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Reporter on Hardball: 'Hard Right' is McCain's 'Biggest Problem' --7/30/2008


1. Reporter on Hardball: 'Hard Right' is McCain's 'Biggest Problem'
In the midst of a campaign in which conservatives fret John McCain is missing opportunities by staying to the left on too many issues, Chrystia Freeland, the U.S. Managing Editor of the Financial Times newspaper based in London, declared "extremely imprudent" the conservative desire for John McCain to make a commitment against raising taxes. On Tuesday's Hardball she saw the "hard right," not politicians unwilling to stick to a pledge, as the problem: "The first President Bush did not fare very well when he made that absolutely firm, clear campaign pledge not to raise taxes. So, you know, I think that in a way, the biggest problem John McCain is facing in this campaign is the hard right of his own party, which is trying to pin him into positions that are not really very realistic right now." Her comment came after fill-in host Mike Barnicle read a statement from the Club for Growth rebuking McCain for saying that raising the Social Security tax is not "off the table."

2. Nets Don't Hesitate to Properly Identify Stevens as Republican
The ABC, CBS and NBC evening shows on Tuesday night properly identified indicted Senator Ted Stevens as a Republican -- though not very creatively as they all employed the identical language in describing Stevens as "the longest-serving Republican in the U.S. Senate" -- but they weren't so eager to name the party of Democrats in trouble in recent years. ABC anchor Charles Gibson teased World News: "Indicted. The longest-serving Republican in the U.S. Senate is charged with lying about a quarter million dollars' worth of gifts and renovations for his home." Setting up the story from Jake Tapper, with "(R)" in an on-screen graphic, Gibson repeated his "the longest-serving Republican in the Senate" line. CBS's Katie Couric referred to Stevens as "a senior Republican" before reporter Jim Axelrod recited "the longest-serving Republican Senator ever" mantra. On NBC, anchor Brian Williams announced: "Tonight, Senator Ted Stevens, the longest-serving Republican in U.S. Senate history is under federal indictment."

3. CBS Hypes Warren Buffet's Call For Higher Taxes...Again
Following a segment on Monday's CBS Evening News, on Tuesday's CBS Early Show correspondent Chip Reid again touted Obama economic advisor Warren Buffet calling for more taxes on the rich: "Barack Obama met with his team of economic advisers Monday...But there's one who couldn't make it and had to put in his two cents by phone...Warren Buffett, the richest man in the world. Despite his billions, he says the rich are under-taxed." Reid went on to outline Obama's plan to remedy that under-taxing: "Obama wants to end the Bush tax cuts for people making more than $250,000 a year and use the money for a tax cut for the middle class." Reid also mentioned John McCain's economic team: "John McCain is also tapping the minds of business leaders, including Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard and Meg Whitman, former head of ebay. They briefed reporters Monday on the importance of tax cuts for business."

4. ABC's Plan for Deficit? Give Up Lattes and Donate to Government
Good Morning America correspondent Claire Shipman on Tuesday actually suggested that Americans "pitch in" $2,000 to help pay off the deficit or even give up their lattes. Reporting on the news that the U.S. federal deficit is projected to rise to $482 billion in 2009, Shipman seriously proposed: "Now, we came up with a few GMA solutions to try to put this in perspective. If every American were to pitch in $2,000, we could pay off this year's deficit." Continuing the absurd "solutions," Shipman elaborated: "Or, if we handed over, each of us, 500 gallons of gasoline or, in terms we could all really understand, if every American gave up 666 lattes for a year, we could pay off this year's deficit." Leaving aside the slightly demonic 666 suggestion, there was one piece of advice left out of the ABC reporter's piece: At no point did she talk about wasteful government spending or the possibility of cutting back on entitlement programs.

