Shortly after President Bush's November 30 speech rejecting calls for the United States to withdraw from Iraq, CNN American Morning anchor Miles O'Brien claimed that some Democrats "are advocating, essentially, [a] 'cut and run' " policy from Iraq. When Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) objected to that characterization, saying, "I haven't heard anybody 'cut and run,' " O'Brien said: "We've heard that on the street; that's out there." In a similar comment on the November 30 CNN's Your World Today, host Jim Clancy asked Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA), "you, and the Democratic Party are not saying 'cut and run'?" Kennedy called the label a "McCarthyism technique," explaining that its practitioners: "state incorrectly the other person's position and then differ with it strongly."
The label "cut and run" has been attached to several Democratic proposals advocating timetables and plans for the eventual withdrawal from Iraq. The phrase has been used by Republicans recently to disparage Democrats' policies and has been repeated by numerous media figures.
On November 15, the Senate rejected, 58-40, a Democratic proposal that would have required the House to clarify its Iraq war strategy and formulate a timetable for troop withdrawal, but upheld, 79-19, a similar Republican initiative. According to The Hill newspaper, Democrats claimed that the Republican plan -- which demanded periodic reporting from the White House on progress in Iraq but omitted any mention of a timetable -- was remarkably similar to the original Democratic proposal. Although Eric Ueland, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's (R-TN) chief of staff, claimed Republicans drafted their plan first, Sen. John Warner (R-VA) admitted "he decided to take the Democratic proposal and edit it to his satisfaction in an effort to find common ground between the parties on the issue."
Immediately after the vote, Congressional Quarterly reported that in a November 15 Republican media session, the "cut and run" label was used. During the session, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) labeled the original Democratic proposal, "cut and run":
CORNYN: Let me just say -- then we'll be glad to answer any questions you have -- this morning the Senate was given an importance choice: on one hand whether to cut and run when it comes to our commitment in Iraq, or on the other hand to stay and finish the job and then to bring our troops home as soon as possible, leaving a relatively stable democracy in place in Iraq.
Under the headline "Senate Rejects Timetable For Troop Withdrawal From Iraq," a November 15 White House Bulletin reported similar comments by Frist:
Majority Leader Bill Frist said of the [Democratic] measure's proponents, "They want an exit strategy, a cut-and-run exit strategy. What we are for is a successful strategy."
Network news reports of the comments varied. The November 15 editions of PBS' The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, the CBS Evening News, and ABC's World News Tonight all aired various footage of Frist characterizing the Democratic timetable amendment as "cut and run." Anchors at NBC, Fox News, and CNN also reported the Republicans' characterization of a "cut and run" strategy. On the November 15 edition of NBC Nightly News, correspondent Chip Reid said of the Republicans' response to the Democratic proposal:
REID: But when Democrats tried to require flexible timetables or target dates to begin pulling out of Iraq, Republicans drew the line, defeating the proposal and accusing Democrats of supporting a cut-and-run strategy.
On the November 15 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, Major Garrett said: "Though Democrats denied it, Republicans labeled their maneuver a cut-and-run strategy."
CNN correspondent Ed Henry was the most egregious. On the November 15 edition of CNN's Situation Room, he said:
HENRY: But the Senate rejected a Democratic move to also require the president to craft a flexible timetable to start withdrawing U.S. troops. Some have referred to this as the cut-and-run provision. That is, pick an arbitrary timeline and get out of Iraq regardless of what is happening on the ground.
The "cut and run" label has since been attached to several different plans that aim to reduce troop levels in Iraq. On November 17, Rep. John P. Murtha (D-PA) introduced a resolution (House Joint Resolution 73) that would have forced the U.S. military to withdraw from Iraq "at the earliest practicable date." In a statement he released that day, House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO) responded to Murtha's proposal with the "cut and run" line:
America will not abandon Iraq. We must not cut and run as they fight alongside us to ensure a democratic government in their country.
Even Rep. Jean Schmidt's (R-OH) House floor attack on Murtha employed the phrase: "[A] few minutes ago I received a call from Colonel Danny Bubp ... He also asked me to send Congressman Murtha a message: that cowards cut and run, Marines never do."
In fact, "cut and run" appears to be the catchall GOP response to Democratic statements on the war. A November 30 New York Times article on the November 29 letter from Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) to constituents castigating the Bush administration's war plan and proposing a troop reduction start in 2006, reported that White House spokesman Ken Lisaius -- without reading her letter -- responded: "We're not going to cut and run, we're going to keep moving toward victory over terror."
From the November 30 edition of CNN's American Morning:
O'BRIEN: The Democrats are all over the map on this, aren't they? You have some people who are, essentially, advocating "cut and run", and people such as yourself are --
NELSON: Well, I haven't heard anybody "cut and run". I'm not hearing anybody in the Senate advocate --
O'BRIEN: You're not hearing that?
NELSON: I've not heard that.
O'BRIEN: We've heard that on the street, that's out there. Isn't it?
NELSON: Well I've heard -- I know there are people who want to cut and run, but there are -- as far as I know nobody in the Senate on the Democratic side or the Republican side have said "cut and run". I think there are people who are very impatient with the draw -- the potential draw down and would like to see a draw down for other reasons. I happen to believe that we can only draw down when we have a plan in place that tells us whether we're getting to our stated objective. And, when our stated objective is one that we can measure against, then I think we can start to have a timetable to draw down troops. Otherwise, I think it's a timetable by another name.
From the November 30 edition of CNN's Your World Today:
CLANCY: Senator Kennedy, then, you, and the Democratic Party are not saying: "cut and run?"
KENNEDY: I haven't heard any of the members say that. What they need -- this is -- this is sort of a McCarthy -- McCarthyism technique, which is used around the Senate from time -- and that is: state incorrectly the other person's position and then differ with it strongly. You know, we're used to that; it doesn't advance the dialogue or debate or discussion.