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On the November 7 edition of ABC's Good Morning America, ABC chief White House correspondent Martha Raddatz baselessly asserted that President Bush "will likely reassess what is happening with his policy in Iraq" because "he does not want this to be an issue in 2008." Similarly on the November 7 edition of NBC's Today, NBC special correspondent Tom Brokaw uncritically aired part of an October 26 press conference in which Bush claimed to be "not satisfied with the situation in Iraq" and added that "we're taking new steps to help secure Baghdad." In fact, more recent statements by Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney have indicated that the Bush administration has no plans to change its policy in Iraq.
As the Associated Press reported on November 1, Bush said in an interview that "he did not foresee a change in the immediate future in the number of U.S. troops in Iraq" and he also "replied in the affirmative" that he wants Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld "to stay with him until the end." Conflicting directly with his October 26 statement aired on Today, Bush said about Rumsfeld's work on changing the military and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: "I'm pleased with the progress we're making." Neither Raddatz nor Brokaw noted this. Indeed, Bush's promise to keep Rumsfeld as defense secretary through 2009 appears to have been reported less widely than other stories in the media. In a November 1-4 Pew Research Center for the People and the Press poll, 60 percent of respondents reported that they had heard "a lot" about "John Kerry's recent comments that critics said insulted U.S. troops in Iraq, which he described as 'a botched joke,' " while 26 percent of respondents reported that they had heard "a lot" about "President Bush's announcement that he will keep Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense until he leaves office in 2009."
Cheney himself refuted the suggestion -- such as that articulated by Raddatz -- that the administration's policy going forward would reflect voter concerns. When asked "if the vote on Tuesday [will] have any effect on the president's Iraq policy," Cheney replied that "the president has made clear what his objective is, it's victory in Iraq. And full speed ahead on that basis, and that's exactly what we're going to do." In the same interview, as Media Matters noted, Cheney claimed that the administration doesn't "make decisions based on the polls ... based on pundits on television, or whether or not it's popular" even though Media Matters has documented numerous instances in which the administration has reportedly timed events or made policy decisions in Iraq based on political considerations.
From the November 7 edition of ABC's Good Morning America:
RADDATZ: But he finished up his campaigning in Texas last night with his very simple message: Stick with us and the country will be better off. As you know, this has been a referendum on the president this election. Some candidates not wanting to appear with the president because of the war in Iraq. The president will likely reassess what is happening with his policy in Iraq. He does not want this to be an issue in 2008. And, for more on the 2008 race, we go to [White House correspondent] Kate Snow in Chappaqua, N.Y.
From the November 7 edition of NBC's Today:
BROKAW: Gas prices, health care, housing cost, immigration, gay marriage, and the war. Always the war.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN [video clip]: If they need to be over there fighting right now, then we need to support them, even if we don't necessarily agree with war.
BROKAW: Iraq has divided this country deeply. Where is the war taking us? What happened to "stay the course"?
BUSH [video clip]: I know many Americans are not satisfied with the situation in Iraq. I'm not satisfied either. And that is why we're taking new steps to help secure Baghdad.
BROKAW: Even longtime Republicans see this election as a vote up or down on those who thought the war was a good idea.