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Clift: Iraq "Worse than Vietnam," Bush Has LBJ's Credibility Gap --6/20/2005


1. Clift: Iraq "Worse than Vietnam," Bush Has LBJ's Credibility Gap
Newsweek's Eleanor Clift argued on the McLaughlin Group over the weekend that Iraq is now "worse than Vietman because Vietnam was a tiny country with no strategic importance and we could declare victory and leave. Iraq is at the nexus of terrorism and oil and it's a war that we don't know how to win and can't afford to lose." Predicting President Bush's "stay the course" rhetoric, she even compared President Bush's situation to Lyndon Johnson's plight during Vietnam: "The phraseology is going to be very reminiscent of the Vietnam era and the credibility gap that Lyndon Johnson experience because what people see on their television screens and hear from the commanders on the the ground is at enormous variance with the happy talk out of the White House." with audio

2. CBS Picks Up on Criticism of Bush for Avoiding Iraq Dead Funerals
"On the President and his popularity numbers, you have to go all the way back to Richard Nixon after the Watergate scandal broke to find a President who did this poorly at this point in his second term," CBS's Joie Chen contended on Saturday's CBS Evening News before she relayed, without credit, Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank's criticism of President Bush for not attending military funerals, an article titled: "Out of President's Sight, Arlington's Rows of Grief Expand." Chen asserted: "If he's seen it at all, Mr. Bush has viewed only pictures of this part of Arlington Cemetery: Section 60, the final resting place of 144 of the more than 1,700 Americans killed in Iraq -- some losses so recent, the tombstones aren't up yet. The White House says the President stays away out of respect, but it also keeps him from being too closely linked to the worst images of war."

3. Couric Finds Time for 'Downing Street Memo' But Not Dick Durbin
NBC's Katie Couric and Tim Russert managed on Friday morning to cover just about everything in the news -- except Democratic Senator Dick Durbin's incendiary comments equating Guantanamo with the Nazi regime and the Soviet gulags. Couric raised with Russert how the "House introduced a resolution that would require President Bush to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq beginning next year," how "according to the latest Gallup Poll, 56 percent of Americans say now the war was not worth it, almost 60 percent say the Pentagon should pull some or all of the troops out of Iraq," how "some senior Democrats on Capitol Hill are calling for a full investigation of the so-called Downing Street Memo," and she concluded with how "in a rare display of bipartisanship, we saw Bill Frist and Hillary Clinton appear on this program yesterday talking about some legislation that they're pushing in terms of health care." Ignored by Couric: Durbin's charge: "If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others."

4. If Modern News Media Around in 1776, Colonialists Would Have Lost
If the present-day news media were around in the 1770s, the United States of America never could have won the Revolutionary War, author/historian David McCullough charged in a taped interview to plug his new book, 1776. Appearing on CNBC's Tim Russert aired Saturday night, McCullough asserted that if the Continental Army efforts led by George Washington "had been covered by the media, and the country had seen now horrible the conditions were, how badly things were being run by the officers, and what a very serious soup we were in, I think that would have been it" for the colonialists and the British would have won.


Clift: Iraq "Worse than Vietnam," Bush
Has LBJ's Credibility Gap

Newsweek's Eleanor Clift argued on the McLaughlin Group over the weekend that Iraq is now "worse than Vietman because Vietnam was a tiny country with no strategic importance and we could declare victory and leave. Iraq is at the nexus of terrorism and oil and it's a war that we don't know how to win and can't afford to lose. Eleanor Clift
Listen to MP3 audio clip
Text of clip + audio archive

" Predicting President Bush's "stay the course" rhetoric, she even compared President Bush's situation to Lyndon Johnson's plight during Vietnam: "The phraseology is going to be very reminiscent of the Vietnam era and the credibility gap that Lyndon Johnson experience because what people see on their television screens and hear from the commanders on the ground is at enormous variance with the happy talk out of the White House."

