While appearing on Fox News Sunday, Fox News' Brit Hume and NPR's Mara Liasson mischaracterized Rep. Murtha's Iraq redeployment plan as "pull out now." In fact, no prominent Democratic political figure, including Murtha, has proposed pulling out of Iraq immediately.
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On the December 4 broadcast of Fox News Sunday, Fox News Washington managing editor Brit Hume and National Public Radio national correspondent Mara Liasson mischaracterized as "pull out now" the Iraq redeployment plan proposed by Rep. John P. Murtha (D-PA), which House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has endorsed. Hume used this false characterization to support his claim that the American public does not back proposals for leaving Iraq put forth by Democratic elected officials, telling National Public Radio special correspondent Juan Williams: "The public has to some extent, as you correctly note, lost faith in this conflict. However, the pull-out-now number is very low in the public's estimation, and that, however, is the viewpoint to which the Democratic Party increasingly is rallying."
When host Chris Wallace asked Liasson if it was actually "fair ... to say that the Democrats are for 'pull out now,' " she responded, "I think it is fair to say a big chunk, not all, because Democrats -- are split ... in the House, are in the pull-out-now camp."
In fact, no prominent Democratic politician has proposed pulling out of Iraq immediately. In particular, as Media Matters for America has noted, Murtha's proposal does not call for the United States to "pull out now." Instead, his resolution (House Joint Resolution 73) would force the president to withdraw American troops from Iraq "at the earliest practicable date," which Murtha explained at a November 17 press conference meant an "immediate redeployment of U.S. troops consistent with the safety of U.S. forces to create a quick reaction force in the region, to create an over-the-horizon presence of Marines, and to diplomatically pursue security and stability in Iraq." Asked by a reporter "how long that would be," Murtha responded, "you have to do it in a very consistent way, but I think six months would be a reasonable time to get them out of there."
Other Democrats in Congress have made proposals for pulling troops out of Iraq, none of which called for American forces to leave immediately. Sen. Russell Feingold (D-WI) has proposed a flexible timetable that targets December 2006 for the full departure of U.S. troops from Iraq. Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) has proposed a non-specific timetable, which a statement says, "[i]f followed, the process will be completed in 12-15 months." The Senate Democratic leadership offered a proposal that declared, "Democrats believe we should see a significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty in 2006 so that our troops can begin coming home." The amendment, offered to the Defense Authorization Bill, would require that the Bush administration provide regular progress reports on Iraq and "a campaign plan with estimated dates for the phased redeployment of our troops from Iraq as each condition is met, with the understanding that unexpected contingencies may arise." While the amendment was rejected 58-40, an almost identical plan proposed by Sen. John Warner (R-VA) and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) -- which principally lacked the requirement that the administration produce a withdrawal timetable -- passed 70-19.
Hume's rhetorical straw man -- claiming that Democrats support a "pull out now" policy and then saying that public opinion does not agree with such a proposal -- recalls similar mischaracterizations of Democrats' positions by The Washington Post, CNN, and National Review editor Rich Lowry.
From the December 4 broadcast of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:
HUME: We now have the Democratic Party and the House of Representatives coalescing, at least a majority view, as Nancy Pelosi put it this week, that it is time to get out now. Now, obviously, "get out now" logistically takes some months, but that's the view, and that is increasingly where I think the opposition party is headed. That is certainly the drift in the comments you hear from people like John Kerry and others. So that is becoming the debate. Should we just simply say -- I mean, Murtha's view, Jack Murtha's view, is -- and he's a serious man with a serious viewpoint, wide adherence, that we can't win, and we must now get out. And that is what is being argued. So that really is the debate.
WILLIAMS: Well, you can try to put it on the Democrats, but what this really is about is the American people who have lost faith in this war. If you look at the poll numbers, that's what's driving it. In fact, the Democrats are a lagging indicator. If the Democrats were truly responding to public opinion, if the Democrats were playing politics with this, they would be far more aggressive in saying, "Let's get out."
HUME: No, Juan, that's incorrect.
WILLIAMS: Howard Dean, in a speech just yesterday, said --
HUME: Juan, I'm sorry.
WILLIAMS: -- the Democratic Party should coalesce around a plan that would keep troops there for two or three years.
HUME: Juan, unfortunately, that's not right. The public has to some extent, as you correctly note, lost faith in this conflict. However, the pull-out-now number is very low in the public's estimation, and that, however, is the viewpoint to which the Democratic Party increasingly is rallying.
WALLACE: Well, wait, wait. Is that fair, Mara, to say that the Democrats are for "pull out now"?
LIASSON: Well, I think the Democrats are split. I think that up until now, there was a group of Democrats, Joe Biden among them, who were pushing the president not to withdraw immediately but to create benchmarks. If we have X number of Iraqi battalions able to take the lead, then we -- I suppose this would be the kind of benchmark they're looking for -- then we could imagine drawing down X troops by X date. And then you had -- and this was a surprise for many people, when Nancy Pelosi, who had been up until now at least not publicly stating that she supported Murtha's call, kind of trying to almost have their cake and eat it, too, have Murtha, who's a respected military man, out there saying this but not have the entire Democratic caucus in the House identified with that -- she crossed a line this week, and I think it is fair to say that a big chunk, not all, because Democrats --
LIASSON: -- are split, in the House --
HUME: I think we'd have to agree a majority in the House.
LIASSON: -- in the House, are in the pull-out-now camp.