votes, to 47 "no" votes, but Senate rules require 60 yes votes to pass the motion, which would have overcome a Republican filibuster of the measure.

After the failure, Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Democratic majority leader, proposed that the Senate take up a series of Iraq proposals and make them all subject to a simple majority vote, including the withdrawal plan that had just failed. When Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, objected, Mr. Reid then pulled the entire Pentagon-spending measure from the floor, putting off any consideration of the alternative proposals such as one to rescind the initial war authorization.

Additionally, later in the discussion, National Public Radio senior national correspondent Juan Williams asserted, "When most Americans are asked about the surge, what do they say? It hasn't made a difference." Fox News Washington managing editor Brit Hume protested, "No, no, Juan. That's not true." However, available polling on that specific question supports Williams' assertion. A USA Today/Gallup poll, conducted July 6-8, asked the question, "Based on what you have heard or read about the recent surge of U.S. troops in Baghdad, do you think the increase in the number of U.S. troops in Baghdad is -- making the situation there better, not making much difference, or is it making the situation there worse?" Asked of a half sample, 49 percent said it was "not making much difference," while 30 percent said it was making the situation worse. Only 17 percent thought the additional troops were making the situation better. The other half sample more strongly supported Williams' assertion, with 51 percent answering that the additional troops were "not making much difference," 25 percent saying it was making the situation worse, and 22 percent responding that it made the situation better.

From the July 22 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:

WALLACE: So the Senate pulled an all-nighter on Iraq, and after Democrats failed to win a vote to pull troops out, Senator Reid pulled the defense authorization bill, blocking votes on any other ideas for how to deal with Iraq. Brit, what do you think of this as both politics and policy on the part of the Democrats?

HUME: Well, they're doing the best they can to try to let their constituents know that they're trying as hard as they can to do something to end the war in Iraq. They are effectively blocked by the nature of the Senate. You need 60 votes to do anything of any consequence in the Senate. This is no exception. So they probably can't do it at this time. Now they're getting more and more Republicans bit by bit. So maybe in some distant future time, they'll be able to swing it. But they've got a very restive constituency out there that is not satisfied with what has been done. The congressional approval ratings are in the toilet; they're as bad as they've ever been. And so what you see is episodes like the all-night debate which really accomplish nothing, but was at least, I suppose to some people, a visible evidence of how hard the Democrats in the Congress and particularly the Senate are trying.

WALLACE: Mara [Liasson, NPR national political correspondent], it's interesting because there were some measures up there that might've gotten 60 votes, particularly the idea of going to the, adopting the Iraq Study Group plan. And Reid wanted no part of that. He wanted to make it you're either for or against pulling troops out of Iraq. Is that an effective policy to position the Republicans and to pick up votes in 2008?

LIASSON: Look, I think that the Democrats clearly think this is good politics. They don't want to provide Republicans with a safe haven, and either of those legislative vehicles that you mentioned might have. I think it would have been very possible to get 60 votes for some version of Salazar-Alexander, a bipartisan measure that kind of enshrines the Iraq Study Group recommendations in to law. Or Warner-Lugar, which merely calls on the administration to make a plan for withdrawal, even if not an actual date certain, or some version of Reed-Levin. But I think that the Democratic leadership have been very clear; they don't want Republicans to have any cover in this debate. And I think it was good -- satisfied their base, good politics. But on the policy question, if you think it's a good idea to have a bipartisan concensus on a strategy for Iraq, what happened in the Senate this week didn't get us any closer to that. And it could have.

WILLIAM KRISTOL (Weekly Standard editor): What's amazing is how far left the Democratic Party in the Senate has gone. And they're voting -- as you showed that [Sen.] Evan Bayh [D-IN] -- they're voting, Evan Bayh is voting for something he said two years ago would be a huge mistake, a date-certain timetable for withdrawal of troops from Iraq. The entire Democratic Party voted for that. Maybe everything will fall apart in Iraq and they can say, "We wanted to get out earlier." Maybe things will continue to improve with the surge and [Gen. David] Petraeus' counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq, and the Democratic Party is gonna look six months from now as if they wanted to pull the plug just as our military was giving us a real chance to prevail in Iraq.

And the idea that Senator Clinton -- Harry Reid is making Senator Clinton and Senator Obama vote for losing in Iraq. I think that's fine if you're a congressional Democrat, if you're Harry Reid catering to the left wing of the party. For a presidential nominee to be voting against the war in Iraq - after, in the case of Hillary Clinton, she voted for it -- I think it's a problem for the Democrats in 2008.