5. Brit Hume: 'Even the AP is Acknowledging' Progress in Iraq
"The progress in Iraq is so undeniable that now even the Associated Press is acknowledging it," FNC's Brit Hume marveled Tuesday night. Citing a Saturday AP dispatch by Robert Burns, the AP's chief military reporter, and Robert Reid, its Baghdad bureau chief, Hume relayed how the story "says insurgents no longer have the clout to threaten the viability of Iraq's government" and it declared, "quote: 'The United States is now winning the war that two years ago seemed lost.'" In the "Grapevine" segment, Hume reported "the analysis goes on to say that systematic killings in Baghdad have all but ended, violence is at a four-year low and that the combat phase of the war is now ending." With matching text on screen, Hume concluded with how the AP duo wrote: "In Baghdad, parks are filled every weekend with families playing and picnicking with their children. That was unthinkable only a year ago."


Reporter on Hardball: 'Hard Right' is
McCain's 'Biggest Problem'

In the midst of a campaign in which conservatives fret John McCain is missing opportunities by staying to the left on too many issues, Chrystia Freeland, the U.S. Managing Editor of the Financial Times newspaper based in London, declared "extremely imprudent" the conservative desire for John McCain to make a commitment against raising taxes. On Tuesday's Hardball she saw the "hard right," not politicians unwilling to stick to a pledge, as the problem: "The first President Bush did not fare very well when he made that absolutely firm, clear campaign pledge not to raise taxes. So, you know, I think that in a way, the biggest problem John McCain is facing in this campaign is the hard right of his own party, which is trying to pin him into positions that are not really very realistic right now."

Her comment came after fill-in host Mike Barnicle read a statement from the Club for Growth rebuking McCain for saying that raising the Social Security tax is not "off the table." Barnicle posed this leading question to her: "Can any sane politician, Chrystia, make an adamant, set in stone statement given the fact that we're a country at war with an energy crisis -- about never raising any tax under any circumstances?" She agreed "it would be extremely imprudent" to do so given the "dire economic situation the United States is facing right now."

[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted Tuesday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

Freeland isn't always out there on the left. She once scolded Eleanor Clift for channeling hard left hate speech. The July 17, 2006 CyberAlert item, "Clift Raises Ire of Canadian Journalist When She Calls Bush 'Dictator Who's Ineffective,'" reported:

When, on the McLaughlin Group over the weekend, Newsweek's Eleanor Clift charged that President Bush is "a dictator who's ineffective," an incensed Chrystia Freeland, a Canadian native who is the Managing Editor in the U.S. of London's Financial Times, scolded Clift for using the dictator label "so loosely" and inaccurately.

Clift opined that of those attending the G-8 summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin is "the only one of those leaders who goes in there with a commanding popularity among his own people, because he is perceived to be an effective dictator. What we have in this country is a dictator who's ineffective." Freeland, shouting over panelists who were trying to move on to other points, retorted: "But he's not a dictator! I mean we can't use, no we can't use these terms so loosely." Clift backtracked a bit: "Well we have an authoritarian President who is ineffective." But Freeland stood her ground, pointing out: "You guys can elect your Presidents and there can be a free choice. That's not the case in Russia."

For the full rundown: www.mediaresearch.org

From near the end of the Tuesday, July 29 Hardball on MSNBC, picking up after a clip of McCain on ABC's This Week declaring of a payroll tax hike that "nothing is off the table."

MIKE BARNICLE: Chrystia, Pat Toomey, the President for the Club for Growth wrote an open letter to McCain after that statement, reading: "This statement was particularly shocking, because you have been adamant in your opposition to raising taxes under any circumstances. Your comments yesterday send American taxpayers and businesses a mixed message about where you stand on this issue. We hope you will clarify where you stand on this important issue and reaffirm your commitment to eschew all tax increases."
Can any sane politician, Chrystia, make an adamant, set in stone statement given the fact that we're a country at war with an energy crisis -- about never raising any tax under any circumstances?
CHRYSTIA FREELAND: Well, I think it would be extremely imprudent and I would add to your point about war and energy, the fact that the American government is in the red. This is a dire economic situation the United States is facing right now. And we see more bills coming in every day. We've had Fannie and Freddie. We don't know how many regional banks the government is going to end up bailing out. Remember the savings and loan crisis.
So I think that John McCain, you know, perhaps made the mistake of political candor in saying he can't take anything off the table. That is absolutely true and we should also remember that the first President Bush did not fare very well when he made that absolutely firm, clear campaign pledge not to raise taxes. So, you know, I think that in a way, the biggest problem John McCain is facing in this campaign is the hard right of his own party, which is trying to pin him into positions that are not really very realistic right now.

