On ABC, Diane Sawyer Sounds Like Couric In Airing Rumsfeld-Bashing General

MRC's Brian Boyd found this morning that like NBC, ABC's Good Morning America also leaped on the chance to interview Rumsfeld-bashing Gen. John Batiste. Co-host Diane Sawyer said in the show's first secondsRevolt of the generals. As of this morning, six retired generals call for Defense Secretary Rumsfeld to resign. One of them, a top battlefield commander, joins us live."

At 7:12, Sawyer returned to "that drumbeat of calls for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to step down. Six prominent retired generals say it is time for a change of leadership at the Pentagon. And this morning joining us to tell us about the seismic rumble and also the reaction is ABC senior national correspondent Claire Shipman leading things off, Claire."

Shipman underlined: "Diane, this is extraordinarily unusual. Military officers almost always keep political opinions quiet. Now, six retired generals, 15 stars all together, aligned against Donald Rumsfeld and his prosecution of this war. Secretary Rumsfeld in the crosshairs and each day seems to bring reinforcements in this revolt of retired generals. Just last night retired Major General Charles Swannack, commander of the 82nd Airborne in Iraq, joined the calls for Rumsfeld's resignation. This week retired Marine Lieutenant General Gregory Newbold, who held a key position in war planning, suggested 'replacing Rumsfeld and many others unwilling to fundamentally change their approach.' And retired Army Major General John Batiste, who served in Iraq leading the Army's 1st Infantry Division in 2004 and 2005, also suggested Rumsfeld should resign. Last month another top officer who commanded the training of Iraqi security forces, retired Major General Paul Eaton, wrote 'Mr. Rumsfeld must step down.' Calling him 'incompetent strategically, operationally and tactically.'"

Shipman did air snippets of Bush, Rumsfeld, and a military expert who thought political generals could hurt the trust level between civilian and military leaders. Then, back to the bashing: "Now, that is why a number of senior military officers are extremely uncomfortable with this sort of public criticism. Still, nobody here is surprised. That's because this is about more than just the conduct of the war, it's about the fact that Donald Rumsfeld has had a combative relationship with senior military officers since he arrived. Often openly contemptuous of them in public, pointedly ignoring their advice."

Then it was time for Diane Sawyer: "Joining us is retired Major General John Batiste. He is one of the six retired generals speaking out. In fact, this morning they're all lined up on the front page of The New York Times. By the way, Batiste led the Army's legendary First Infantry Division in Iraq and left the Army, deciding to do so in 2005 and passing up a third star. And, General, good morning to you...You have done an extraordinary thing, calling on Secretary Rumsfeld to step down, why?"

Batiste said he needed to held accountable for his war plan. Sawyer echoed Katie Couric, asking why he doesn't bash Bush, then: "But the President approved the plan, the President is in charge. Do you include him in your indictment?"

Batiste: "I'm talking right now about the Department of Defense."

Sawyer: "And that's all?"

Batiste: "That's right."

Like Couric, Sawyer also asked why Batiste had failed to delight liberals before now: "But this raises a question, General, about speaking out now, now that you're retired and not speaking out then when you were on active duty, as the historian just said to us, when you were participating in the plans. Why not speak out then if you felt so strongly?"

Batiste claimed: "Diane, for the past three years I've been commanding a division forward deployed in Germany with soldiers in Kosovo, Turkey and Iraq. I had my plate full. I was focused on winning this operation. Back in the Pentagon four or five years ago, I was a one star general and believe me, no one was going to listen."

Sawyer couldn't accept that: "Well, but do you regret now looking back you didn't speak out? Do you think you should have done it anyway?"

Batiste: "I have no regrets. I worked within the system. Within the military culture you have a chain of command, you report to people, you can express differences but at the point of decision you have two options. You either salute and execute or you get out. And I chose to stay within the system and make it happen."

Sawyer then asked another question asked by Couric: "Is this a coordinated effort by all of the generals? Are there more to come?"

Batiste: "Actually, Diane, it's not. I have not talked to any of the other five generals other than last night on a show with Dave Grange and another. We have nothing to gain by this, absolutely nothing to gain by this. There's no political agenda at all. We've been loyal subordinates." That's rich.

Sawyer then turned to what a supporter of the Iraq effort might ask: "But there are people -- There are people who've come forward to say that this can not help but break the bonds of trust, as we heard, and give some comfort to the enemy to hear this. At the end of the day the President says he's sticking with Rumsfeld. Does this comfort the enemy?"

Batiste: "I think we've got an incredibly resilient military. It can do anything. We can change out any leader and the next day we haven't skipped a beat. I think this would be a cleansing, a very cleansing act. And we will standup. The military will absolutely complete the mission."

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis