For Wallace, Dems -- but not Republicans -- who vote "no" on Iraq funding bill are willing to "let the money run out for the troops"

››› ››› RYAN CHIACHIERE

On the May 27 edition of Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace asserted that, in voting against the emergency supplemental funding bill for the Iraq war last week, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) "was voting to actually let the money run out for the troops on the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan." However, while Wallace has repeatedly suggested Democrats voting against a supplemental are putting American troops in harm's way, he has never held President Bush -- who vetoed an Iraq supplemental -- or Republican members of Congress -- many of whom either supported the president's veto or have themselves voted against a supplemental funding bill -- to the same standard.

On the April 15 edition of Fox News Sunday, Wallace asked Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), who had earlier in the program advocated a supplemental that would include timelines (if timelines drew a presidential veto, Levin suggested a compromise supplemental that would include benchmarks) to make a promise: "But bottom line, Senator Levin, before I bring in Senator [Lindsey] Graham [R-SC], the Democrats will not allow money to run out for the troops." Levin later voted for the first supplemental, which included a timeline for withdrawal. However, though Graham voiced his opposition to that supplemental that included a timetable and claimed that the president "should veto it," Wallace never suggested that Graham's opposition to the supplemental (he ultimately did not vote on the bill) would "allow money to run out for the troops." Earlier in that segment, Wallace asked, "Senator Levin, you know, because he said it over and over, that the president will veto any bill that attaches a timetable for withdrawal. So what are Democrats, either before or after the veto, going to send him that he can actually sign?" Wallace did not suggest during that segment that Bush's impending veto would allow funding for the troops to run out.

On the March 25 edition of Fox News Sunday, Wallace asked Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA): "If it comes down to a choice between the timetable and funding the troops -- and it may come down to that with vetoes and all these other things -- where do you come down?" However, when Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) expressed his opposition to the emergency supplemental -- which he would later vote against -- during that same segment, Wallace did not suggest that Lott's opposition to the bill was a vote to "let the money run out for the troops," as he did with Clinton, nor did he ask whether Lott would choose between a "timetable or funding the troops," as he did Feinstein. Clinton's "nay" vote on the revised supplemental -- which included no timelines -- and Lott's "nay" vote on the initial supplemental both had the same net effect with regards to the funding of the war, which was to allow it to run out.

Also, on the March 11 edition of Fox News Sunday, Wallace told Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA), "by voting against the spending bill, you would be voting against giving the troops body armor, against more funding for veterans and military hospitals." Waters, like Lott, would eventually vote against the bill. Additionally, on the April 1 edition of Fox News Sunday, Wallace repeatedly noted the president's intention to veto the supplemental without ever suggesting that, in doing so, the president would be effectively allowing funds to run out for the "troops on the front lines." Wallace posed the following question to Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-DE): "Congress is going to send the president the spending bill, but with some sort of timeline attached to it. The president we know is going to veto it. Senator Biden, what happens then?" Later, Wallace posed a similar question to the Fox News Sunday roundtable: "At some point, the Congress is going to send the president the spending bill with a timetable attached. The president, I believe, despite what Senator Biden said, is going to veto it. Then what happens?"

On the April 29 edition of the program, Wallace began a question to NPR senior political correspondent and Fox News contributor Mara Liasson by asserting, "The Congress is going to send the president the Iraq war spending bill with these goals for getting out. He's going to veto it." Wallace again omitted the fact that the consequence of that veto would be to allow funding to run out.

From the May 27 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:

NINA EASTON (Fortune magazine): I think for Hillary Clinton, this is really the start of her focus on the primary campaign as it has to do with the Iraq war, as opposed to looking to the general election.

If you had been a fly on the wall in the debates among her consultants this week, I'm sure it was intense. They must have been thinking about [Sen.] John Kerry's [D-MA] war funding vote in contrast to his pro-war vote, what that was going to mean in the general election.

But at the end of the day, [Sen.] Barack Obama [D-IL] is the real threat. We're going to see her tied at the hip with him, because the antiwar faction of the party -- they like [former Sen.] John Edwards [D-NC], but they love Obama. And I'm not sure she would have cast the vote this way if Obama wasn't in the race.

WALLACE: Bill [Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard], I mean, let's talk about this, because this completes quite a turnaround for Senator Clinton.

After the president announced his troop surge in January, here's what Hillary Clinton said -- and let's put it up on the screen. "I don't support cutting funding to our troops." And of course, she stood up to war critics, saying that she refused to apologize for her 2002 vote authorizing the use of force.

Now, I understand it's one thing, if you feel that way, to vote to set a timetable for withdrawing troops. She did something different here. She was voting to actually let the money run out for the troops on the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan.

From the May 6 edition of Fox News Sunday:

WALLACE: Senator, let's talk some practical politics here.

SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD [D-CT]: Sure.

