On Wednesday morning, the highly anticipated report from the Iraq Study Group [ISG] was released to the public. The ISG’s report contained seventy-nine recommendations for the United States in its effort to lessen the violence in Iraq and protect American forces. One of the major recommendations of the panel was a call for the withdrawal of most U.S. combat troops by early 2008. During an 11am press conference Wednesday, Jonathan Karl, ABC’s senior national security correspondent asked the panel pointedly why their recommendations should outweigh the advice President Bush receives from military commanders on the ground:
Jonathan Karl, ABC News: "You're certainly a group of distinguished elder statesmen, but tell me why should the President give more weight to what you all have said, given that, as I understand, you went to Iraq once–with the exception of Senator Robb, none of you made it out of the Green Zone–why should he give your recommendations any more weight than what he’s hearing from his commanders on the ground in Iraq?"
It was a refreshing question that challenged the ISG, which seems to have been deemed by the media as the most important source for determining how to resolve the situation in Iraq. Around 11:40 am Wednesday, during ABC’s live coverage of the ISG’s press conference, White House correspondent Martha Raddatz emphasized the importance of the ISG recommendations over the advice of other institutions:
Martha Raddatz: "One thing that I was thinking today, Charlie. He has all these other commissions. He has the National Security Council, he has Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also working on strategy recommendations. But these are the same people, essentially, who have been working on the Iraq problem for almost four years. So the pressure is even greater now for the President to look at this bipartisan commission, these new ideas, not those coming from within the White House."
On Wednesday’s Good Morning America, Claire Shipman hyped the importance of the ISG report:
Claire Shipman: "It is finally crunch time at the White House. The men and women tasked with finding a solution to Iraq in the West Wing laying out their recommendations. Among them, huge pressure on the Iraqi government, a threat to remove troops and money if specific benchmarks are not met. Imagine the scene around the table, President Bush handed a failing grade on the war that defines the presidency and offered unwelcome fixes by ultimate elder statesmen James Baker and Lee Hamilton. And hovering over the process, the judgment of the father and former president."
ABC’s Jessica Yellin wondered on GMA December 1 whether President Bush would "listen" to the ISG’s purported call for troop withdrawals and fretted that the administration was sounding "resistant" to the proposal:
Jessica Yellin: "Those recommendations will be out in a matter of days, and the question is, will the President listen and make plans to bring the troops home?...But the administration is already sounding resistant, insisting when it comes to a withdrawal--"Condoleezza Rice: "I think we have to have it dictated by when the Iraqis are capable of taking these, these responsibilities on."
It should be noted that in response to Karl’s question at the press conference, ISG co-chair Lee Hamilton stated the panel recognizes that its report is only one of many, and that there will be many recommendations and suggestions for the President and the military to consider.