Pre-Election Myth Retired as Stephanopoulos Lets Sen. Reid off Iraq Withdrawal Hook

December 17th, 2006 4:57 PM

Imagine for a moment you were ABC’s Chief Washington Correspondent, as well as a former member of the Clinton administration who was currently quite opposed to the Iraq war. Further assume that in the months leading up to the recent midterm elections, the Democrat Senate minority leader had been aggressively advocating immediate troop withdrawals from the region, a position you agreed with. Contrary to his previous view of this incursion, when you interviewed this Senator after the elections, he stated that he could actually support an increase in troops.

Given his expressed positions before the elections, and the fact that he was about to be sworn in as the new Senate majority leader, would you aggressively challenge this high-ranking official about his sudden change of heart, or give him a pass? Well, on Sunday’s “This Week”, America got its answer as another pre-election myth was retired, and unceremoniously put out to pasture (must-see video available here, relevant section at minute three, transcript follows).    

Regardless of the number of times Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nevada) advocated immediate troop withdrawal in the past twelve months – including signing his name to such an official request to the White House in July along with other high-ranking Democrats – Reid on Sunday said that he could go along with an increase in troops at this time. Yet, antiwar host George Stephanopoulos never once brought up Reid’s pre-elections stance. Not once.

Early in the interview, Stephanopoulos asked: “ABC is reporting now [President Bush is] likely to recommend we send 30,000 or more troops into Iraq right now. Can you support that?”

Reid offered a somewhat circumlocuted response about the Iraq Study Group without actually answering the question. So, Stephanopoulos tried again: “I know what the Iraq Study Group called for. If the president calls for adding more troops to Baghdad, for adding more troops to Iraq, will you oppose it?”

Reid then amazingly responded, “If it’s for a surge, that is for two or three months, and it’s part of a program to get us out of there as indicated by this time next year, then sure I’ll go along with it.” 

Incredible. Just to refresh everyone’s memory, and to give readers an idea of just how diametric this current stance of Reid’s was to what he had been espousing prior to the elections – and just how absurd the free ride Stephanopoulos gave him was – the following was reported on the front page of the Washington Post on July 31, 2006 (emphasis mine):

After months of struggling to forge a unified stance on the Iraq war, top congressional Democrats joined voices yesterday to call on President Bush to begin withdrawing U.S. troops by the end of the year and to "transition to a more limited mission" in the war-torn nation.

With the midterm elections three months away, and Democrats seeing public discontent over Iraq as their best chance for retaking the House or Senate, a dozen key lawmakers told Bush in a letter: "In the interests of American national security, our troops and our taxpayers, the open-ended commitment in Iraq that you have embraced cannot and should not be sustained. . . . We need to take a new direction."

The 12 Democrats, led by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.), include liberals and centrists who have differed over Iraq in the past. The signers included the top Democrats on the House and Senate committees dealing with armed services, foreign relations, intelligence and military spending. Their action puts party leaders on the same page, and it helps clarify the Nov. 7 election as a choice between a party seeking a timeline for withdrawing troops from an unpopular war and a party resisting any such timetable.


"This offers a pretty clear contrast" for the next few months, the strategist said, and Reid and others plan a series of events to drive home the point. Polling data and focus groups suggest that Democratic candidates can embrace the letter's message without falling victim to familiar Republican claims of being soft on national security, the strategist said, because setbacks in Iraq have eroded the GOP's traditional advantage on that issue.

With that in mind, wouldn’t it have been appropriate for Stephanopoulos to read from this article, or from the actual letter sent to the White House with Reid’s signature on it? How could Stephanopoulos, as ABC’s Chief Washington Correspondent, ignore the fact that Reid had been pushing for troops to start being withdrawn by the end of 2006, and was now stating that he would support adding more?

Sadly, this was just another despicable example of the Democrat bait and switch campaign strategy, and Stephanopoulos probably was quite cognizant that like most members of the media, he was a witting accomplice. After all, if this wasn’t the case, he would have challenged the incoming Senate majority leader on his extraordinary change of heart. The fact that he didn’t should make it quite clear to all that folks like Stephanopoulos were involved right from the start, and are now part of the cover-up.