The Financial Times page for Freeland: www.ft.com

Nets Don't Hesitate to Properly Identify
Stevens as Republican

The ABC, CBS and NBC evening shows on Tuesday night properly identified indicted Senator Ted Stevens as a Republican -- though not very creatively as they all employed the identical language in describing Stevens as "the longest-serving Republican in the U.S. Senate" -- but they weren't so eager to name the party of Democrats in trouble in recent years.

ABC anchor Charles Gibson teased World News: "Indicted. The longest-serving Republican in the U.S. Senate is charged with lying about a quarter million dollars' worth of gifts and renovations for his home." Setting up the story from Jake Tapper, with "(R)" in an on-screen graphic, Gibson repeated his "the longest-serving Republican in the Senate" line.

CBS's Katie Couric referred to Stevens as "a senior Republican" before reporter Jim Axelrod recited "the longest-serving Republican Senator ever" mantra. On NBC, anchor Brian Williams announced: "Tonight, Senator Ted Stevens, the longest-serving Republican in U.S. Senate history is under federal indictment."

[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted Tuesday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

Back in March, the fifteen ABC, CBS and NBC morning and evening news shows aired in the first three days of the prostitution scandal with New York Governor Eliot Spitzer called him a Democrat just 20 percent of the time -- twice on CBS (one of those from Katie Couric), once on ABC, and never on NBC, which didn't tag him as a Democrat until the fourth day. Yet, the ABC, CBS, NBC morning and evening shows, in the days after the scandals broke involving Senators David Vitter (July of 2007) and Larry Craig (August of 2007), applied "Republican" labels on every show (100 percent).

For details, see the March 14 MRC CyberAlert posting, "Study: No (D) for Spitzer, Vitter and Craig Always Tagged as GOP," online at: www.mrc.org

The Monday, March 31 MRC CyberAlert, "CBS Faster to Identify Party of Republican Than of Democrats," recounted:

On Monday night [March 24], the CBS Evening News failed to identify Kwame Kilpatrick as a Democrat in reporting criminal charges filed against the Detroit Mayor, but on Friday night the same anchor, Harry Smith, used the very first word, of his introduction to a story on another politician in criminal trouble, to name the party: "Republican Congressman Rick Renzi of Arizona goes on trial next month, charged with using his office to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars. He denies breaking any laws, but the indictment spells out a string of alleged dirty deals."

A little under two years ago, then-CBS Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer avoided the party affiliation of a Democratic Congressman in introducing a Monday, May 22, 2006 story: "The government says FBI agents videotaped Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson taking $100,000 in cash from an informant and later found $90,000 in his home freezer..."

See: www.mrc.org

For the avoidance of naming Kilpatrick's party, see the March 25 CyberAlert item: "ABC, CBS and NBC All Fail to ID Indicted Mayor as Democrat." Go to: www.mrc.org

How the three broadcast network evening newscasts identified Stevens' party on Tuesday, July 29:

# ABC's World News:

CHARLES GIBSON TEASED: Indicted. The longest-serving Republican in the U.S. Senate is charged with lying about a quarter million dollars' worth of gifts and renovations for his home.

GIBSON SET UP THE STORY: Well there was something of a political earthquake in the U.S. Senate today: A seven-count federal indictment was filed against Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, the longest-serving Republican in the Senate, on charges he concealed more than a quarter million dollars in gifts and services from an oil company which helped renovate his home in Alaska.


