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On the November 26 edition of the NBC-syndicated Chris Matthews Show, MSNBC chief White House correspondent Norah O'Donnell misrepresented a Democratic proposal for the phased redeployment of U.S. troops from Iraq as "essentially a pullout in four to six months." In fact, Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) and Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) introduced the proposal in June 2006 and called for a phased redeployment to begin by the end of the year, or approximately six months from that time. O'Donnell further asserted that Democrats will "wind up -- even though they were validated somewhat in the message by these elections ... looking weak on national security because ... [t]here is not one military or foreign-policy expert who thinks you could actually feasibly do that, and second, that would be a good idea." However, as Media Matters for America has noted, numerous military and foreign-policy experts support a phased withdrawal, to begin immediately or within a time frame consistent with the Levin-Reed proposal.
Host Chris Matthews also asked his guest panel whether Democrats would "be strategic and defensive and hide behind ... that tank coming down the line," referring to the forthcoming report of the Iraq Study Group. In response, O'Donnell predicted Democrats would "stand and hide behind the report," and Time reporter Michael Duffy, NPR All Things Considered host Michele Norris and New York Times staff writer Patrick Healy all agreed.
Daily Kos blogger georgia10 flagged O'Donnell's comments in a November 26 post, and in response noted examples of military officials' support for the Democratic call to begin a phased withdrawal previously cited by Media Matters. The weblog Crooks and Liars also posted video of O'Donnell's comments.
From the November 26 edition of The Chris Matthews Show, syndicated by NBC:
O'DONNELL: The problem for the Democrats once again is that they wind up -- even though they were validated somewhat in the message by these elections -- they wind up looking weak on national security because what they're proposing is essentially a pullout in four to six months. There is not one military or foreign-policy expert who thinks you could actually feasibly do that, and second, that would be a good idea. So why are they proposing that? And they're gonna put it forward, and they're gonna create a vote probably on the floor. And then there aren't -- even though they want to push that, they won't put the muscle behind it by saying, "We'll cut funds" behind it. So it's -- anyway it's an empty proposal.
MATTHEWS: But the other way to look at it is -- the other way to look at it is, what can we do in that country, the next six months, the next year, the next two years, is probably the limit -- out limit of how far we're going to stay there -- that'll justify the loss of life between now and then. Positively, you have to justify the war. Looking forward, you can't just say, "How quickly we can get out?"
O'DONNELL: One of the things the Democrats are going to use is use their majority for oversight. And one of the things they could do that would be helpful is look at why hasn't the training of Iraqi security forces worked. We've been working on it for three years. They can help solve that problem.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you --
NORRIS: That doesn't help them. They need to look forward, though, because if they spend all their time and all their power and oversight looking in the rearview mirror, that won't help them going into '08.
MATTHEWS: OK, how many think -- I'll go right through the list here -- think the Democrats will be strategic and defensive and hide behind the [former Secretary of State James A.] Baker [III] report -- the Baker-Hamilton report -- and simply [say], "Those are good ideas," and hide behind that tank coming down the line?
O'DONNELL: Well, it depends on what the results of that are, but I think that they'll stand and hide behind the report.
DUFFY: Totally hide behind it.
NORRIS: I think it gives them cover.
HEALY: Yeah, pivot off it.