On Hardball, O'Donnell echoed GOP talking points attacking Democrats

››› ››› BEN ARMBRUSTER

Norah O'Donnell incorporated the White House and Republican talking point that Democrats do not have a strategy to change course in the war in Iraq by asserting that "the thing that perplexes many about the Democratic Party is, what is the alternative?" Later, O'Donnell asked if "part of the problem that the Democrats have is that they don't have a message to respond to the president."

During an interview with Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) on the August 31 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, guest host and MSNBC chief Washington correspondent Norah O'Donnell incorporated the White House and Republican talking point that Democrats do not have a strategy to change course in the war in Iraq by asserting that "the thing that perplexes many about the Democratic Party is, what is the alternative? The president tried to lay that out today, essentially saying it has got to be either victory and we cannot face defeat." O'Donnell continued to echo the Republicans' depiction of Democratic positions on Iraq later in the program, asking Democratic strategist Bob Shrum if "part of the problem that the Democrats have is that they don't have a message to respond to the president."

O'Donnell's statement on the Democrats' alleged lack of an Iraq "alternative" echoed the rhetoric of White House counsel Dan Bartlett, whom she hosted earlier in the program to discuss President Bush's latest campaign to increase public support for the war in Iraq. During the interview, Bartlett claimed that Democrats have no alternative plan for the war in Iraq, drawing no challenge from O'Donnell:

BARTLETT: And the bottom line is, if you propose that, if the Democrats who are running for office right now who say we ought to get out of Iraq, how do they plan on doing it? How do they plan on implementing their strategy? Are they going to hold funding? What are they going to do? These are the type of questions that the American people need to understand, if you vote for Democrats to take control over Congress or take control over the government in Washington, what that means for the war on terror. These are important questions.

Later in the program, during her interview with Reed to discuss Bush's speech that day on the Iraq war, O'Donnell asserted that "the reason, in part, the president has been giving these speeches is to try and counter critics [of the Iraq war] and also to continue to rebuild support," and added: "But the thing that perplexes many about the Democratic Party is, what is the alternative?" O'Donnell then characterized Bush's latest speech on Iraq as "essentially saying it has got to be either victory and we cannot face defeat" and asked: "You don't disagree with that, do you, Senator Reed?"

O'Donnell later asked Democratic strategist Bob Shrum: "[D]o you think part of the problem that the Democrats have is that they don't have a message to respond to the president?" Media Matters for America has repeatedly noted that not only have Democrats laid out numerous plans for the future of U.S. military involvement in Iraq and other national security issues, but also that many media figures often ignore them or mischaracterize them using Republican talking points. As Media Matters has also noted, all but six Senate Democrats voted for an amendment introduced by Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI) and Reed calling for the Bush administration to begin redeploying U.S. troops out of Iraq by the end of 2006.

In a later segment focusing on Iran's recent refusal to suspend its uranium enrichment program in accordance with a United Nations deadline, O'Donnell did not challenge Vanity Fair editor Christopher Hitchen's comparison of the current situation in Iran with that of Iraq before the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003. Hitchens made the thoroughly debunked suggestion that Iraq had an operational nuclear program prior to the invasion, asserting: "So it's down to what it was down to three years ago or so with Iraq. Either we do something about it or nothing gets done at all, but those really are the alternatives."

From the August 31 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:

O'DONNELL: Dan, you have -- Dan, the president earlier this week said that if -- that Democrats are promising to block additional money for continuing the war. Name one Democrat.

BARTLETT: Well, Norah, he didn't say that. He said well, I suppose that the way they would do that is just -- is to block funding. Now, there was a Democrat resolution offered in the House of Representatives that had 18 co-sponsors that said just that -- 18 Democrats -- and I can send you the list when I get off the air. So there are Democrats who propose that. And the bottom line is, if you propose that, if the Democrats who are running for office right now who say we ought to get out of Iraq, how do they plan on doing it? How do they plan on implementing their strategy? Are they going to hold funding? What are they going to do? These are the type of questions that the American people need to understand, if you vote for Democrats to take control over Congress or take control over the government in Washington, what that means for the war on terror. These are important questions, and this is one question --

O'DONNELL: Because what you are saying, Dan, is that if the Democrats were to take power in either the House or Senate or both, that the president would not change his strategy in Iraq.