After host John McLaughlin suggested that public opinion and Capitol Hill sentiment against the war is reaching a "tipping point," Clift opined:
"It's worse than Vietman because Vietnam was a tiny country with no strategic importance and we could declare victory and leave. Iraq is at the nexus of terrorism and oil and it's a war that we don't know how to win and can't afford to lose. And the White House response to the 'tipping point,' if you will, in the country and -- certainly on Capitol Hill where people are talking privately now about trying to put more pressure on the administration to come up with some sort of rationale as to how they're going to conduct the war and when and if we're going to get out -- the White House's response is the President is going to give speeches on it. I mean, what is he going to say? 'Stay the course,' have patience,' 'there's light at the end of the tunnel'? I mean the phraseology is going to be very reminiscent of the Vietnam era and the credibility gap that Lyndon Johnson experience because what people see on their television screens and hear from the commanders on the ground is at enormous variance with the happy talk out of the White House."

CBS Picks Up on Criticism of Bush for
Avoiding Iraq Dead Funerals

Joie Chen "On the President and his popularity numbers, you have to go all the way back to Richard Nixon after the Watergate scandal broke to find a President who did this poorly at this point in his second term," CBS's Joie Chen contended on Saturday's CBS Evening News before she relayed, without credit, Washington Post reporter Dana Milbank's criticism of President Bush for not attending military funerals, an article titled: "Out of President's Sight, Arlington's Rows of Grief Expand." Chen asserted: "If he's seen it at all, Mr. Bush has viewed only pictures of this part of Arlington Cemetery: Section 60, the final resting place of 144 of the more than 1,700 Americans killed in Iraq -- some losses so recent, the tombstones aren't up yet. The White House says the President stays away out of respect, but it also keeps him from being too closely linked to the worst images of war."

Anchor Russ Mitchell set up the June 18 story, as taken down by the MRC's Brad Wilmouth: "President Bush today defended his policies on Iraq and the economy as he retooled his political agenda in the face of falling poll numbers. A CBS News/New York Times poll earlier this week put his personal approval at just 42 percent, and the new poll out tonight shows his signature issue of Social Security change at the bottom of the list of voters' top domestic concerns [at 14 percent]. Joie Chen is in Washington with more on the President's new push. Joie?"
From the White House, Chen checked in: "Russ, on the President and his popularity numbers, you have to go all the way back to Richard Nixon after the Watergate scandal broke to find a President who did this poorly at this point in his second term. Now, no one suggests that Mr. Bush's presidency is going to go anywhere in that direction, still the President is hoping that by sharpening his focus he can regain public support for his policy on the economy and Iraq."
Over video of tombstones, Chen continued: "If he's seen it at all, Mr. Bush has viewed only pictures of this part of Arlington Cemetery: Section 60, the final resting place of 144 of the more than 1,700 Americans killed in Iraq -- some losses so recent, the tombstones aren't up yet. The White House says the President stays away out of respect, but it also keeps him from being too closely linked to the worst images of war. Political analyst Craig Crawford says Mr. Bush's White House is as good as any at managing images, but the polls signal that's no longer enough."
Craig Crawford, Congressional Quarterly, walking with Chen in front of the White House: "What we see is, it hasn't been enough to control all these images and put a rosy scenario out about Iraq. The Iraq war has just gone on so long, and there's no end in sight. I think this is what's troubling people, is they don't see a light at the end of the tunnel."
Chen warned: "It's not just the war. Health care costs are up, as are gas prices. Mr. Bush's campaign to fix Social Security hasn't caught fire with the public. It's enough to fuel speculation that Mr. Bush may not be able to win support for any of his initiatives. But the President often cited as Mr. Bush's role model bounced back from a big dip in the polls in his second term, and Ronald Reagan's top aide says the current President can, too."
Ken Duberstein, Reagan administration: "George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan also always benefitted from being underestimated."
Chen concluded: "The President is clearly trying to tighten up the message, pushing back any talk of tax reform, for example, until this fall. Again, Russ, the focus now is on talking about the economy and what to do about the war on terror."

Compare Chen's piece to Dana Milbank's "Washington Sketch" column on page A6 of the Saturday Washington Post. "Out of President's Sight, Arlington's Rows of Grief Expand." An excerpt:

President Bush was in Minnesota yesterday talking about Medicare. The House was debating United Nations dues. And at Arlington National Cemetery, Army Spec. Louis E. Niedermeier of Largo, Fla., was being placed in Section 60, Grave 8188.

Sixteen days earlier in Ramadi, Iraq, according to his family, Niedermeier, a scout who pointed lasers to guide missiles to targets, was shot in the head by a sniper as he stepped from a Humvee. He was 20 years old.

