CBS Drowns Bush Iraq Speech with Negative Poll Numbers, Skip How Third Fault Media

CBS News chose the day President Bush launched a series of speeches, intended to boost support for the Iraq war, to highlight a poll which found most Americans are much more pessimistic than is the President. In laying out on Monday's CBS Evening News a series of poll findings, including how 66 percent feel Bush has been describing the “things in Iraq” as “better than they are,” both Bob Schieffer and Jim Axelrod skipped the finding that, while the media fare better than Bush, nearly a third (31 percent) say the media “make things sound worse in Iraq than they really are,” compared to 24 percent who perceive the media are describing things “better than they are” and 35 percent who think journalism on Iraq “accurately” reflects the situation.

Schieffer rattled off how the percent who believe the "war is going badly” is up while the percent who see future success is down since January, before Jim Axelrod followed Bush's warning, that the terrorists want to start a civil war, with a survey finding which matched the media's mantra: "Seven of ten Americans say Iraq is already in a civil war. Another 13 percent say it will be." Pouring on the dour numbers, Axelrod asserted: "The President wants to rally Americans, but public opinion is fading fast. Only 43 percent now believe Iraq will become a stable democracy. A 15 point drop in just two months." Axelrod concluded: “With suicide bombs now going off nearly every day in Iraq, it will take some real progress on the ground and not just speeches to revive American's optimism.” You certainly can't count on the media for any optimism. Lara Logan soon checked in from Baghdad with how “there is grave concern amongst leaders here that civil war is exactly where this country is heading.”(Transcript follows.)

A PDF posting on CBSNews.com of the poll results includes this finding not cited in the CBS Evening News reportage:
“Views on how the media explains the situation in Iraq are more mixed. 35% say when the media talks about Iraq they describe the situation accurately, but almost as many -- 31% - say they make things sound worse in Iraq than they really are. A quarter of Americans say the media makes things in Iraq sound better than they area.”

“THE MEDIA DESCRIBES THINGS IN IRAQ…
“Better than they are: 24%
“Worse than they are: 31
“Accurately: 35"
Some controversy has flared over the Republican versus Democratic make-up of those surveyed. See this previous NewsBusters posting, and this one too. This poll seems less slanted toward Democrats, with 358 Republicans and 366 Democrats polled. But CBS News weighted the respondents to count 328 Republicans versus 388 Democrats.

A transcript of the March 13 CBS Evening News coverage of the new CBS News poll:
Bob Schieffer, with a series of results displayed on screen: “Next Sunday marks the third anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq and President Bush began a new round of speeches today to try and build support for the war. A new CBS News poll suggests he has his work cut out for him: 63 percent of those polled in January thought it 'very likely to somewhat likely' we would succeed in Iraq. Now only 51 percent believe that. 57 percent of those polled believed the war is 'going badly' ['going well' at 40 percent] and the President's credibility has also taken a hit. In January, 58 percent said the President was describing the situation in Iraq as better than it was. Well, now 66 percent feel that way ['accurately' fell from 31 to 23 percent]. The President spoke today at George Washington University. Jim Axelrod has our report.”

Axelrod: “For a speech designed to build support for the war in Iraq, the biggest headline was accusing Iran of being behind some of the worst violence. Describing IEDs, those roadside bombs detonated by remote control, Mr. Bush said Iran is to blame for ever-more lethal versions.”

President Bush in his speech: “Coalition forces have seized IEDs and components that were clearly produced in Iran.”

Axelrod: “ It's part of the President's strategy to cast Iraqi violence as the work of outside terrorists, agitating Sunnis and Shiites into conflict rather than a home-grown civil war.”

Bush: “They know they lack the military strength to challenge Iraqi and coalition forces directly. So their only hope is to try and provoke a civil war.”

Axelrod: “But in a new CBS News poll [71 percent], seven of ten Americans say Iraq is already in a civil war. Another 13 percent say it will be.”

Bush: “We will not lose our nerve. We will help the Iraqi people succeed. Our goal in Iraq is victory. And victory will be achieved when the terrorists and Saddamists can no longer threaten Iraq's democracy.”

Axelrod: “The President wants to rally Americans, but public opinion is fading fast. Only 43 percent now believe Iraq will become a stable democracy. A 15 point drop in just two months.”

Bush: “I wish I could tell you that the violence is waning and that the road ahead will be smooth. It will not. The terrorists are losing on the field of battle. They're hoping to shake our resolve and force us to retreat. They're not going to succeed.”

Axelrod, from the White House lawn: “The war on terror has been a consistent strong suit for the President in the past. But with suicide bombs now going off nearly every day in Iraq, it will take some real progress on the ground. And not just speeches, to revive American's optimism. Bob?”

Schieffer: “For more on all this now we want to go to our chief foreign correspondent Laura Logan back in Baghdad. Laura, the President went to some lengths today to say he does not believe the country is in civil war at this point. How would you sum up the situation there right now?”

Logan, in Baghdad: “Well, it's certainly very tense. And speaking to Iraqi people, there is a real sense that they don't want a civil war, they're not agitating for civil war. But there are undoubtedly extremists on both sides who are pushing the people closer and closer towards that direction and one very senior Iraqi politician said to me today that we are rapidly reaching a point of no return. And there is grave concern amongst leaders here that civil war is exactly where this country is heading, Bob.”

Scieffier: “Well, are events out of control, Lara? Is there anything we can do to stop it? Is there anything America can do to fix it at this point?”

Logan: “You know, a high-ranking Iraqi official told me yesterday that basically the only thing standing between the Shiites and the Sunnis at this moment is the American military. Other people may not agree with that but the U.S. is certainly in a very, very difficult position here. There is no government here at the moment and without that there really is no chance that peace and politics will prevail over violence and bloodshed.”
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center