In interview with Cheney, Stephanopoulos let White House have it both ways on Iraq violence, highlighted only positive economic news

››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN

ABC News' George Stephanopoulos prompted Cheney to again blame the recent upsurge of violence in Iraq on an insurgent "strategy" to "influence" the midterm elections, asking Cheney if "that mean[s] that a Democratic victory is a victory for the insurgents," not mentioning the administration's recent pattern of attempting to extract political benefit from the ebb and flow of violence in Iraq by claiming success in both increases and decreases in levels of violence in Iraq.

During his November 3 interview with Vice President Dick Cheney, portions of which aired on the November 3 edition of ABC's World News, ABC News chief Washington correspondent George Stephanopoulos prompted Cheney to again blame the recent upsurge of violence in Iraq on an insurgent "strategy" to "influence" the midterm elections, asking Cheney if "that mean[s] that a Democratic victory is a victory for the insurgents." In addition to offering Cheney an opportunity to repeat the administration's self-serving and dubious assertion that terrorists want the Democrats to prevail, Stephanopoulos said nothing of the administration's recent pattern of attempting to extract political benefit from the ebb and flow of violence in Iraq -- claiming success in both increases and decreases in levels of violence in Iraq, as Media Matters for America has noted.

While Cheney has been blaming the increased violence in Iraq on insurgents seeking to influence the election, White House press secretary Tony Snow has complained, as he did on the November 2 edition of CNN's American Morning, that the media did not adequately report that "last week, violence throughout Iraq was down 23 percent," and "down 41 percent" in Baghdad. Additionally, while discussing the state of the economy with Cheney, Stephanopoulos highlighted only positive economic news. But in trumpeting October's low unemployment rate, Stephanopoulos ignored that the job creation rate for the month of October fell well short of expectations, and that, while currently at a five-year low, October's unemployment rate is still higher than when President Bush took office.

The first question Stephanopoulos aired in his "wide-ranging" interview with Cheney dealt with Cheney's recent claim that "the insurgents are trying to influence the elections." Stephanopoulos asked: "Does that mean that a Democratic victory is a victory for the insurgents?" Cheney replied that the insurgency is "obviously" "trying to ... execute on their strategy" which, according to Cheney, is to "break the will of the American people." Responding to Stephanopoulos's follow-up, Cheney added that what "happened in Connecticut ... where the Democratic Party, in effect, purged [Sen.] Joe Lieberman" in the primary because of "his support of the president and the war," proves to the insurgents "that their strategy is working." Stephanopoulos did not challenge Cheney on his assertion.

But, the administration appears to be trying to have it both ways, as Media Matters has noted. While Cheney maintained that the levels of violence are evidence that the insurgents want to "break the will of the American people" by pushing them to elect anti-war Democrats, Snow is trumpeting any decrease in violence in Iraq to suggest that the United States is winning the war and the Bush strategy in Iraq is working. On American Morning the previous day, Snow had claimed that an apparent decrease in violence in Iraq over the past week was a "jump[] towards peace" that the media failed to report. Even aside from evidence undermining Cheney's claim about the intent of insurgents, how can Cheney know that the insurgents seek to influence the U.S. elections for Democrats if, as Snow has touted, violence levels went down in recent days? In the portion aired on World News, there is no indication that Stephanopoulos asked.

Further, while discussing the economy, Stephanopoulos asked Cheney only why Bush isn't "getting more credit" for October's "[e]xceptionally low" unemployment numbers. However, as Media Matters noted, while the unemployment rate did decline to 4.4 percent, the job creation rate lagged, adding only 92,000 workers to payrolls, an outcome The New York Times reported is "a sign that job growth is starting to slow." As the Times further noted, "[t]he pace of job creation fell short even of the 138,000-a-month average pace of the last six months, the statistics show," and that "at least 150,000 new jobs are needed every month just to keep up with population growth." Moreover, the current 4.4 percent unemployment rate is still higher than when Bush took office in January 2001, when the unemployment rate was 4.2 percent.

According to World News anchor Charles Gibson, Stephanopoulos's "full interview with the vice president will be on This Week with George Stephanopoulos on Sunday morning."

From the November 3 edition of ABC News' World News with Charles Gibson:

STEPHANOPOULOS: It was a wide-ranging interview, Charlie. We touched on that [Rev. Ted] Haggard incident. The vice president didn't think it would affect turnout in this election. He also made it very clear that no matter what happens on Tuesday, the president is not going to change strategy on Iraq.

You said this week that it's your belief that the insurgents are trying to influence the elections. Does that mean that a Democratic victory is a victory for the insurgents?

CHENEY: Well, I think what they're trying to do, obviously, is execute on their strategy. And if you think about their strategy, it isn't to defeat us militarily; they can't do that. But what they're betting on, Osama bin Laden talks about it, is that they can, in fact, ultimately break the will of the American people, that they can persuade enough Americans that will ultimately leave. And then, they cite Beirut in 1983 and Mogadishu in 1993 as examples where the U.S. took casualties and then departed. So that's their basic, fundamental underlying strength.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But what are they trying to get voters to do?

CHENEY: Well, I think when they see something happens, such as happened in Connecticut this year, where the Democratic Party, in effect, purged Joe Lieberman, primarily over his support for the president in the war, that says to them that their strategy is working.

[...]

STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, you mentioned the unemployment rate today, 4.4 percent unemployment. Exceptionally low. Why don't you think the president's getting more credit for that?

CHENEY: Well, you guys don't help. The fact, of course, is what's news is if there's bad news, and that gets coverage. But the good news that's out there day after day after day doesn't get as much attention.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The vice president told me he wanted to spend his final two years in office focused on the war on terror. And after that, it's back to private life, no matter what. Charlie?

GIBSON: George Stephanopoulos tonight in Colorado. Well, the full interview with the vice president will be on This Week with George Stephanopoulos on Sunday morning.

Posted In
Economy, National Security & Foreign Policy, War in Iraq
Network/Outlet
ABC
Person
George Stephanopoulos
Show/Publication
ABC World News Tonight
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