Raddatz asserted: "This trip was not only surrounded in secrecy, there was a bit of deception as well” since “at 7:45 last night Mr. Bush excused himself from a meeting, saying he was 'losing altitude' and wanted to read awhile before bed." Instead, he traveled to Andrews to get plane to Iraq. “While the President was flying,” Raddatz complained, “the White House Press Office was giving the Washington press corps a fake schedule." ABC News producer Jon Garcia then bemoaned: "They were still giving out details and information about a supposed White House Rose Garden event with the President." Raddatz sighed: "Not until he landed in Iraq did Washington know the truth.” She concluded by suggesting failure in how there are not fewer troops in Iraq: “When the President visited the troops in 2003, Charlie, there were 120,000 Americans there. Today, there are 128,000 Americans there, and no sign that those troops will be reduced dramatically in the future." (Transcript follows)
Over on the NBC Nightly News, David Gregory managed to resurrect the “Mission Accomplished” claim as he led into a soundbite from David Gergen:
“Today's trip and the one Mr. Bush made to Iraq on Thanksgiving day 2003, are designed as big media events, intended to highlight hope and progress during an unpopular war. But some theatrical flourishes, like the President's top gun landing on an aircraft carrier in 2003 under a ‘Mission Accomplished’ banner, have backfired. A deadly insurgency followed the President's address. The Public is now skeptical.”
The lead story on the June 13 World News Tonight on ABC, based on the closed-captioning corrected against the video by the MRC’s Brad Wilmouth:
Anchor Charles Gibson: "Good evening. When President Bush said he'd be holding a summit on Iraq, we didn't know the second day he'd be in Iraq. We in the media didn't know it; most of his top advisors didn't know it; the leaders of the new government in Iraq didn't know it. Last night, the President secretly slipped away from his high-level meetings at Camp David, helicoptered to Andrews Air Force Base, and then flew overnight on Air Force One to Baghdad. ABC's chief White House correspondent Martha Raddatz now with details."
Martha Raddatz: "This trip was not only surrounded in secrecy, there was a bit of deception as well. The President had been at Camp David for what was supposed to be a two-day Iraq strategy session with his Cabinet. But at 7:45 last night, Mr. Bush excused himself from a meeting, saying he was 'losing altitude' and wanted to read awhile before bed."
Audio of John King, network TV pool correspondent: "Monday's planning session was organized at remote Camp David instead of the White House to allow the President and a handful of top aides to leave undetected after dinner."
Raddatz: "His CIA director didn't know, his Attorney General, not even the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff knew where the President was headed. Only the Vice President and the Secretaries of State and Defense knew the plan. Within half an hour of excusing himself, the President left Camp David via helicopter, not his usual Marine One, and headed for Andrews Air Force Base. Just before 9pm, the President, wearing a baseball cap, stepped onto Air Force One, announcing to pool reporters who had been sworn to secrecy, 'The POTUS is on board.' POTUS, short for President of the United States. While the President was flying, the White House Press Office [zoom in on piece of paper with 2:30pm “press availability” in the Rose Garden with the President listed] was giving the Washington press corps a fake schedule."
Jon Garcia, ABC News producer: "They were still giving out details and information about a supposed White House Rose Garden event with the President."
Raddatz: "Not until he landed in Iraq did Washington know the truth. At 4:08pm local time, with the President watching from the cockpit, Air Force One made a steep, rapid banking move, then a very quick descent into Baghdad. Five helicopters met the traveling party to ferry them under extraordinary security to the Green Zone several miles away. Fighter jets above provided cover. Inside the helicopter, presidential aides Tony Snow and Dan Bartlett in body armor and helmets. It's not known whether the President was wearing a protective vest. Even the Iraqi Prime Minister had been kept in the dark until five minutes before the President arrived to meet him."
George W. Bush, next to the Iraqi Prime Minister: "I have expressed our country's desire to work with you, but I appreciate you recognize the fact that the future of your country is in your hands."
Raddatz: "The President's trip was a dramatic show of support for the new Iraqi government, but the President made clear that the Americans will be handing over more responsibility to the Iraqis. The Iraqi Prime Minister told him, 'All of the soldiers will be able to return to their countries, God willing, with our gratitude for what they have offered.' The President had not been to Iraq since Thanksgiving 2003 for a secret visit to the troops at the airport. He visited troops again today inside the Green Zone."
Bush before troops: "Thought I'd stop in to say hello." [applause]
Raddatz: "The President thanked the troops for the sacrifices they have made and for the recent successes."
Bush: "Our military will stay on the offense. We will continue to hunt down people like Mr. Zarqawi and bring them to justice so that-" [applause]
Raddatz, from the White House lawn: "One note: When the President visited the troops in 2003, Charlie, there were 120,000 Americans there. Today, there are 128,000 Americans there, and no sign that those troops will be reduced dramatically in the future."
Gibson: "But, Martha, there's been some talk in this administration, this is sort of a breakthrough moment with the death of Zarqawi, the appointment now of a full government there. But do the folks at the White House consider this a breakthrough moment in terms of trying to turn the President's standing in the polls around on Iraq?"
Raddatz: "Well, I think what they're trying to do, Charlie, is seize the moment. The President kept saying today he wants the Iraqis to seize the moment. The White House is clearly trying to do that now, and hope that Americans see a different picture than they've seen before in Iraq."