CBS & NBC Resurrect “Mission Accomplished,” CBS Highlights 44 Point Approval Drop

CBS and NBC on Monday night couldn't resist reminding their viewers of President Bush's “Mission Accomplished” speech. CBS Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer announced: "Today marks the third anniversary of what many thought at the time was one of the cleverest photo-ops ever, even opponents of the Iraq invasion were impressed when the President flew on to an aircraft carrier decked out in a dashing flight suit and then spoke beneath a banner that said 'Mission Accomplished.' But it turned out not to be.” Citing another CBS News poll which surveyed significantly more Democrats than Republicans, Schieffer proposed to Jim Axelrod: "With the President's approval down to another new low, 33 percent, I take it this is one anniversary the White House did not want to talk about today." Axelrod highlighted how “three years ago when the President appeared on the deck of the USS Lincoln, 74 percent of those polled approved of the way the President was handling Iraq. But contrast that to the latest CBS News poll, just 30 percent now approve of the way the President is handling Iraq. That's 44 percent, Bob, in three years."

"Today marks the third anniversary of President Bush's so-called 'Mission Accomplished' speech aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln," NBC anchor Brian Williams intoned. "On that day he declared, 'the tyrant has fallen and Iraq is free.' Today the message was less upbeat." Williams gratuitously added: "By the way, the U.S. death toll in the war is nearing 2,400." (More on the poll and partial transcripts, follow)

ABC didn't raise the subject on Monday night, but Saturday's World News Tonight pegged a story to the third anniversary.

A check of the party affiliation of those surveyed in the new CBS News poll released Monday night, as listed at the very bottom of the PDF with the results, determined that CBS's poll-takers talked to 249 Democrats compared to 204 Republicans. CBS News then “weighted” the sample to increase the disparity to 254 Democrats to just 197 Republicans.

My March 13 NewsBusters posting, “CBS Drowns Bush Iraq Speech with Negative Poll Numbers, Skip How Third Fault Media,” reported: “But CBS News weighted the respondents to count 328 Republicans versus 388 Democrats.” My November 3 NewsBusters item, “CBS Again Cites Negative Bush Numbers in Poll Which Under-Represented Republicans,” detailed how the network polled a lot more Democrats than Republicans.

On the May 1 CBS Evening News, Schieffer announced:
“Today marks the third anniversary of what many thought at the time was one of the cleverest photo-ops ever, even opponents of the Iraq invasion were impressed when the President flew on to an aircraft carrier [matching video] decked out in a dashing flight suit and then spoke beneath a banner that said 'Mission Accomplished.' But it turned out not to be, and today after meeting with his secretaries State and Defense, the best the President could say was things are finally looking up.”

President Bush, outside at the White House: “We believe this is a turning point for the Iraqi citizens and it's a new chapter in our partnership.”

Schieffer: “Allen Pizzey is in Baghdad tonight. Our White House correspondent Jim Axelrod is at his post in Washington. Jim, with the President's approval down to another new low, 33 percent, I take it this is one anniversary the White House did not want to talk about today.”

Axelrod, at the White House: “Bob, the story really is in the numbers. Three years ago when the President appeared on the deck of the USS Lincoln, 74 percent of those polled approved of the way the President was handling Iraq. But contrast that to the latest CBS News poll, just 30 percent now approve of the way the President is handling Iraq. That's 44 percent, Bob, in three years.”

Schieffer: “Well Allen, the President did say today he did think they had turned a corner in Iraq. Do the people there believe a corner has been turned?”

Pizzey: “They may well think a corner has been turned Bob, but not quite the corner the President is talking about. People here are very much looking to protect themselves, they're not thinking in terms of nation right now, Bob.”...

NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams read this relatively short item, in part over "Mission Accomplished" video:
"Today marks the third anniversary of President Bush's so-called 'Mission Accomplished' speech aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. On that day he declared, 'the tyrant has fallen and Iraq is free.' Today the message was less upbeat, with the President pronouncing Iraq's new unity government quote, 'more determined than ever to succeed.' The remarks came after a meeting with Secretary of State Rice and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, who traveled to Baghdad last week. The President acknowledged there will be more tough days ahead. By the way, the U.S. death toll in the war is nearing 2,400."
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