What a disgrace.

What follows is a partial and rough transcript of this segment.

George Stephanopoulos: [Joe Lieberman] was in Afghanistan and Iraq, and while in Iraq he supported the call for more troops to be sent to Baghdad, to be sent into Iraq. As you know, President Bush is now considering that kind of a surge of up to 30,000 troops. In fact, ABC is reporting now he’s likely to recommend we send 30,000 or more troops into Iraq right now. Can you support that?

Sen. Reid: George, as the Iraq Study Group has indicated, a group of people who are bipartisan – Democrats and Republicans, Secretaries of Defense, Secretaries of State – they have that the situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating. And they are right. We have to change course in Iraq. That was determined on November 7, and the people feel even more strongly today than on November 7.

Change of course. What does that mean? It means that by the first quarter of 2008, we should be out of there. That’s what the Iraq Study Group said, and that’s what we’ve said. We have to change course. The war will not be won militarily, it can only be won politically. The Iraqis have to take care of their own fate. They can do that. But, they’re not going to do it with us being an occupying force there. We have to reconstitute the reconstruction efforts. We produce, they produce less oil now than before the war, less electricity. Baghdad used to have fifteen hours of electricity, now they have three hours of electricity. Less potable water. We have to understand that there is not a single non-deployed army unit that’s battling already. There’s $75 billion in the hole to bring us up to where we were prior to the war starting.

Stephanopoulos: I know what the Iraq Study Group called for. If the president calls for adding more troops to Baghdad, for adding more troops to Iraq, will you oppose it?

Reid: If it’s for a surge, that is for two or three months, and it’s part of a program to get us out of there as indicated by this time next year, then sure I’ll go along with it. But, if it’s to put 40,000 more troops in there, we’ve lost in Nevada about 30 troops killed, scores have been wounded. We’re now approaching 3,000 dead Americans, costing the Americans 2 ½ to 3 billion dollars a week. This is a war that we have to change course. The president has to do that.

Stephanopoulos: You say you would support it if it’s temporary. The question is how will you know that it’s going to be temporary. I mean, once you, even if that condition is set, even if the president says we’d like them to come home in two or three months, there’s no way you’re going to know they’re going to able to come home, is there?

Reid: If the commanders on the ground said that this is just for a short period of time, we’ll go along with that. But, to put more troops in there. Keep in mind, I repeat, the situation in Iraq is grave and deteriorating. Those aren’t my words. Those are the words of some of the finest patriots we have in this country – Democrats and Republicans, Iraq Study Group.

Stephanopoulos: One of the plans being considered by the president is actually authored by one of our next guests, General Jack Keane, retired Gen. Jack Keane, and he envisions an increase that would take about 18 to 24 months.  

Reid: All I can do is shake my head. I have no military experience. But, I have political experience. The American people will not allow this war to go on as it has. It simply is a war that will not be won militarily, it can only be won politically. The Iraqi people must be the people that determine their fate. They’ve got to get the Sunnis, the Shias, and the Kurds together and solve that problem. There has to be a regional look at this. The president should immediately call, as has been called for by Secretary Baker and others – who by the way is a Republican – bring in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, and maybe even Iraq [sic] to determine how best to solve the problems there. It is their problem more than it’s ours.

Stephanopoulos: I know that you’ve ruled out cutting off funding for the troops on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, but are you and other Democrats considering conditioning for the sending of funds on certain milestones that have to be met by the Iraqi government by the U.S. government and military?

Reid: George, what we are considering is what we always have considered. We’ll give the military anything they want. We’re going to make sure that they get every dollar they need. But, what we’re not going to go along with, and we’ll take a close look at this huge supplemental we’re going to get. We’re going to take a close look at all these corporations that are over there. All these contractors. It’s estimated that there’s 100,000 of them now. 100,000 of them. And we’re going to take a close look at that. I think Halliburton’s made enough money in Iraq.