WALLACE: You have an impasse now between the White House and congressional Democrats over this war funding bill. Everyone agrees money is going to begin to run out probably by the end of this month. Would you support a stopgap measure as a compromise that would send the president money and give him a way to sign a bill?

[...]

WALLACE: Oh, OK, good. We thought we'd lost the picture of you for a moment there, Senator Dodd.

The question is, are you going to insist on sending him a troop withdrawal, which you know he isn't going to sign, or would you accept this idea of a compromise, probably political benchmarks that would put conditions for political progress on the Iraqi politicians, and if they failed to do that, then you would take foreign aid, not military aid, away from them?

From the April 29 edition of Fox News Sunday:

WALLACE: Mara, let's pivot to where -- excuse me -- not to Iraq six years ago, but Iraq today. And this is going to be a very busy week. The Congress is going to send the president the Iraq war spending bill with these goals for getting out. He's going to veto it.

He's called congressional leaders up to meet with him on Wednesday. Meanwhile, there are new reports that we're going to be in Iraq well into 2008, according to the generals, and that we're scaling back our expectations for what [Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-]Maliki can achieve. Where does all this add up, and where does it leave us?

From the April 15 edition of Fox News Sunday:

WALLACE: Senator Levin, you know, because he's said it over and over, that the president will veto any bill that attaches a timetable for withdrawal. So what are Democrats, either before or after the veto, going to send him that he can actually sign?

LEVIN: Well, we're going to send him, first of all, hopefully, a very strong bill which would say that we're going to begin to reduce troops in four months as a way of telling the Iraqi leadership that the open-ended commitment is over. Not just rhetorically, but in fact, to try to force them to take responsibility for their own country. If we don't have the votes to override, and it appears that we don't, but we never know until that vote is taken, we will then hopefully send them something strong in the area of benchmarks as the second-best way of putting pressure on the president to put pressure on the Iraqis.

And those benchmarks would hopefully have some teeth in them, telling the Iraqis that the open-ended commitment is over, and that they must meet their own benchmarks which they set for themselves to reach a political settlement on the sharing of resources and the sharing of power, or else there's going to be a response in terms of reduction in support, both militarily and economically. That was the recommendation of the Iraq Study Group, and I would think that that would be the second step. It's not as strong as that first bill, which we hope to send him, but promptly thereafter, if he vetoes it and we can't override, we will send him something, I believe, that has some very strong, clear statement about the Iraqis needing to meet their own benchmarks and consequences if they don't.

WALLACE: Senator Levin, there's also been some talk among Democrats about sending him a smaller spending bill -- what Senator Obama says, giving him a shorter leash so he would have to come back to Congress more often. What do you think about that idea?

LEVIN: Well, I think it's a possibility, but less likely, because it's a fairly short period that this supplemental lasts. It only lasts through the end of September. So I think we have to make a very strong, clear statement to the president that now we're going to support the troops, there's no doubt about it. We're going to fund the troops. There's no doubt about that. But we're going to try to use this opportunity to change this course.

The president was told by the people last November they want to change course in Iraq. He has not done it. He's gotten us in deeper militarily, although there is no military solution. We're going to try to use this opportunity to change course.

WALLACE: But bottom line, Senator Levin, before I bring in Senator Graham, you will not -- the Democrats will not allow money to run out for the troops.

LEVIN: That is absolutely correct. We've made that clear. We never have allowed that to happen. As a matter of fact, it was Congress that added $20 billion last year to the president's request.

WALLACE: Senator Graham, what do you think of what you're hearing from Senator Levin, and specifically this idea of some sort of benchmarks, maybe benchmarks with teeth that would say the Iraqi political side has to live up to its part of the bargain?

GRAHAM: Well, number one, the president will veto the legislation in its current form, and he should. If you really want to support the troops, don't cut their legs out from under them. We sent [Gen. David] Petraeus off 81 to nothing. He got unanimously approved by those voting in the Senate. He had a specific game plan in mind. Timetables, timelines for withdrawing the troops, benchmarks that give your enemy a road map of how to drive us out of Iraq are bad ideas. These are [sic] congressional micromanagement of the war that will have short- and long-term efforts. The president will veto this bill. He should veto it.

And I do believe that timelines and deadlines undercut Petraeus, they empower the enemy, and people start making political deals, Chris, in Iraq, when America leaves, not what's in the best interest of Iraq in the future. So, I don't buy this at all. I think it's disastrous. If you want us out of Iraq, just cut off funding. Don't bleed General Petraeus dry and undercut him.

From the April 1 edition of Fox News Sunday:

WALLACE: Let me bring in Senator Biden, because let's get exactly to this point of the showdown. Congress is going to send the president the spending bill, but with some sort of timeline attached to it. The president, we know, is going to veto it. Senator Biden, what happens then?

BIDEN: I'm not so sure the president is going to veto it. Everybody says that. The timeline of the United States Senate --

WALLACE: Well, he says it, among other people.