[...]

O'DONNELL: You criticize the slogans that this White House have [sic] used, and the American people, it is true, and the White House acknowledges, are weary of the war in Iraq. That is the reason, in part, the president has been giving these speeches is to try and counter critics and also to continue to rebuild support. But the thing that perplexes many about the Democratic Party is, what is the alternative? And the president tried to lay that out today, essentially saying it has got to be either victory and we cannot face defeat. Here's what he said about why we must win in Iraq and the importance to the larger war on terror.

BUSH [video clip]: If America were to pull out before Iraq can defend itself, the consequence would be absolutely predictable and absolutely disastrous. We would be handing Iraq over to our worst enemies, Saddam's former henchmen, armed groups with ties to Iran, and Al Qaeda terrorists from all over the world, who would suddenly have a base of operations far more valuable than Afghanistan under the Taliban.

O'DONNELL: You don't disagree with that, do you, Senator Reed?

REED: Well, I think the president is the master of, in many cases, false choices. The choice that we face as Americans is not to stay as we are today and continue to suffer as we are suffering casualties or to leave. The choice should be a better strategy, one that accomplishes the stabilization of Iraq, one that provides the real resources to do that. And again, the president is awfully good about making speeches but the resources there, not just the military resources, but the complementary resources for reconstruction, for civic engagement, to help the Iraqis help themselves, have always been lacking. And so, I think what the American people are asking for is not more speeches but a coherent plan. We can't precipitously withdraw from Iraq, but we have to change the course there, to shift the burden to the Iraqis, to provide more effective forces for them so that they can fight this battle. Ultimately this struggle will be won in Iraq by the Iraqi people, and that has to be recognized.

[...]

O'DONNELL: Bob, do you think part of the problem that the Democrats have is they don't have a message to respond to the president?

SHRUM: No, I don't think that at all. I think there are plenty of Democrats out there speaking out. I think they've spoken out very clearly. Look, when the other side, and in this case the president and the White House, start throwing around analogies to Nazis and fascists and words like that, you know they are desperate, number one. Number two, you wonder: Did they just figure this out? I mean, three years into the war, they decided what it's all about?

[...]

O'DONNELL: Welcome back to Hardball. Today marked the deadline for Iran to halt enrichment of uranium. Now, the United States is pursuing U.N. sanctions against Iran. Is the U.S. gearing up for another conflict with a Middle East country? We are here with Vanity Fair's Christopher Hitchen [sic] and The Washington Post's Peter Baker. Christopher, let me begin with you. The U.S. is hoping for new sanctions from the United Nations. Are they likely to get them? Are they likely to face not much help from the United Nations on this?

HITCHENS: Well, first, it's the -- Iran that's gearing up for a new conflict with the United States, if I could just correct your intro. I know you won't mind that.

O'DONNELL: Not at all, my dear.

HITCHENS: It's been gearing up already with a conflict with the European Union first, to whom it lied repeatedly about its enrichment and other activities. It's now lying internationally through the U.N. No, of course, the Russians won't support the U.S. call for sanctions. No, of course the Chinese will not support it. The -- nor will anyone help about the Iranians sending improvised explosive devices and the means to make them into Iraq, nor will it -- nor will the rest of the international community give a damn about Iran's support for the death squad dictatorship in Syria, which murders the elected leaders of Lebanon, nor will it mind that it supplies long-range missiles to Hezbollah. So it's down to what it was down to three years ago or so with Iraq. Either we do something about it or nothing gets done at all, but those really are the alternatives.

O'DONNELL: So, Iran will likely keep on doing what it wants to do, since it will not -- the U.N. will not likely impose any severe sanctions against Iran?

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, War in Iraq
Network/Outlet
MSNBC
Person
Christopher Hitchens, Norah O'Donnell
Show/Publication
Hardball
Stories/Interests
Propaganda/Noise Machine
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.