On Fox News, Republican strategist Mary Matalin asserted that "the message of [the 2006] election ... wasn't to withdraw" from Iraq, and Rep. John Boehner claimed that "bring[ing] the troops home" is not "what the American people want." In fact, the national exit poll conducted for the leading news organizations in 2006 found that a majority of "the American public" was in favor of withdrawing troops from Iraq, and recent polls demonstrate that most Americans favor some type of troop withdrawal from Iraq -- facts that Fox News hosts failed to mention in their discussions with Matalin and Boehner.
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On the January 10 edition of Fox News' The Big Story with John Gibson, Republican strategist Mary Matalin asserted that "the message of [the 2006] election ... wasn't to withdraw" from Iraq. In fact, the national exit poll conducted for the leading news organizations in 2006 found that a majority of "the American public" was in favor of withdrawing troops from Iraq. Similarly, on the January 10 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto, guest host David Asman failed to correct House Minority Leader John Boehner's (R-OH) claim that "bring[ing] the troops home" is not "what the American people want." Asman failed to mention, as Media Matters for America has noted, recent polls demonstrating that most Americans favor some type of troop withdrawal from Iraq.
The United States General Exit Poll included the following question regarding voters' views of next steps in Iraq -- "What should the U.S. do in Iraq now?" In response, 29 percent said the United States should "[w]ithdraw all troops," 26 percent of respondents said "[w]ithdraw some troops," 21 percent said the United States should "[m]aintain the same number of troops," and 16 percent wanted to "[s]end more troops." Overall, 55 percent of respondents said the United States should withdraw "all" or "some" of the troops, while 38 percent were in favor of "[m]aintaining" the troop level or adding "more troops." The national exit poll also asked: "In your vote for U.S. House, how important was the war in Iraq?" Sixty-eight percent said it was "extremely" or "very" important; 21 percent said it was "somewhat important"; while only 10 percent said the war in Iraq was "not important at all." The two other published questions about Iraq in the national exit poll were: How do you feel about the U.S. war in Iraq?" and "Do you think the war in Iraq has improved the long-term security of the United States?"
Further, recent polling contradicts Boehner's claim -- which went unchallenged -- that Americans do not want to bring the troops home:
- A January 5-7 USA Today/Gallup poll found that 54 percent of respondents said the United States should withdraw all troops from Iraq within a year, with 15 percent saying "immediately" and 39 percent saying "in 12 months time." Forty-three percent said either "take as many years as needed" or "send more troops." The margin of error was +/- 3 percent.
- A CBS News poll released on January 8 reported that 59 percent of respondents support a decrease in troops in Iraq or removing all troops from Iraq, while only 18 percent support an increase in troops (conducted January 1-3, with a margin of error of +/- 3 percent).
- A CNN poll (conducted December 15-17, with a margin of error of +/- 3 percent) reported that 53 percent of respondents support a withdrawal either immediately or within a year, while only 11 percent support sending more troops to Iraq.
From the January 10 edition of Fox News' The Big Story with John Gibson:
JOHN GIBSON (host): Mary, the Democrats -- I'm going to put this on the screen -- the Democrats plan to conduct a series of votes on the Bush plan. They say they're symbolic. We know they'll disapprove. But here's the kicker. Do they dare stop the Bush surge, or are they just going to make a lot of noise and let it go?
MATALIN: Well, you know, interestingly, [Sen.] Barack Obama [D-IL], who is one of their new superstars, wrote a piece recently and said that the election message was to both parties: no more symbols, no more fooling around, get to work, and act like adults. That was a message sent to both parties. Symbolic votes don't cut it.
If they have a policy that's different from the president's, which they seem to suggest, which is to withdraw, that's a -- what some would say is a "choose to lose" strategy. The president continues to believe, rightly, that there is a way forward that we can win, and we need to win. We can't afford to lose.
And if they do believe that this is impossible to win, as Richard Holbrooke [former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations] and they have said, then they ought to flat-out say it, and then they ought to discuss the consequences of whatever policies would follow would from that.
That's what the people -- that's what the message of this election was. It wasn't to withdraw. It was to show progress. The president understands that the public is wary and skeptical. They want to see progress, but they did not say they want to withdraw. They did say they want to win.
From the January 10 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
ASMAN: So, is Senator Harry Reid [D-NV] just whistling "Dixie"? I mean, does he -- does he really know of Republicans who are willing to oppose the president and the troop surge?
BOEHNER: Well, I think the American people want us to achieve victory in Iraq. And I think the president ought to have a chance to outline that plan tonight.
But the Democrats are making a lot of noise, but there is no plan. And they have no plan that they have put forward that'll do anything other than to give up and bring the troops home. And I don't think that's what the American people want.
ASMAN: Congressman, I --
BOEHNER: They want us to succeed.
ASMAN: I don't mean to beat a dead horse here, but I still didn't quite hear an answer from you. Do you know of any Republican who is against a troop surge in Iraq?
BOEHNER: Well, I have heard Republicans here on Capitol Hill, people like Gordon Smith, the senator from Oregon. You got Walter Jones, a House member from North Carolina. There are some Republicans who are opposed to this.