Conservatives continue to distort Clyburn's remarks to attack Democrats for being "invested in defeat in Iraq"

››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN, NICK NATALICCHIO, MICHAEL MAIO & ANDREW WALZER

Following House Majority Whip James Clyburn's (D-SC) July 30 remarks to Washington Post reporters that if Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, issued a report stating that the military effort in Iraq "is working very, very well at this point; we would be foolish to back away from it," then it would cause "those 47 Blue Dogs ... to want to stay the course, and if the Republicans were to remain united, as they have been, then it would be a problem for us," conservative pundits have seized on and distorted Clyburn's remarks to accuse Democrats of, among other things, being "invested in defeat in Iraq," and "want[ing] the United States to lose" in Iraq.

As Media Matters for America has noted, during a July 30 "PostTalk" interview for washingtonpost.com, Post reporter Dan Balz asked Clyburn, "What do Democrats do if General Petraeus comes in in September and says, 'This is working very, very well at this point; we would be foolish to back away from it'?" Clyburn responded: "Well, that would be a real big problem for us, no question about that, simply because of those 47 Blue Dogs. I think there would be enough support in that group to want to stay the course, and if the Republicans were to remain united, as they have been, then it would be a problem for us." In other words, Clyburn did not say that good news from Iraq is bad news for Democrats, as many conservatives have suggested. Rather, he said that a recommendation from Petraeus against "back[ing] away" from the current course in Iraq would impede Democrats' efforts to garner support in Congress for legislation to begin withdrawal. Indeed, Clyburn added: "None of us want to see a bad result in Iraq. If we are going to get in position to yield a good result, I think Democrats want to see that."

On July 31, the Republican National Committee issued a "research briefing" titled "They Said It!" that cropped the quote from Clyburn to read: "[It Would Be] A Real Big Problem For Us." The "research briefing" reads, in full:

They Said It!

House Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) On Gen. David Petraeus Providing A Positive Progress Report In Iraq

Clyburn: "[It Would Be] A Real Big Problem For Us." (Dan Balz and Chris Cillizza, "Clyburn: Positive Report By Petraeus Could Split House Democrats On War," The Washington Post, 7/30/07)

Conservative media figures also attacked, citing Clyburn's statement as evidence that Democrats are "invested in defeat in Iraq," as syndicated columnist Cal Thomas wrote. Media Matters has documented distortions from conservative columnists Michael Barone, Clifford D. May and Kevin O'Brien; an Investors Business Daily editorial; and Fox News host John Gibson, who asserted on the July 31 edition of Fox News' Big Story that anti-war Democrats, in their "nightly prayers," wish for "their country [to] lose a war because otherwise they might lose an election."

Several conservative radio hosts have similarly misrepresented Clyburn, as did Thomas:

  • During the August 1 broadcast of his nationally syndicated radio show, Sean Hannity called Clyburn's statement the "most outrageous comment I think I've heard" and said that it "expose[s] everything we have said about the Democrats." Hannity then aired an edited clip of Clyburn's response to Balz, in which Clyburn was heard saying: "Well, that would be a real big problem for us, no question about that. And if the Republicans were to remain united, as they have been, then it would be a problem for us." Hannity commented: "Can you just, folks, imagine this? A United States congressman, a leader in the House of Representatives for the majority Democrats here is on record saying that if the news is good, if the news is positive, if America is winning that that's a real big problem for us. In other words, if our armed forces are successful, that's a problem for us here. It'll be a real big problems [sic] for the Democrats here."
  • During the August 2 edition of his syndicated show, radio host Neal Boortz discussed Clyburn's remarks, asserting: "I honestly believe, my friends, I honestly believe that there are Democrats out there who kind of give a little hand pump and go, 'Yes!' every time they hear bad news out of Iraq or they hear of the deaths of a large number of American servicemen. Because they are much more dedicated to the cause of gaining power and keeping power than they are a victory against Islamic fascism." Boortz added: "I've been telling you for a year or more that the Democrats are invested in our failure in Iraq. Democrats do not want the United States to win. Democrats do not want peace in Iraq. Democrats do not want the American armed forces to establish any sense of stability in Iraq. They want failure. They are invested in failure. Good news in Iraq is bad news to Democrats. They are telling you this." Later in the show, Boortz said, "Many of those people out there with that 'D' after their names would gladly sacrifice any semblance of victory in Iraq, and against the scourge of Islamic fascism, if it would mean maintaining and holding their hold on power in Washington."
  • In his August 2 nationally syndicated column, headlined "What if We Win?" Thomas pointed to Clyburn's comments as evidence that "[m]ost Democrats seem so invested in defeat in Iraq that they apparently have no 'Plan B,' which would be success."
  • During the August 3 broadcast of her nationally syndicated radio show, Laura Ingraham claimed that Clyburn was "being very honest, uncharacteristically honest for a Democrat" because he "sa[id] good news for our troops in Iraq" is "bad news for the Democrats." Ingraham asserted that Clyburn was "admitting what we all knew all along, as the Democrats cheer on America's defeat." Ingraham recently announced that she has been offered the opportunity to guest-host a CNN program.

