Despite lack of timetable, media persist in calling Bush's troop increase a "surge"

››› ››› JOSH KALVEN

President Bush's January 10 prime-time address announcing his decision to send more than 20,000 additional troops to Iraq finally put to rest the debate over whether this long-awaited proposal represented a short-term "surge" or an open-ended "escalation" of the war. As Media Matters for America repeatedly noted during the days of coverage leading up to the speech, media figures have persisted in calling the forthcoming proposal a "surge" despite no indication that the troop increase would be temporary. Indeed, as Media Matters has documented, in his speech, Bush gave no indication of when the extra troops would leave Iraq.

Nonetheless, during their January 11 coverage of the address, reporters and anchors on ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox News, and MSNBC continued to refer to the troop increase as a "surge." They included:

  • ABC's Good Morning America co-host Diane Sawyer: "[T]he surge has already begun."
  • Good Morning America co-host Chris Cuomo: "[T]he troop surge is already under way."
  • ABC News White House correspondent Jessica Yellin: "Sixty-one percent don't want to see a surge in troops."
  • NBC's Today co-host Meredith Vieira: "[T]he surge is starting."
  • CBS News national security correspondent David Martin: "The president did not predict how long the surge will last."
  • Fox News' Fox and Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson: "What did you think ... about the surge in troops?"
  • MSNBC anchor Amy Robach: "[M]en and women already on their way, headed to Iraq, as we speak, in this additional surge."
  • Fox News White House correspondent Wendell Goler: "The president admitted the short-term impact of the troop surge and going after Iraqi militias is likely to be an increase in U.S. casualties."

Moreover, MSNBC's January 11 coverage was accompanied by numerous graphics featuring the term "surge":

From the January 11 edition of ABC's Good Morning America:

SAWYER: And as of this morning, ABC News has learned that the surge has already begun. Advanced units of the 82nd Airborne Division are on the ground in Iraq.

[...]

SAWYER: Well, Robin, as we said earlier, our overnight poll shows that a majority of Americans -- nearly two-thirds of Americans -- oppose the troop surge the president announced last night.

[...]

CUOMO: ABC News has learned that the troop surge is already under way. Ninety advance troops from the 82nd Airborne Division arrived in Baghdad Wednesday.

[...]

CUOMO: Good morning again, everyone. We begin with President Bush's big speech on Iraq, calling for a surge of new American troops to put an end to the bloodshed. ABC's Jessica Yellin has the latest from the White House this morning. Good morning, Jessica.

YELLIN: Good morning, Chris. This morning, the White House is braced for a showdown with Congress, where newly empowered Democrats and even some leading Republicans are dead-set against his new plan for Iraq.

[...]

YELLIN: A new overnight ABC News poll shows that Americans are overwhelmingly opposed to the backbone of the president's plan. Sixty-one percent don't want to see a surge in troops. Now Democrats are planning to attack the plan with votes, perhaps as early as next week, denouncing what they call this escalation. And some leading Republicans are among the president's critics.

From the January 11 edition of NBC's Today:

VIEIRA: Well, Senator [Barack Obama (D-IL)], as we reported earlier, the troops are leaving today. They're starting -- the surge is starting. So what can you do as a senator? What are you willing to do to stop the troops from going there, if indeed you feel they should not go there?

OBAMA: Well, one thing that the president and I agree on is that American troops -- some who appeared in the stories that you showed prior to me coming on -- have done everything that we have asked them. It's extraordinary sacrifice and commitment that they've shown throughout this process. And so I don't know anybody in Congress who's willing to strand troops that are in Iraq -- to make sure that they have the resources, we want to make sure that they have the capacity to carry out their mission and come home safely. But --

VIEIRA: So there's nothing you can to do stop the surge, then?

From the January 11 edition of CBS' The Early Show:

HARRY SMITH (host): The first of the new troops are already standing by, waiting to go to Iraq. CBS News national security correspondent David Martin has details.

[begin video clip]

MARTIN: The surge of more than 20,000 troops means some units already in Iraq will have their tours of duty extended, while some back in the States will have to ship out earlier than planned. The president has ordered similar build-ups before to protect Iraqis going to the polls. But this time, he says, their mission will be different.

[...]

MARTIN: The president did not predict how long the surge will last, but Pentagon officials say if this new strategy works they should be able to begin withdrawing troops from the streets of Baghdad in about six months.

From the January 11 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:

CARLSON: So I do have to ask you, since the topic of the day is the speech last night: What did you think of it -- what about the surge in troops?

FORMER GOV. MIKE HUCKABEE (R-AR): Well, it's a pretty gutsy thing for the president to do. First of all, to say that there have been mistakes. And then to say we're gonna put more troops in.

From the January 11 edition of MSNBC News Live:

ROBACH: Chip, in terms of the financial leverage that Congress does have in this situation potentially, have they discussed at all what types of conditions -- what types of strings, so to speak -- they could attach to funding this additional surge?

[...]

ROBACH: Well Joe, this is going forward, as we talked to [NBC News correspondent] Ron Blome there in Fort Stewart, Georgia. Folks and men and women already on their way, headed to Iraq, as we speak, in this additional surge. Does that politically force the hand of many congressmen and women who perhaps would feel like they weren't doing the right thing if they closed the purse strings to fund the troops that are literally already on their way?

From the January 11 edition of Fox News Live:

GOLER: Today, Gates said he's recommended increasing the size of the Army and Marine Corps by 92,000 over the next five years. He said it'll be several months before the U.S. knows if the new strategy is working. The president admitted the short-term impact of the troop surge and going after Iraqi militias is likely to be an increase in U.S. casualties.

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