Meredith Vieira let her anti-war roots show on this morning's Today show. During her interview with White House counselor Dan Bartlett, the Today co-host repeatedly stated about the Iraq policy: "It's not working." Now while constructive criticism on the war policy is welcome from those who want to win, it's somewhat transparent and dubious coming from a longtime war critic like Vieira. The following are Vieira's questions to Bartlett in the 7am half hour of the October 23rd Today show:
Meredith Vieira: "So will the White House change course in Iraq and put more pressure on the government there? Dan Bartlett serves as counselor to President Bush. Mr. Bartlett, good morning to you."
Vieira: "I want to start, actually, with Richard Engel's report out of Baghdad because this, this man, our reporter is on the ground with the troops and the troops are telling him that they are extremely frustrated. They don't know why they're there anymore, sir. They say they went to fight terrorism and right now what they're doing, essentially, is propping up the security forces, police forces and half the time they don't trust them. So for the sake of the troops, the people that we sent there what is our mission?"
Vieira: "How are you working with them, Mr. Bartlett? If there is no timetable, as the New York Times reported, if there is none that you're imposing on the government there but simply benchmarks. You said there have always been benchmarks. What are the benchmarks and in particular, with regard to controlling these militias-"
Bartlett: "Well it's important to understand-"
Vieira: "-and disarming them."
Bartlett: "Well Meredith it's important to understand the difference and it's an important distinction between a set timetable where we'll say, regardless of what happens on the ground we're gonna pull our troops out and setting up milestones or benchmarks that are, that'll incentivize the Iraqi government to take more responsibility, both on the security front as well as on the political front. And that's where we're working with the Iraqi government right now because if we were to set an artificial timetable regardless of the circumstances on the ground that's only going to embolden the enemy to wait us out and say, 'Don't worry the Americans will be gone next month-
Vieira: "But it's-"
Bartlett: "-or the month after that. So it's-"
Vieira: "But it's not working, sir. It's not working. These benchmarks don't seem to be working. The troops, themselves are saying, it's not working."
Bartlett: "Well Meredith it is a very difficult fight right now and just because the enemy is fighting back doesn't make it any less necessary for us to prevail in this fight. Now what the commanders are doing and they've met with President Bush constantly, most recently on Saturday morning, is to constantly adapt our tactics to make sure we are doing everything we can to, to defeat the enemy. But to suggest that just because it is a difficult fight, that we ought to quit the fight would be a disaster for national security for our country. So what the President is going to impress upon, not only his commanders and diplomats on the ground but more importantly on the Iraqi government themselves is that we must devise a strategy or tactics to achieve the, the victory in Iraq that we understand to be in the interest of our country and it's a very difficult fight right now and it's, and it is important that we prevail."
Vieira: "The President has said, 'I am patient but I'm not patient forever. At what point will his patience run out?"
Bartlett: "Well that's a constant conversation that he is having with the commanders on the ground and our ambassador and diplomats on the ground to make sure that we still have a willing partner in Prime Minister Maliki and his government to fulfill their responsibilities to take over their country."
Vieira: "Are they doing that? Do you believe that they're doing that?"
Vieira: "Why not put their, why not put their feet to the fire, though, sir? Why not say look-"
Vieira: "There's a sense of urgency here in this country too, with regard to the midterm elections and a lot of political pundits believe that the Republicans will lose the House and that the Senate is hanging on by a thread, at this point. President Bush's dad, former President Bush, actually pondered the impact of a Democratic House and Senate and was chided a bit by his son who said, that the Democrats are quote, 'Not going to win.' What makes this President Bush so confident?"
Vieira: "Dan Bartlett, counselor to President Bush, thank you very much."