# CBS Evening News:

KATIE COURIC: Now turning to Washington where Ted Stevens of Alaska has long been one of the most powerful men in the Senate. He's a senior Republican there and for several years, as President pro tem, he was third in line to the presidency. But now as Jim Axelrod reports, Stevens is facing criminal charges.

JIM AXELROD: He's the longest-serving Republican Senator ever. Tonight, Ted Stevens is also under federal indictment...

# NBC Nightly News:

BRIAN WILLIAMS: He is 84 years old and from Alaska, and he just might be the single most powerful Republican member of the U.S. Senate going back a few decades. Tonight, Senator Ted Stevens, the longest-serving Republican in U.S. Senate history is under federal indictment, accused of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of gifts and favors without reporting them.

Pete Williams then provided a full story.

CBS Hypes Warren Buffet's Call For Higher
Taxes...Again

Following a segment on Monday's CBS Evening News, on Tuesday's CBS Early Show correspondent Chip Reid again touted Obama economic advisor Warren Buffet calling for more taxes on the rich: "Barack Obama met with his team of economic advisers Monday...But there's one who couldn't make it and had to put in his two cents by phone...Warren Buffett, the richest man in the world. Despite his billions, he says the rich are under-taxed." Reid went on to outline Obama's plan to remedy that under-taxing: "Obama wants to end the Bush tax cuts for people making more than $250,000 a year and use the money for a tax cut for the middle class." Reid also mentioned John McCain's economic team: "John McCain is also tapping the minds of business leaders, including Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard and Meg Whitman, former head of ebay. They briefed reporters Monday on the importance of tax cuts for business."

Check the July 29 CyberAlert for CBS Evening News coverage of Buffett's tax proposal: www.mediaresearch.org

[This item, by Kyle Drennen, was posted Tuesday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

Reid later described McCain's energy policy: "But even the best minds don't have sure-fire short-term answers for high gas prices. Touring an oil field in California Monday, John McCain talked about his new found support for increasing off-shore drilling." After a clip of McCain was played in which he argued "within a matter of months they could be getting additional oil," Reid immediately followed up with the Obama campaign's response: "But ask Barack Obama's experts and they'll tell you it will take at least seven years."

In addition to comparing the economic policies of Obama and McCain, the segment also took the usual doom and gloom approach to describing the state of the economy as co-host Maggie Rodriguez declared: "Economy on the edge. The Dow plummets. Oil rises. And a record budget deficit looms. How the struggle is changing the game in the race for the White House." Reid later concluded his report by observing: "And of course it's not just gas prices. There's the housing crisis, the struggling stock market, job losses and now a record-breaking deficit. It's going to take all the experts that John McCain or Barack Obama can find. Maggie." Rodriguez replied: "And then some."

Here is the full transcript of the July 29 segment:

7:00AM TEASER:
MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: Economy on the edge. The Dow plummets. Oil rises. And a record budget deficit looms. How the struggle is changing the game in the race for the White House.

7:01AM SEGMENT:
MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: But first, the economic outlook facing the country and its impact from Wall Street to Washington. CBS's Chip Reid will have a look at how John McCain and Barack Obama have been forced to assemble high-powered economic teams. But we begin with Deirdre Bolton of Bloomberg Television on the struggling markets. Good morning, Deirdre.

DEIRDRE BOLTON: Good morning, Maggie. Well, everyone wants the financial crisis to be finished but it's going to take a very long time to dig out of this hole. That's what one money manager told us. And if you look at what the markets did on Monday, seems like he's right. Take a look, there was a huge sell-off, the Dow lost more than 200 points. That is the second time in three days. Part of the gloom cast by comments by the IMF, the International Monetary Fund, the organization said there is no end in sight to the housing slump. Merrill Lynch is just one example of a business still reeling from its investments in housing. The securities firm is so desperate to get rid of its portfolio of mortgage-related bonds, it is selling them for 22 cents on the dollar. Market conditions are also pretty much forcing Merrill Lynch to sell more stock in its company. Now, later this morning we are going to get additional data on housing and on consumer confidence. Not too many people, though, expect good news. In fact, that consumer confidence reading may log a new 16-year low. So, Maggie, not too many bright spots out there at the moment. We hand it back to you.