From the August 3 edition of Talk Radio Network's The Laura Ingraham Show:

[begin audio clip]

BALZ: What do Democrats do if General Petraeus comes in in September and says, "This is working very, very well at this point; we would be foolish to back away from it"?

CLYBURN: Well, that would be a real big problem for us, no question about that. And if the Republicans were to remain united, as they have been, then it would be a problem for us.

[end audio clip]

INGRAHAM: Congressman James Clyburn, Democrat, North [sic] Carolina. He says good news for our troops in Iraq, bad news for the Democrats. Being very honest, uncharacteristically honest for a Democrat.

[...]

INGRAHAM: Little bit early this hour, but that's all right. Mix it up a little bit: Sound Bite Contest.

[...]

INGRAHAM: Sound bite number one: Congressman James Clyburn admits that good news from Iraq is bad news for the Democrats.

[begin audio clip]

BALZ: What do Democrats do if General Petraeus comes in in September and says, "This is working very, very well at this point; we would be foolish to back away from it"?

CLYBURN: Well, that would be a real big problem for us, no question about that. And if the Republicans were to remain united, as they have been, then it would be a problem for us.

[end audio clip]

INGRAHAM: Admitting what we all knew all along, as the Democrats cheer on America's defeat.

From the August 1 edition of ABC Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:

HANNITY: The most outrageous comment I think I've heard -- although it does expose everything we have said about the Democrats. Here all this good news is coming out of Iraq. Here you have people that have been harsh critics from the Brookings Institute saying, "What if we win this war? Hey, things are looking pretty good and troop morale is high." And then we've got James Clyburn saying the following.

No, maybe we don't. Well, anyway, he says if, in fact, Iraq improves, it's going to be a big problem for us.

[...]

HANNITY: Now, this all gets summed up here in the comments of Congressman James Clyburn, Democrat, South Carolina. Now, this is an amazing moment in history here, where you have somebody being this open, this honest. He's the House majority whip, and he said that a positive report in September from General Petraeus is bad news for the Democrats, would undermine his party's efforts to get the president to concede the war is lost. Listen to what he said.

[begin audio clip]

BALZ: What do Democrats do if General Petraeus comes in in September and says, "This is working very, very well at this point; we would be foolish to back away from it"?

CLYBURN: Well, that would be a real big problem for us, no question about that. And if the Republicans were to remain united, as they have been, then it would be a problem for us.

[end audio clip]

HANNITY: Can you just, folks, imagine this? A United States congressman, a leader in the House of Representatives for the majority Democrats here is on record saying that if the news is good, if the news is positive, if America is winning that that's a real big problem for us. In other words, if our armed forces are successful, that's a problem for us here. It'll be a real big problems [sic] for the Democrats here.

