Wash. Post highlighted Democratic divisions on Iraq; ignored Republican split on the conflict


On August 22, The Washington Post devoted a front-page article to reporting on internal Democratic divisions about the war in Iraq but ignored similar divisions within the Republican Party, including recent remarks by Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) questioning the Bush administration's policy in Iraq and comparing the conflict to the Vietnam War.

In the Post article, titled "Democrats Split Over Position on Iraq War," staff writers Peter Baker and Shailagh Murray reported: "Democrats say a long-standing rift in the party over the Iraq war has grown increasingly raw in recent days, as stay-the-course elected leaders who voted for the war three years ago confront rising impatience from activists and strategists who want to challenge President Bush aggressively to withdraw troops."

But nowhere in the article -- or anywhere else in the August 22 edition of the Post -- was it reported that in recent days Hagel, a potential Republican presidential candidate, had harshly criticized the Bush administration's policies in Iraq. On the August 18 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, Hagel said that "there is a parallel emerging" between Iraq and Vietnam and that "[t]he longer we stay in Iraq, the more similarities will start to develop, meaning essentially that we are getting more and more bogged down, taking more and more casualties, more and more heated dissension and debate in the United States." Hagel reiterated the point on the August 21 broadcast of ABC's This Week, stating: "[W]e are locked into a bogged-down problem not unsimilar, dissimilar to where we were in Vietnam."

The Post posted an Associated Press article about Hagel's most recent comments on the newspaper's website on August 22 but did not publish the story in its print edition, much less compile an independent report. Other newspapers, such as the Los Angeles Times, did publish their own stories on Hagel's comments.

Times columnist Ron Brownstein wrote in an August 22 op-ed that both Democrats and Republicans face a "problem" in determining how to respond to Iraq, even if the Democratic divisions have been more public. He cited Republicans besides Hagel who have diverged from the Bush administration by advocating either increased troop levels or some level of disengagement, and he noted that "[m]any insiders say that in private, more elected Republicans are growing uneasy about the war":

[M]ost Democrats and Republicans are abandoning their responsibilities by leaving the problem solely to Bush without addressing any of these issues.

Admittedly, on each side, the political incentives for silence are strong. Many insiders say that in private, more elected Republicans are growing uneasy about the war; after all, GOP politicians are the ones most likely to bear the brunt, in 2006 and 2008, if public disillusionment with the conflict ignites a backlash.

A handful of Republicans (Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol, Sen. John McCain of Arizona) want Bush to send more troops in the hope of quelling the insurgency; a few Republicans want to disengage (such as Donald Devine of the American Conservative Union, who wrote last week that "the only solution is for the U.S. to exit before the whole thing comes apart"; or Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, who Sunday described the U.S. position as "a bogged-down problem not unsimilar or dissimilar to where we were in Vietnam").

But most Republicans have chosen to fall in line behind the White House.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, War in Iraq
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.