RODRIGUEZ: Alright, Deirdre Bolton of Bloomberg TV, thanks Deirdre. Now to the presidential candidates gearing up to deal with the struggling economy. CBS News Capitol Hill correspondent Chip Reid has that part of the story. Good morning, Chip.
REID: Well, good morning, Maggie. After a week of focusing on foreign policy, John McCain and Barack Obama have turned their attention to the economy. And they're looking for help from some of the biggest names in the world of business. Barack Obama met with his team of economic advisers Monday.
BARACK OBAMA: This group includes leading figures from business and labor, former cabinet secretaries and former Fed chairman, Democrats and Republicans.
REID: But there's one who couldn't make it and had to put in his two cents by phone.
OBAMA: Warren, are you on?
WARREN BUFFET: I'm here, I'm here.
REID: Warren Buffett, the richest man in the world. Despite his billions, he says the rich are under-taxed.
BUFFETT: I think we ought to take a little more out of the hides of fellows like me.
REID: Obama wants to end the Bush tax cuts for people making more than $250,000 a year and use the money for a tax cut for the middle class. John McCain is also tapping the minds of business leaders, including Carly Fiorina, former CEO of Hewlett-Packard and Meg Whitman, former head of ebay. They briefed reporters Monday on the importance of tax cuts for business.
CARLY FIORINA: Small business is the engine of growth in this economy.
REID: The two candidates trying to one up each other.
EAMON JAVERS: Each one wants to demonstrate that he's prepared to lead the economy and he's got the ear of some of the top thinkers in economics.
REID: But even the best minds don't have sure-fire short-term answers for high gas prices. Touring an oil field in California Monday, John McCain talked about his new found support for increasing off-shore drilling.
MCCAIN: There are some instances within a matter of months they could be getting additional oil.
REID: But ask Barack Obama's experts and they'll tell you it will take at least seven years. And of course it's not just gas prices. There's the housing crisis, the struggling stock market, job losses and now a record-breaking deficit. It's going to take all the experts that John McCain or Barack Obama can find. Maggie.
RODRIGUEZ: And then some. CBS's Chip Reid in Washington. Thank you, Chip.

ABC's Plan for Deficit? Give Up Lattes
and Donate to Government

Good Morning America correspondent Claire Shipman on Tuesday actually suggested that Americans "pitch in" $2,000 to help pay off the deficit or even give up their lattes. Reporting on the news that the U.S. federal deficit is projected to rise to $482 billion in 2009, Shipman seriously proposed: "Now, we came up with a few GMA solutions to try to put this in perspective. If every American were to pitch in $2,000, we could pay off this year's deficit."

Continuing the absurd "solutions," Shipman elaborated: "Or, if we handed over, each of us, 500 gallons of gasoline or, in terms we could all really understand, if every American gave up 666 lattes for a year, we could pay off this year's deficit." Leaving aside the slightly demonic 666 suggestion, there was one piece of advice left out of the ABC reporter's piece: At no point did she talk about wasteful government spending or the possibility of cutting back on entitlement programs. Shipman also took a shot at President Bush, calling the deficit "a parting gift from one President to the next of the most unwelcome sort." Conservatives may have complained about some of Bush's spending, but he certainly didn't act without the help of many Democrats in Congress.

[This item, by the MRC's Scott Whitlock, was posted Tuesday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

The GMA correspondent also highlighted clips from an upcoming deficit documentary called "I.O.U.S.A." The film features interviews with liberal billionaire Warren Buffett, disgruntled ex-Bush administration official Paul O'Neill and Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin. The segment featured a snippet of the documentary with O'Neill whining: "The Vice President told me that we don't have to worry about deficits. I got fired for having a difference of opinion." Although the film's website describes the movie as "consummately nonpartisan," Reuters has asserted, it "may be to the U.S. economy what 'An Inconvenient Truth' was to the environment." See the film's website for more: www.iousathemovie.com