From the August 2 edition of Cox Radio Syndication's The Neal Boortz Show:

BOORTZ: But I've been telling you that the Democrats are invested in our defeat in Iraq. They're -- Democrats believe that their political fortunes rest on our defeat in Iraq. And in the last election, in this election, any good news out of Iraq is bad news for Democrats. Bad news out of Iraq is good news for Democrats. I honestly believe, my friends, I honestly believe that there are Democrats out there who kind of give a little hand pump and go, "Yes!" every time they hear bad news out of Iraq or they hear of the deaths of a large number of American servicemen. Because they are much more dedicated to the cause of gaining power and keeping power than they are a victory against Islamic fascism.

[...]

BOORTZ: I want to tell you this. About this New York Times report last week by these two harsh critics of the war in Iraq that says "this is a war we just might win."

"Everywhere, army and Mari-- " this is them writing after their visit. "Army and Marine units were focused on securing the Iraqi population, working with Iraqi security units, creating new political and economic arrangements at the local level and providing basic services -- electricity, fuel, clean water, and sanitation. In each place, operations have been appropriately tailored to the specific needs of the community. Civilian fatality rates are down roughly a third since the surge began." Isn't that something?

"In Ramadi, we talked to an outstanding Marine captain whose company was living in harmony in a complex with a largely Sunni Iraqi police company and a largely Shiite Iraqi Army unit. He and his men have built an Arab-style living room, where he met with local Sunni sheiks -- all formerly allies of Al Qaeda and other jihadist groups -- who are now competing to secure his friendship."

"In Baghdad's Ghazaliya neighborhood, which had been some of the worst -- the scene of some of the worst sectarian combat, we walked a street slowly coming back to life with stores and shoppers."

It's an amazing report, and the Democrats couldn't be more upset.

Did you hear about the House minority whip, James Clyburn from South Carolina? You people in South Carolina, you have so much to be proud of with James Clyburn, a Democrat. He's not happy about this report from [Michael] O'Hanlon and Conley [sic: Kenneth Pollack]. He's not unhappy. He says that this could impede Democrat efforts to press for a timetable to end the war. Gen. David Petraeus is going to be making a report to Congress soon about what's going on there. James Clyburn says that if David Petraeus delivers a positive report of what's going on in Iraq, as these two liberal, anti-- if he -- it could impede the Democrats' press for a timetable to end the war.

Now listen to this. This is a direct quote from your Democrat congressman from South Carolina: "I think there would be enough support in that group" -- he's talking about the 47 Blue Dog Democrats, the more conservative Democrats in the Democrat caucus. "I think that there would be enough support in that group to want to stay the course. And if the Republicans were to stay as united, as they have been, then it would be a problem for us." Hear that? Good news in Iraq is a problem for us.

[...]

BOORTZ: I've been telling you for a year or more that the Democrats are invested in our failure in Iraq. Democrats do not want the United States to win. Democrats do not want peace in Iraq. Democrats do not want the American armed forces to establish any sense of stability in Iraq. They want failure. They are invested in failure. Good news in Iraq is bad news to Democrats. They are telling you this. They are telling you this. Right now, liberal writers from the Brookings Institute, they deliver a positive report on what is happening in Iraq, and the Democrats immediately say, "This is bad news for us."

[...]

BOORTZ: Many of those people out there with that "D" after their names would gladly sacrifice any semblance of victory in Iraq, and against the scourge of Islamic fascism, if it would mean maintaining and holding their hold on power in Washington.

[...]

BOORTZ: This is how bad things are now with the Democrat Party, a party that is completely invested in our surrender and our defeat in a fight for our very lives against Islamic fascism. They want the United States to lose. They want our troops to lose, so that they can demonize the president and gain more power in Congress.

From Thomas' August 2 column:

Most Democrats seem so invested in defeat in Iraq that they apparently have no "Plan B," which would be success.

[...]

So cynical have our politics become that a spokesman for Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Democratic leaders are "not willing to concede there are positive things to point to" in Iraq. And House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn said that a favorable report from Gen. Petraeus could lead 47 moderate to conservative "Blue Dog" Democrats to oppose a withdrawal timetable, making it virtually impossible for the liberal leadership to pass withdrawal legislation. "(It would be) a real problem for us," said Clyburn.

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