Niedermeier, one of more than 1,700 American men and women who have died in Iraq, is the 144th to be laid to rest at Arlington. Arlington, just two miles from the White House, buries the Iraq dead at a rate of one or two a week.

But the nation's leaders are missing these somber and patriotic pageants. Members of Congress rarely attend. Top Pentagon officials do so only occasionally. And President Bush has yet to bury a fallen warrior....

Aides say Bush has not attended a military funeral because he does not want to favor one ultimate sacrifice over another. They point out that he meets frequently with wounded troops and relatives of the dead, and he has remembered fallen soldiers on Memorial Day and similar observances. "Their funerals are a time for their family and friends to mourn and remember their loved one in a private way," said Scott McClellan, White House press secretary.

This is a departure from past presidents' practices. President Jimmy Carter attended ceremonies for troops killed in the failed hostage-rescue mission in Iran. President Ronald Reagan attended a service for Marines killed in Beirut. President Clinton went to Andrews Air Force Base to see the coffins of Americans killed in a terrorist attack in Nairobi in 1998.

Bush's absence from funerals has kept them off the front pages, one of several administration policies that have minimized Americans' exposure to the costs of war. The Pentagon has cracked down on allowing photographs of flag-draped caskets as they arrive at military bases. And, late last year, the administration began enforcing restrictions that keep photographers and reporters some 50 yards from services.

There is still no memorial for the Iraq dead, but their rows in Section 60 show the signs of fresh grief and recent death. Thirteen graves are too new to have tombstones yet; green metal markers with photos of the fallen suffice. Four graves have been filled so recently that they do not even have sod yet, just newly packed earth....

END of Excerpt

For Milbank's piece in full: www.washingtonpost.com

Couric Finds Time for 'Downing Street
Memo' But Not Dick Durbin

NBC's Katie Couric and Tim Russert managed on Friday morning to cover just about everything in the news -- except Democratic Senator Dick Durbin's incendiary comments equating Guantanamo with the Nazi regime and the Soviet gulags. Couric raised with Russert how the "House introduced a resolution that would require President Bush to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq beginning next year," how "according to the latest Gallup Poll, 56 percent of Americans say now the war was not worth it, almost 60 percent say the Pentagon should pull some or all of the troops out of Iraq," how "some senior Democrats on Capitol Hill are calling for a full investigation of the so-called Downing Street Memo," and she concluded with how "in a rare display of bipartisanship, we saw Bill Frist and Hillary Clinton appear on this program yesterday talking about some legislation that they're pushing in terms of health care." Ignored by Couric: Durbin's charge: "If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime -- Pol Pot or others."

For more on broadcast network avoidance of Durbin's claims, see the June 17 CyberAlert: www.mediaresearch.org

None of the Friday, Saturday or Sunday night broadcast network newscasts touched on Durbin, but the Sunday morning interview programs each raised the subject briefly with their guests.

On Friday, the MRC's Ken Shepherd noticed how Today managed to skip over the entire controversy when Couric interviewed Tim Russert, who appeared via satellite from Orlando:

Couric introduced the June 17 segment by highlighting the actions of a piddling four Congressmen: "Now to Iraq and a new movement on Capitol Hill to get U.S. troops home by late next year. Tim Russert is NBC's Washington Bureau Chief and moderator of Meet the Press. Hi, Tim, good morning. As you know on Thursday, two Republicans and two Democrats in the House introduced a resolution that would require President Bush to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq beginning next year. Is that a possibility or is it realistic, because many people say, including Pentagon spokespeople, that deadlines simply don't work."
Russert: "Katie, the only exit strategy we have is to be able to replace every American with an Iraqi who's willing to shed blood for the new country. We are a long way from that. If you talk to Democrats, Republicans, liberals, conservatives, the White House, the Pentagon, wherever, people will say it's going to be several years before we'll be able to have a total withdrawal in an optimum situation. And what's complicating that, Katie, is our recruitment, particularly for the army, for our volunteer army, is missing its goals by some 40 percent. So by the end of next year, we are really going to hit a wall in terms of how many troops we can commit to a place like Iraq."
Couric: "Well, how does the administration deal with that given that public opinion seems to be reflecting this move on Capitol Hill, Tim. According to the latest Gallup Poll, 56 percent of Americans say now the war was not worth it, almost 60 percent say the Pentagon should pull some or all of the troops out of Iraq. In addition to that, the latest New York Times poll out today, President Bush has one of his lowest approval ratings of his presidency with 42 percent. So, how does the Bush Administration deal with all these numbers?"
Russert: "It's a problem. Katie, the word in Washington is there is the Rose Garden optimism versus the pessimism on the ground in Baghdad. When you have a country which is saying that 60 percent say the war is going badly, it's a major hurdle for the President to keep the country engaged and focused and supportive. You can't just send an army to war, you have to take a country to war. And that's why the President now is going to embark on several speeches trying to reinforce the urgency of staying the course in Iraq. But it's going to be very, very challenging because as the death toll mounts, Americans get less and less and less supportive of the war."
Couric: "And Tim, then, adding to the President's problems, some senior Democrats on Capitol Hill are calling for a full investigation of the so-called Downing Street Memo, which appears to accuse President Bush of making a decision to go to war in Iraq and then manipulating the intelligence to support that decision. Here's what Prime Minister Tony Blair had to say about that when I interviewed him last week in Washington."
Tony Blair, British Prime Minister: "Do you know we've had about four different inquiries into this in the UK, and they've all come to the same conclusion: that the intelligence was used in good faith. After that was written, we went to the United Nations, we gave Iraq a last chance to comply with UN resolutions. So this idea that myself and President Bush somehow decided that we were going to do it and fixed the evidence around it, we knew there was a serious, post September 11th, we knew we had to take a different attitude to WMD."
Couric: "Tim, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said this is basically rehashing old material, but how significant is this, and how problematic might it be for the President?"
Russert: "What it does, Katie, is it reinforces the views of many who opposed the war, who suggested that it was inflated or, 'fixed,' is the British term. And so, it will not go away. The fact is, Katie, there was a colossal intelligence failure. Both sides must acknowledge that: there were not the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq that our intelligence community had promised would be found. And it will continue to hover as an issue. The Administration will say it was decided in the election of 2004, and it may have been. But the fact is those kinds of memos, the Downing Street Memo, will only add to the fire of people who are trying to urge the United States to withdraw from Iraq."
Couric: "And finally, Tim, in a rare display of bipartisanship, we saw Bill Frist and Hillary Clinton appear on this program yesterday talking about some legislation that they're pushing in terms of health care. Was this an effort by both individuals to somehow soften their image to move a little toward the middle so they're not as polarizing as they look towards 2008?"
Russert: "Yes." [laughs]
Couric: "Okay, thanks!" [laughs]
Russert: "We have seen Senator Clinton with Bill Frist, with Newt Gingrich, with John McCain, and this is the public persona that they are trying to show the American people because they know the American people are fed up with the poisonous atmosphere in Washington. But at the same time, Katie, each of the people I mentioned running for President, or thinking about running for President, are sending out fundraising letters and preaching to their own base with very harsh rhetoric. So there's a good cop, bad cop at work as always in politics."

If Modern News Media Around in 1776,
Colonialists Would Have Lost

David McCullough If the present-day news media were around in the 1770s, the United States of America never could have won the Revolutionary War, author/historian David McCullough charged in a taped interview to plug his new book, 1776. Appearing on CNBC's Tim Russert aired Saturday night, McCullough asserted that if the Continental Army efforts led by George Washington "had been covered by the media, and the country had seen now horrible the conditions were, how badly things were being run by the officers, and what a very serious soup we were in, I think that would have been it" for the colonialists and the British would have won.

In the midst of a discussion of how if the wind had been blowing a different direction, the British fleet could have sailed up the Hudson River and trapped Washington's army, but that provident wind and fog allowed Washington and his men to escape to fight another day, McCullough added:
"I have to say too if that war had been covered -- this is the most important year in the most important conflict in our history -- if it had been covered by the media, and the country had seen now horrible the conditions were, how badly things were being run by the officers, and what a very serious soup we were in, I think that would have been it too."

Amazon.com's page for McCullough's book: www.amazon.com

Simon and Schuster's page for McCullough: www.simonsays.com

Biography of McCullough: www.simonsays.com


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