Good Morning America is hardly in a position to complain about deficits. This is the program that has repeatedly featured segments designed to promote costly universal health care. On June 18, 2007, co-host Diane Sawyer declared: "Well, today we are announcing a GMA commitment to take a hard look at the health insurance industry, to get some answers about those policies we keep hearing about, about what happens to sick people in a time of need." See a June 18, 2007 NewsBusters post: newsbusters.org

On February 20, 2007, co-host Robin Roberts slammed the insurance companies as greedy. See a February 22, 2007 CyberAlert posting www.mrc.org for more

What would ABC suggest if America adopts universal health care? Tax increases in the form of $4,000 donations from Americans? More cutting back on coffee? Perhaps GMA could worry a little more what the government is doing to waste money and a little less about asking Americans to skip their lattes.

A transcript of the July 29 segment, which aired at 7:07am:

DIANE SAWYER: In the headlines this morning, another projection of a huge federal deficit. The White House says it is going to balloon to half a trillion dollars in 2009, setting a new record. Numbers hard to comprehend. So, what does this mean for average Americans? We asked GMA senior correspondent Claire Shipman to spell it out for us this morning. Claire?
CLAIRE SHIPMAN: Good morning, Diane. Well, first of all you should know this reverses what had been a downward trend in deficit spending for the last couple of years. Part of it is because of a big stimulus package that is supposed to help the economy, but that is not the only reason it's so big and it's reached a level that has economists worried. Call it a parting gift from one president to the next of the most unwelcome sort.
ABC GRAPHIC: Record High Deficit: What does it Mean For You?
JIM NUSSLE (Director of Office of Management and Budget): The deficit is projected to rise to $482 billion.
SHIPMAN: Oh, yes, deficit spend something back again, big time. And that number, should we play it again?
NUSSLE: The deficit is projected to rise to $482 billion.
SHIPMAN: --Is a record. The biggest deficit in history since $413 billion in 2004. But guess what? The real number is even bigger. A few things left out of the creative White House accounting, the war, unemployment costs, Medicare fees, the new housing bill. Bringing the grand total to about $600 billion.
DAVID WALKER (CEO, Peter G. Peterson Foundation): If we can start making tough choices sooner rather than later and work on a bipartisan basis, we can defuse the ticking time bomb. And if we don't get it, I think it's probably only a matter of time before we face a real economic crisis.
SHIPMAN: David Walker is the Paul Revere of deficit doom. A documentary out next month "I.O.U.S.A" features him trying to jolt the country into alarm another with over financial heavyweights.
PAUL H. O'NEILL (Former Treasury Secretary) : The vice president told me that we don't have to worry about deficits. I got fired for having a difference of opinion.
SHIPMAN: The filmmakers hope to make the deficit a campaign issue but it's a tough message. Americans, well acquainted with brutal home accounting these days, know what the deficit means.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN ON THE STREET: We make a certain amount and we spend a certain amount so it's the difference between the two.
SHIPMAN: But, what to do?
UNIDENTIFIED MAN ON THE STREET: I don't know. Either make more or spend less.
SHIPMAN: What does it mean for these two? [Pictures of Obama and McCain.] They'll have a harder time making good on campaign promises for one thing. They may both have to consider dialing back tax cuts. Now, we came up with a few GMA solutions to try to put this in perspective. If every American were to pitch in $2,000, we could pay off this year's deficit. Or, if we handed over, each of us, 500 gallons of gasoline or, in terms we could all really understand, if every American gave up 666 lattes for a year, we could pay off this year's deficit. Robin?

Brit Hume: 'Even the AP is Acknowledging'
Progress in Iraq

"The progress in Iraq is so undeniable that now even the Associated Press is acknowledging it," FNC's Brit Hume marveled Tuesday night. Citing a Saturday AP dispatch by Robert Burns, the AP's chief military reporter, and Robert Reid, its Baghdad bureau chief, Hume relayed how the story "says insurgents no longer have the clout to threaten the viability of Iraq's government" and it declared, "quote: 'The United States is now winning the war that two years ago seemed lost.'"

