Fineman's strawman: Dems advocate leaving Iraq "overnight"

››› ››› BEN ARMBRUSTER

On Countdown, Newsweek chief political correspondent Howard Fineman asserted that "[t]he problem that the Democrats have got, indeed, that all America has got, is that having gone into Iraq the way we did, there is, in the opinion of many fair-minded observers, chaos and hell to pay if we get out overnight." While Fineman did not specify which "Democrats" have advocated withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq "overnight," Democrats support several plans that call for a "gradual" withdrawal or a "phased redeployment" of U.S. troops from Iraq, with some troops remaining in Iraq for specified missions after the withdrawal of most combat troops.

During the August 26 special edition of Countdown on NBC, Newsweek chief political correspondent Howard Fineman asserted that "[t]he problem that the Democrats have got, indeed, that all America has got, is that having gone into Iraq the way we did, there is, in the opinion of many fair-minded observers, chaos and hell to pay if we get out overnight." While Fineman did not specify which "Democrats" have advocated withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq "overnight," Media Matters for America has documented that several plans supported by Democrats -- including at least one supported by some Republicans -- call for a "gradual" withdrawal or a "phased redeployment" of U.S. troops from Iraq, with some troops remaining in Iraq for specified missions after the withdrawal of most combat troops. In addition, Fineman also suggested that only the Democratic "base" favors setting a timeline for withdrawal from Iraq, claiming that "[t]he Democrats want to set a deadline for withdrawal because that's what their base tells them to do." Yet according to recent polling, a majority of Americans, not just the Democratic "base," support setting a timetable or deadline for withdrawal.

Regarding Democrats' plans for withdrawal, the Senate recently debated an amendment to the defense authorization bill -- offered by Sens. Jack Reed (D-RI) and Carl Levin (D-MI) -- that calls for a "reduction" of U.S forces in Iraq, to begin "not later than 120 days" after the amendment's enactment, but the amendment also stipulates that the United States maintain a "limited presence" of troops there to protect U.S. and coalition infrastructure, train Iraqi security forces, and conduct counterterrorism operations. The amendment specifies that the transition to this limited presence must be complete by April 30, 2008. A motion to cut off a filibuster of the Levin-Reed proposal (which needed 60 votes to succeed) garnered 52 votes on July 18, including those of Republican Sens. Susan Collins (ME), Chuck Hagel (NE), Gordon Smith (OR), and Olympia Snowe (ME). Moreover, Iraq withdrawal plans from two leading Democratic presidential contenders, Sens. Barack Obama (IL) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (NY), contain provisions that call for a "retention" and a "limited presence" of U.S. forces, respectively, for counterterrorism operations, force and infrastructure protection, and training Iraqi security forces. Obama's plan called for the redeployment of troops to occur in "a gradual manner," while Clinton's stipulated that the withdrawal should be a "phased redeployment."

Further, contrary to Fineman's suggestion that only the Democratic "base" supports setting a timeline for withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq, recent polling shows that a majority of Americans, a large majority of Democrats, and a large minority of Republicans favor setting a deadline. For example, when asked if Congress should "block all funding for the war in Iraq no matter what," "allow funding, but only on the condition that the U.S. sets a timetable for the withdrawal of U.S. troops," or "allow all funding for the war without any timetable conditions," 63 percent of all respondents to a July 20-22 CBS News/New York Times poll said that Congress should fund the war with a timetable for withdrawal. Seventy-six percent of Democrats and 48 percent of Republicans polled favored funding with a timetable. In addition, a July 18-21 ABC News/Washington Post poll found that 55 percent of respondents support "legislation that would set a deadline for withdrawing U.S. combat forces from Iraq by next spring."

From the August 26 special edition of Countdown with Keith Olbermann on NBC:

OLBERMANN: But the purpose of Whac-a-Mole is, at least in Iraq, is to unify Sunni and Shia and everybody else, and then we have this Democratic congresswoman, [Jan] Schakowsky of Illinois, saying she made her first trip to Iraq this month. The deputy prime minister there told her delegation, "There's not going to be political reconciliation by this September, there's not going to be political reconciliation by next September." So is this now -- is the American political solution in Iraq a question of just holding positions until the 2008 campaign and the election?

FINEMAN: Well, my sense is -- and I've covered George Bush for a long time -- that his goal is to keep as many American troops in Iraq as long as possible until January 20, 2009, when he leaves office. That's his goal. The Democrats want to set a deadline for withdrawal because that's what their base tells them to do. But the fact is that there is going to be no political reconciliation in Iraq because that's what the National Intelligence Estimate, what the CIA and the other agencies themselves have said.

The problem that the Democrats have got, indeed, that all America has got, is that having gone into Iraq the way we did, there is, in the opinion of many fair-minded observers, chaos and hell to pay if we get out overnight. We can't do it.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, War in Iraq
Network/Outlet
NBC
Person
Howard Fineman
Show/Publication
Countdown with Keith Olbermann
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