MSNBC debate questions on Iraq, immigration, and national security based on false premises
Research ››› ››› SARAH PAVLUS, ROB DIETZ & JEREMY SCHULMAN
While moderating the April 26 Democratic presidential debate on MSNBC, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams falsely suggested that the so-called Feingold-Reid Bill would mandate that all U.S. troops be removed from Iraq by "about a year from now." In fact, the bill introduced by Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) and co-sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and eight other senators would allow the continued deployment of U.S. troops in Iraq for three "limited purposes." In addition, questions posed later in the debate contained falsehoods about public opinion on immigration and national security.
Discussing Iraq policy, Williams asked Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT): "Senator Dodd, as I understand it, you've co-sponsored something called Feingold-Reid, which would, in effect, cut off the funding spigot by about a year from now and draw the troops out. Is that possible -- the notion of no more troops in Iraq?"
Contrary to Williams' suggestion, the bill states, "No funds appropriated or otherwise made available under any provision of law may be obligated or expended to continue the deployment in Iraq of members of the United States Armed Forces after March 31, 2008," except for the following "limited purposes":
(1) To conduct targeted operations, limited in duration and scope, against members of al Qaeda and other international terrorist organizations.
(2) To provide security for United States infrastructure and personnel.
(3) To train and equip Iraqi security services.
The bill further mandates that a phased redeployment from Iraq "begin not later than 120 days after the date of the enactment of this Act."
Later, co-moderator David Stanton, political anchor of WIS-TV in Columbia, South Carolina, read an emailer's question to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), which asked: "Senator Clinton, if you were currently the president, would you defy the majority of American citizens and offer a form of amnesty for illegal aliens?" In fact, recent polling suggests that a majority of Americans support a path-to-citizenship proposal that critics frequently label "amnesty." An April 10-12 CNN poll found that 77 percent were in favor of "creating a program that would allow illegal immigrants already living in the United States for a number of years to stay in this country and apply for U.S. citizenship if they had a job and paid back taxes." A March 2-4 USA Today/Gallup poll found that 59 percent of respondents would support allowing "illegal immigrants to remain in the United States and become U.S. citizens but only if they meet certain requirements over a period of time."
In addition, after quoting former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani's (R) recent claim that "America will be safer with a Republican president," Williams went on to ask Clinton, "How do you think, Senator, it happened that that notion of Republicans as protectors in a post-9-11 world has taken on so?" In fact, as Media Matters for America has noted, several polls in the past year have found that Democrats had an advantage on the issues of national security and foreign policy.
From the April 26 South Carolina Democratic Party debate, broadcast by MSNBC:
WILLIAMS: Senator Dodd, as I understand it, you've co-sponsored something called Feingold-Reid, which would, in effect, cut off the funding spigot by about a year from now and draw the troops out. Is that possible -- the notion of no more troops in Iraq?
DODD: I believe it is, Brian. I don't think the stakes have ever been higher for us as a country. We're more vulnerable today. We're far less secure. We're more isolated in the world as a result of this policy.
This is a failed policy. Our troops have been heroic, and certainly we'd all make sure whatever they needed, they would get.
But we need to understand that we've got to move beyond this policy. We need bolder, experienced leadership that will take us in a direction than where we're clearly, clearly headed. I'm proud to support the Feingold-Reid legislation, which does exactly as you've described it. It would provide an end date -- begin immediately and end date at the end of next March.
It's very important that the Iraqi people -- we're sending $2 billion a week, $8 billion a month, over $400 billion over more than four years -- they now have to assume the responsibility of their own future. We've given them that opportunity. Three hundred thousand troops are in uniform in Iraq today. They need to take on the responsibility of deciding whether or not they want to come together as a people.
I then believe also that we need to engage in the robust diplomacy that we haven't been engaged in. This administration treats diplomacy as it were a gift to our opponents -- a sign of weakness, not a sign of strength.
STANTON: Senator Clinton, if you were currently the president, would you defy the majority of American citizens and offer a form of amnesty for illegal aliens?
CLINTON: Well, I'm in favor of comprehensive immigration reform, which includes tightening our border security, sanctioning employers who employ undocumented immigrants, helping our communities deal with the costs that come from illegal immigration, getting the 12 million or so immigrants out of the shadows. That's very important to me after 9-11. We've to know who's in this country. And then giving them a chance to pay a fine, pay back taxes, learn English, and stand in line to be eligible for a legal status in this country.
STANTON: Time's up. Thank you, ma'am.
WILLIAMS: Senator Clinton, Rudolph Giuliani, a friend of yours from back home, said this past week, quote, "The Democrats do not understand the full nature and scope of the terrorist war against us." Another quote, "America will be safer with a Republican president." How do you think, Senator, it happened that that notion of Republicans as protectors in a post-9-11 world has taken on so?