WALLACE: Well, he's not making them do it. In fact they're scrambling to do it, aren't they? Let's ask Juan that.

KRISTOL: Let me just say one more thing. It is striking, though. They are scrambling to do it. Every Democratic presidential nominee is going to the Daily Kos convention. That's the left-wing blogger who was not respectable three or four years ago, the Howard Dean kind of sponsor. Now the whole party is going to pay court to him and to the left-wing blogs. Not a single Democratic presidential candidate is going to the meeting of the Democratic Leadership Council meeting in a couple of weeks. That's the organization that Bill Clinton was head of in the early 90s that was supposed to be the new, more moderate Democratic Party. The Democratic Party has gone left, and it's going to hurt them presidentially in 2008.

WILLIAMS: Well, what you describe as left is now kind of center, I think, as the majority of the American people -- 70 percent -- that want us out of Iraq. In fact if you ask Iraqis, Iraqis, I think it's 60-some percent of Iraqis say we're doing more harm than good in Iraq. So, I mean, there's a center here. And I think what you're saying is that they're playing somehow to the left. In fact, what has happened is that people are frustrated. They're frustrated when you see this week that the administration has already started spin control on the upcoming September report. Now all of a sudden November is the new September. We're supposed to wait until November to hear. And when you say her vote is wrong. Wait a second. You said this two years ago. You said this five years ago. You said it before 3,600 people were dead. That, "Oh, this is the wrong vote." When are we supposed to say enough is enough in terms of Iraq?

KRISTOL: "Enough is enough" is not a serious policy when you're at war, Juan.

WILLIAMS: How long should we go on there? Should we just go on there indefinitely?

KRISTOL: No, we have a new strategy. Can we talk about what's actually happening in Iraq instead of sitting around saying "I'm frustrated, let's get out." Is that serious?

WILLIAMS: Go ahead, tell me. When most Americans are asked about the surge, what do they say? It hasn't made a difference.

HUME: No, no, Juan, that's not true.

KRISTOL: Can we elect to talk about what's happening in Iraq, or what most Americans, based on very incomplete reporting so far -- most Americans are frustrated. Leaders are supposed to rise above saying "I'm frustrated, it's been difficult, Bush has made mistakes," and say "What is the right policy going forward in Iraq."

And Senator Clinton knows that what she voted for is not the right policy. And, in fact, if you read down in to her speech, in paragraph 62 she says, "Of course we're going to have to leave troops in Iraq. And of course we can't let it be an Al Qaeda base." But publicly, the Democratic leadership is now pushing the Democrats --

WILLIAMS: Some troops? But, Bill, that's a big difference between saying stay the course and wait until November, or wait until years from now to make the call and "She's voting for defeat." What we heard this week from the national intelligence report, in fact, is that's not the key front in battling Al Qaeda, and that's the real challenge we face in fighting terrorists, Al Qaeda, Taliban, not the remnants of some civil war that we have our young men and women dying for.

WALLACE: Let me throw something else into this, Brit, and ask you about it. Because you did see this week clearly not only with General [Raymond] Odierno [commanding general of multi-national forces in Iraq], but also, as e pointed out, with General [Rick] Lynch and General [Walter] Gaskin, you talk about, it's going to take into next year, well into next year for us to secure the gains. Otherwise, we will have fought and some of our troops will have died to clear these areas, and the bad guys will come right in. What do you think is the possibility that congressional Republicans will stand firm not just until September, but into November or next year?

HUME: That depends on upon what level of military progress will be reported in September. My guess is there will be noticeable, notable military progress to report in September. There's already some now. And the question will then become how seriously do we take the objectives we set for the Iraqi government. And how important in the face of Al Qaeda beginning to lose ground and the terrorist violence subsiding Iraq are we going to take those benchmarks. And are we going to then think about pulling the plug as we're beginning to win on the ground militarily on the effort because of the failure of the Iraqi government to function properly.

WILLIAMS: How many years have you been saying this?

HUME: I just said that just now. Didn't you hear me?

WILLIAMS: You've been saying this for a long time. "Oh, more time." Bill says, "Oh, what's wrong with the strategy now?" Come on, guys, I mean, acknowledge there's a problem here. We're not winning in this thing. And it's not -- I can see if you say to me, "Don't encourage the terrorists." OK, we don't want to do that. We want stability in the Middle East.

HUME: Juan, you need to read the news more carefully and recognize that, when you say, "We're not winning," that we may now well be winning.

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