For Today, Iraq Elections Mainly About Withdrawal; Katie's Catchword: 'Controversial'

December 12th, 2005 8:06 AM

Allies Establish Beachhead in Normandy: Can Troop Withdrawals Begin?

Somehow, I doubt that was the headline in the wake of D-Day.

Yet this morning, the Today show viewed the impending Iraqi elections largely through the prism of bringing US troops home.

The graphic read "Iraq Votes: What Elections Mean to America", and Matt Lauer set the tone, introducing reporter Richard Engel in Baghdad by asking "what does [the election] mean for the future of US troops there?"

Engel picked up theme: "Sunni participation in this election could reduce violence over time, allowing American troops to be pulled out sooner. But there are very real dangers. If the next government excludes a religious or ethnic group, it could trigger more insurgent attacks, more Iraqi infighting, meaning more time in Iraq for American forces."

Lauer was back at it in a subsequent conversation with Tim Russert: "What's the importance [of the elections] to the American people?"

Russert: "Huge, Matt, if these elections are a catalyst for the Iraqis to step forward and stand up as the President said, so US troops can stand down. The only exit strategy for US troops is that the Iraqis put in place a government and a security force that allow us to leave."

Meanwhile, with all the speculation swirling around the possibility that Katie might be departing Today to take over the anchor chair at CBS Evening News, Couric gave signs that she was trying to polish her 'fair & balanced' credentials.

Katie's catchword of the day was 'controversial,' and she applied it twice, first, and more surprisingly, in reference to Richard Pryor.

After newsreader Natalie Morales reported his death, she spoke admiringly of him being "such a comic great" and tossed it back to the hosts. Lauer and Al Roker were engaging in some predictable praise, when Katie, defying the dual conventions of political correctness and nil nisi bonum, interjected:

"He's pretty controversial. I was reading an article this morning, someone writing that he was no role model, so I think his legacy will continue to be debated."

Later, in an interview of far-left lawyer Ramsey Clark, who is currently defending Saddam Hussein, she described Clark as a man "with such a distinguished record,' then caught herself and added "though controversial."