Fox only broadcast network that did not air Democratic response to Bush speech

››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN

Following President Bush's address to the nation on Iraq, Fox was the only broadcast network not to air the Democratic response. Instead, Shepard Smith gave a short description of the response and stated: "Our coverage continues on the Fox News Channel on cable and satellite with the Democratic response and more. Right now, back to your local Fox programming." ABC, NBC, and CBS all aired the Democratic response.

Following President Bush's September 13 prime-time address to the nation on Iraq, Fox was the only broadcast network not to air the Democratic response, which was delivered by Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI). Instead, Fox News anchor Shepard Smith, who was hosting Fox's post-speech coverage, stated: "The Democrats will say in the Democratic response later that the larger problems, as General [David] Petraeus put it, are not military but political. The surge, when announced by the president, was designed to give the political leaders in Iraq the time to bring together their strategies to secure the nation and solve their political problems." At the conclusion of Fox's coverage, Smith stated: "Our coverage continues on the Fox News Channel on cable and satellite with the Democratic response and more. Right now, back to your local Fox programming." ABC, NBC, and CBS all aired the Democratic response.

On NBC, Nightly News anchor Brian Williams hosted the network's coverage of Bush's address, both before and after Reed's speech, and ABC World News anchor Charles Gibson led ABC's coverage before and after Reed's response. On CBS, Evening News anchor Katie Couric offered a summation of Bush's speech prior to airing Reed's response. CBS did not host a discussion after airing Reed's speech.

In his response, Reed stated: "When the president launched the surge in January, he told us that its purpose was to provide Iraqi leaders with the time to make that political progress. But now, nine months into the surge, the president's own advisers tell us that Iraq's leaders have not, and are not likely to do so." He also described the Democrats' proposal "to change course" in Iraq. Reed said: "[O]ur plan focuses on counterterrorism and training the Iraqi army. It engages in diplomacy to bring warring factions to the table and addresses regional issues that inflame the situation. It begins a responsible and rapid redeployment of our troops out of Iraq. And it returns our focus to those who seek to do us harm: Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups." In conclusion, Reed stated, "An endless and unlimited military presence in Iraq is not an option. ... I urge the president to listen to the American people and work with Congress to start bringing our troops home and develop a new policy that is truly worthy of their sacrifices."

In his post-speech analysis, Smith reported that the president had tied the proposed troop drawdown to "success" on the ground. Smith stated: "[T]he president announc[ed] tonight that there have been successes, and he says that as a result, he'll follow General Petraeus' formula, which allows for some 1,500 troops to come home before Christmas." Smith noted that "[a]t least one of those groups were already scheduled to come home, but in this case, they will not be replaced." Later, Smith reiterated that the "highlight tonight" of Bush's speech was that "[w]e'll be down to 137,000 U.S. men and women in service in Iraq by July of next year. That is if the progress on the ground continues."

But Smith did not note that Petraeus acknowledged during his September 11 appearance before Congress that due to a "strain" on the military, the troop reduction would have been necessary regardless of conditions on the ground. As Media Matters for America has noted, during testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Reed asked Petraeus whether constraints on the military "virtually lock[ed]" him "into a recommendation of reducing troops by 30,000 beginning in April and extending through the summer -- regardless of what's happening on the ground." Petraeus replied, "[D]epending on what can be taken out of the Reserves. ... I do know that the active Army in particular, that the string does run out for the Army to meet the year-back criteria" -- the rules requiring troops to be home for one year between their deployments. Reed then stated that it was "[his] sense" that "unless tours were extended, 30,000 troops were coming out of there beginning in April next year, regardless of the situation on the ground." Petraeus agreed that "certainly the active brigade combat teams were going to come out of" Iraq. Additionally, during testimony later the same day, Petraeus also said that "the strain on the force ... was very much one that informed the recommendations" to draw down U.S. troops from Iraq.

From Fox's September 13 post-speech coverage:

SMITH: President Bush, live from the White House, and the theme tonight: There has been success, and the more successful we are, the quicker our people can come home. And the president announcing tonight that there have been successes, and he says that as a result, he'll follow General Petraeus' formula, which allows for some 1,500 troops to come home before Christmas. At least one of those groups were already scheduled to come home, but in this case, they will not be replaced. And then further, going toward next summer, the troop surge, which was announced back in January, will bring the numbers down to a level just above what they were at that time. In other words, we'll be down to, by our calculations, some 137,000 U.S. men and women in uniform serving in Iraq. That's by that time, July of next year.

So, exactly what are the larger problems here? The Democrats will say in the Democratic response later that the larger problems, as General Petraeus put it, are not military but political. The surge, when announced by the president, was designed to give the political leaders in Iraq the time to bring together their strategies to secure the nation and solve their political problems. The president's men insist that that has not happened, and, at least to this point, there are no indications that it will. The central government has not come together as well as had been hoped, and right now, the signs are few. However, there have been successes in Anbar. The question now is, will that be able to spread across the country? Or will, in fact, in the end, the Iraqis choose to divide up their country the way that their people are divided and eventually come to some sort of agreement about the sort of disagreements which have existed for more than four times as long as this nation has been around?

There are difficult times ahead. There have been successes in Iraq, according to the president, but there are many great challenges that lie ahead. The highlight tonight: We'll be down to 137,000 U.S. men and women in service in Iraq by July of next year. That is if the progress on the ground continues. No good answers to hear it from all of the president's people, no good solutions. Now, the main goal, to keep things as quiet and as secure as possible in hopes that the Iraqi government will begin to solve some of its problems. In hopes.

Our coverage continues on the Fox News Channel on cable and satellite with the Democratic response and more. Right now, back to your local Fox programming. I'm Shepard Smith, Fox News, New York.

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