Chieftain uncritically reported President Bush's criticisms of Democratic efforts to provide Iraq funding

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The Pueblo Chieftain uncritically reported President Bush's complaints about the Democratic-led Congress' efforts to fund the Iraq war. The Chieftain ignored the fact that the House and Senate have already passed spending bills, which Bush has promised to veto. The article further failed to note that under Republican leadership, Congress took much longer to approve supplemental spending bills to fund ongoing military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

An April 7 Pueblo Chieftain article uncritically quoted President Bush's criticism of congressional Democrats "for not sending him the emergency funding measure he asked for nearly two months ago." Yet the Chieftain failed to mention, as The New York Times did, that "Democrats have argued that Mr. Bush made no such complaint last year when Congress, then held by Republicans, did not approve an emergency war spending measure until late spring." The Chieftain article further uncritically quoted Bush's assertion that Democrats have wasted time "debating bills that undercut the troops" and that contain "pork barrel projects completely unrelated to the war." The Chieftain did not note that Bush has vowed to veto the Iraq spending bills Congress already has passed, or that nonmilitary earmarks in such bills have been commonplace since the conflict in Iraq began under a Republican majority in Congress.

In the article by Charles Ashby, the Chieftain reported the criticism of U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar (D-CO), who "wrote a letter to the president on Thursday calling for him to end the 'extreme political polarization' over the war." The article quoted Salazar as saying, "I think the president is playing a dangerous game of chicken ... I think we need to have an open dialogue with the White House as well as the members of Congress to figure out a way forward together." After noting that Salazar "was very dismayed at the president's comments to Congress at a Tuesday press conference in the Rose Garden of the White House," the Chieftain reported Bush's criticism of Democrats:

During that event, the president criticized Democrats who control both chambers of Congress for not sending him the emergency funding measure he asked for nearly two months ago.

Bush said Democrats have spent that time debating issues that would hurt U.S. troops in Iraq.

"Instead of passing clean bills that fund our troops on the front lines, the House and Senate have spent this time debating bills that undercut the troops, by substituting the judgment of politicians in Washington for the judgment of our commanders on the ground, setting an arbitrary deadline for withdrawal from Iraq, and spending billions of dollars on pork barrel projects completely unrelated to the war," Bush said according to a White House transcript of the press conference.

"Democrat leaders in Congress seem more interested in fighting political battles in Washington than in providing our troops what they need to fight the battles in Iraq."

In fact, the U.S. House of Representatives passed an emergency supplemental spending bill on March 23 that provides more than $100 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As The Washington Post observed, the bill includes a series of provisions that mandate standards for training, equipping, and resting combat troops; establish security benchmarks for the Iraqi government; and, most notably, require that U.S. combat forces begin to withdraw from Iraq in March 2008 and leave Iraq completely by August 31, 2008. The U.S. Senate on March 29 passed a similar spending bill that provides funds for both wars and also mandates that U.S. troops begin redeploying from Iraq within 120 days of the bill's passage, with a nonbinding goal of ending combat operations there by March 31, 2008. The Senate and House are expected to reconcile the bills in conference and send a final version to the president for his signature. Bush has promised to veto any bill if it includes a timeline for the redeployment of troops from Iraq -- another fact the Chieftain ignored.

In reporting Bush's criticism of Democrats for "not sending him" the measure "he asked for nearly two months ago," the Chieftain also failed to note that in 2005 and 2006, the Republican-controlled Congress took considerably longer than 57 days to act on Bush's funding requests for Iraq and Afghanistan, as the weblog ThinkProgress.org noted:

February 14, 2005: Bush submits $82 billion supplemental bill

May 11, 2005: Bush signs the supplemental

Total time elapsed: 86 days

February 16, 2006: Bush submits $72 billion supplemental bill

June 15, 2006: Bush signs the supplemental

Total time elapsed: 119 days

The Chieftain further ignored a March 28 memo the Congressional Research Service sent to the Senate Budget Committee that found the Army would be able to fund its operations in Iraq "through most of July 2007" with the money it has now. As CNN noted on April 10, "[T]he bipartisan Congressional Research Service has concluded that the military will have the money to continue fighting through July without additional funding."

Furthermore, in uncritically reporting Bush's claim that "the House and Senate have ... [been] spending billions of dollars on pork barrel projects completely unrelated to the war," the Chieftain failed to note that, according to the Post, non-war related spending "has been part of Iraq funding bills since the war began [in 2003, under a Republican-controlled Congress], sometimes inserted by the president himself, sometimes added by lawmakers with bipartisan aplomb." As the Post reported:

The president's own request last year for emergency war spending included $20 billion for Gulf Coast hurricane recovery, $2.3 billion for bird flu preparations, and $2 billion to fortify the border with Mexico and pay for his effort to send National Guardsmen to the southern frontier.

The Republican-controlled Senate tried to load the 2006 bill with $4 billion for agricultural subsidies, $1.1 billion for the Gulf Coast fishing industry, $594 million for highway projects unrelated to Hurricane Katrina, and $700 million for rerouting a rail line in Mississippi.

With regard to earmarks found in the current Iraq spending bills, the Post noted:

The fight this year over $120 million for shrimp and menhaden fisheries in the Gulf, $74 million for peanut storage facilities in Georgia, and $25 million for California spinach farmers devastated by an E. coli scare is louder than past disputes but is substantively not much different, budget analysts said. Virtually all of the $3.4 billion in agriculture spending in the House bill had been worked out by farm-state lawmakers long before Democratic leaders settled on the Iraq troop-pullout language at the center of the White House's showdown with Congress, [senior House Appropriations Committee aide Scott] Lilly said.

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