[...]

WALLACE: But let me ask you both, again, if I can press the question: Who is going to blink? Senator Biden -- I mean, is Congress -- after you get this veto, assuming, as Senator [Mitch] McConnell [R-KY] and the White House says you are going to get this vetoed bill, will the Democrats say, "All right, we've made our point and we'll give you a clean bill without the timeline?"

BIDEN: No, I don't think so. I think we'll end up doing what the Senate did, not what the House did -- set a target date, number one. The memo is not to the enemy. The memo is to the president. "Mr. President, get straight on this war. Get us out of the middle of a civil war and do what our troops are supposed to be doing."

And secondly, if it is pork to provide money for the consequences of Hurricane Katrina, if it's pork to provide money for the 9-11 report, if it's pork to provide money -- you know what happened here, Chris? If the president had been honest with what he needed for this war in his regular budget, in 2007 budget, then we wouldn't be having this supplemental this way. But it's this pea-in-the-shell game they played. They never put the money they know they're going to need for the war in the budget because it will send off alarm bells, and then they come along six months later and say they need a supplemental. So, you know --

WALLACE: Let me just step in here, because I want to move on to Iran. And I just want to ask Senator McConnell just a -- so if you do get -- after the veto, if the president then gets a bill with a soft, a goal of a timeline, but not a firm date for withdrawal, would you say that the president still should not accept that even if that's the cost of getting this $100 billion for the troops?

[...]

WALLACE: Let's move on to the showdown between the president and Congress over Congress' decision this week -- and it seems clear that after they work it out on a compromise in conference -- to add a timetable, some sort of timetable or goal for withdrawal to that emergency spending bill for conducting the war. Here's what -- excuse me -- here's what the president and Speaker Pelosi had to say about it this week.

[begin video clip]

PRESIDENT BUSH: I'll veto a bill that restricts our commanders on the ground in Iraq, a bill that doesn't fund our troops, a bill that's got too much spending on it.

HOUSE SPEAKER NANCY PELOSI [D-CA]: Calm down with the threats. There's a new Congress in town.

[end video clip]

WALLACE: Brit [Hume, Fox News Washington managing editor], at some point, the Congress is going to send the president the spending bill with a timetable attached. The president, I believe, despite what Senator Biden said, is going to veto it. Then what happens?

From the March 25 edition of Fox News Sunday:

WALLACE: OK. Let's move on, if we can, to Iraq, because that's the other big clash that's going on now. The House voted Friday to bring all -- well, most U.S. combat troops, almost all of them, home by August 31st, 2008. The Senate's going to consider a bill that would set a goal for getting most combat troops out by next March.

Senator Lott, do you have the votes to strip the timetable from the spending bill?

LOTT: We have not done a whip check specifically on this upcoming vote, but I believe that we do. There are members in the Senate in both parties that are not comfortable with how things have gone in Iraq. But they understand that artificial timetables, even as goals, are a problem.

Now, to have some benchmarks of things that we expect to happen, that's fine. But we will try to take out the arbitrary dates. You know, we need to put that kind of decision in the hands of our commanders who are there on the ground with the men and women. For Congress to impose an artificial date of any kind is totally irresponsible.

And here's the other point, the main point. It's sort of what -- you know, so far the Congress this year has done nothing, and even The New York Times talk [sic] about the perils of a heavy gavel. We're investigating, we're forcing our hand. This is not going to happen. So why are we going through this exercise of heaping pork on the backs of our men and women in uniform and trying to put artificial dates which will not occur. We'll either knock it out or it'll be taken out in conference, or the president will veto it.

WALLACE: Senator Feinstein, we're beginning to run out of time, and I want you to answer that question, but I also want to ask you another one at the same time. The Pentagon came out this week and they said if they don't get this emergency spending -- this is all about $100 billion in emergency spending -- by mid-April that it's going to hurt training, it's going to hurt deployment, it's going to hurt repairs of important equipment.

If it comes down to a choice between the timetable and funding the troops -- and it may come down to that with vetoes and all these other things -- where do you come down?

From the March 11 edition of Fox News Sunday:

WALLACE: Respectfully, Congresswoman, are you one of those, what Congressman [David] Obey [D-WI] would call "idiot liberals" who would vote against this spending bill, and thereby deny our troops body armor and medical care?

WATERS: I don't know. I think his language was quite unfortunate. That was a mother whose son has done two tours of duty in Iraq. He's apologized for having used that kind of language. And I would hope that he does not do that again. I don't know what he thinks about my position and whether he would characterize me that way. But I would hope not.

WALLACE: But by voting against the spending bill, you would be voting against giving the troops body armor, against more funding for veterans and military hospitals.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, Defense Funding, War in Iraq
Network/Outlet
FOX Broadcasting Company
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Chris Wallace
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FOX News Sunday
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