In the "Grapevine" segment, Hume reported "the analysis goes on to say that systematic killings in Baghdad have all but ended, violence is at a four-year low and that the combat phase of the war is now ending." With matching text on screen, Hume concluded with how the AP duo wrote: "In Baghdad, parks are filled every weekend with families playing and picnicking with their children. That was unthinkable only a year ago."

[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted late Tuesday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

An excerpt from the the July 26 article, "Analysis: U.S. now winning Iraq war that seemed lost," by Robert Burns and Robert H. Reid:

The United States is now winning the war that two years ago seemed lost. Limited, sometimes sharp fighting and periodic terrorist bombings in Iraq are likely to continue, possibly for years. But the Iraqi government and the U.S. now are able to shift focus from mainly combat to mainly building the fragile beginnings of peace -- a transition that many found almost unthinkable as recently as one year ago.

Despite the occasional bursts of violence, Iraq has reached the point where the insurgents, who once controlled whole cities, no longer have the clout to threaten the viability of the central government.

That does not mean the war has ended or that U.S. troops have no role in Iraq. It means the combat phase finally is ending, years past the time when President Bush optimistically declared it had. The new phase focuses on training the Iraqi army and police, restraining the flow of illicit weaponry from Iran, supporting closer links between Baghdad and local governments, pushing the integration of former insurgents into legitimate government jobs and assisting in rebuilding the economy.

Scattered battles go on, especially against al-Qaida holdouts north of Baghdad. But organized resistance, with the steady drumbeat of bombings, kidnappings, assassinations and ambushes that once rocked the capital daily, has all but ceased.

This amounts to more than a lull in the violence. It reflects a fundamental shift in the outlook for the Sunni minority, which held power under Saddam Hussein. They launched the insurgency five years ago. They now are either sidelined or have switched sides to cooperate with the Americans in return for money and political support....

Iraq still faces a mountain of problems: sectarian rivalries, power struggles within the Sunni and Shiite communities, Kurdish-Arab tensions, corruption. Any one of those could rekindle widespread fighting.

But the underlying dynamics in Iraqi society that blew up the U.S. military's hopes for an early exit, shortly after the fall of Baghdad in April 2003, have changed in important ways in recent months.

Systematic sectarian killings have all but ended in the capital, in large part because of tight security and a strategy of walling off neighborhoods purged of minorities in 2006.

That has helped establish a sense of normalcy in the streets of the capital. People are expressing a new confidence in their own security forces, which in turn are exhibiting a newfound assertiveness with the insurgency largely in retreat.

Statistics show violence at a four-year low. The monthly American death toll appears to be at its lowest of the war -- four killed in action so far this month as of Friday, compared with 66 in July a year ago. From a daily average of 160 insurgent attacks in July 2007, the average has plummeted to about two dozen a day this month. On Wednesday the nationwide total was 13.

Beyond that, there is something in the air in Iraq this summer.

In Baghdad, parks are filled every weekend with families playing and picnicking with their children. That was unthinkable only a year ago, when the first, barely visible signs of a turnaround emerged....

END of Excerpt

The AP story, as posted by Yahoo: news.yahoo.com

As posted by Google: ap.google.com

Hume's item in full on the Tuesday, July 29 Special Report:

The progress in Iraq is so undeniable that now even the Associated Press is acknowledging it. An AP dispatch Monday declared, quote: "Organized resistance has all but ceased in Iraq."

The article written by the AP's Baghdad bureau chief and its chief military reporter says insurgents no longer have the clout to threaten the viability of Iraq's government. It says, quote: "The United States is now winning the war that two years ago seemed lost." The analysis goes on to say that systematic killings in Baghdad have all but ended, violence is at a four-year low and that the combat phase of the war is now ending.

It adds, quote: "In Baghdad, parks are filled every weekend with families playing and picnicking with their children. That was unthinkable only a year ago," end quote.

-- Brent Baker