Couric ignored Bush dodge on Pakistan during joint press conference with Afghanistan's Karzai

››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN

In a news brief on President Bush and Afghan President Hamid Karzai's August 6 joint press conference during that day's edition of the CBS Evening News, anchor Katie Couric reported that "President Bush and Afghan President Karzai vowed today to finish off the Taliban once and for all." She did not report that during the same press conference, Bush did not directly answer the question "[I]f you had actionable intelligence about the whereabouts of top al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan, would you wait for [Pakistani President Pervez] Musharraf's permission to send in U.S. forces, even if it meant missing an opportunity to take them out?" Bush ignored the part of the question about "wait[ing] for Musharraf's permission," replying, "I am confident that with actionable intelligence, we will be able to bring top al Qaeda to justice," without addressing whether or not Bush would "wait for Musharraf's permission" to do so.

From the August 6 press conference:

Q Mr. President, if you had actionable intelligence about the whereabouts of top al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan, would you wait for Musharraf's permission to send in U.S. forces, even if it meant missing an opportunity to take them out? Or have you and Musharraf worked out some deal about this already?

And President Karzai, what will be your top concern when you meet with Musharraf later this week?

PRESIDENT BUSH: I am confident that with actionable intelligence, we will be able to bring top al Qaeda to justice. We're in constant communications with the Pakistan government. It's in their interest that foreign fighters be brought to justice. After all, these are the same ones who were plotting to kill President Musharraf. We share a concern. And I'm confident, with real actionable intelligence, we will get the job done.

By contrast, both ABC's World News with Charles Gibson and NBC's Nightly News with Brian Williams noted Bush's failure to fully answer the question. On World News, anchor Charles Gibson reported that "Mr. Bush sidestepped a question about whether the U.S. would seek Pakistan's permission before attacking Al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan." Similarly, on Nightly News, guest anchor Ann Curry stated that Bush "would not answer [the question] directly but said he is confident the U.S. would, quote, 'get the job done.' "

The Washington Post also reported that "Karzai and his government have been highly critical of Pakistan for harboring Taliban and al-Qaeda guerrillas in rugged, largely ungoverned tribal territory along the border. Bush has been more understanding of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's dicey political position, calling him a valuable ally in the struggle with terrorists but lately pressing him to do more." The Post, like World News and Nightly News, also reported that "Bush ducked a question about whether he would send U.S. forces into Pakistan without Musharraf's permission to take out top al-Qaeda leadership if necessary, saying that '[w]e're in constant communications with the Pakistan government' and that '[i]t's in their interest that foreign fighters be brought to justice.'

As Media Matters for America has documented, Bush has articulated very different positions within a short period of time on the question of whether the United States would go after Osama bin Laden in Pakistan even over Musharraf's objections. During a September 20, 2006, interview with CNN host Wolf Blitzer, Bush said that he would "[a]bsolutely" order U.S. troops into Pakistan to capture bin Laden, "even though," in Blitzer's words, "the Pakistanis say that's their sovereign territory." However, during a September 15, 2006, press conference, when asked why he thinks "it's a bad idea to send more resources to hunt down bin Laden wherever he is," Bush responded, "Because, first of all, Pakistan is a sovereign nation. ... In order for us to send thousands of troops into a sovereign nation, we've got to be invited by the government of Pakistan." As Media Matters has also noted, during an August 1 press briefing, White House press secretary Tony Snow gave Bush's September 15 answer, rather than his September 20 answer: "[O]ur approach to Pakistan is one that not only respects the sovereignty of Pakistan as a sovereign government, but is also designed to work in a way where we are working in cooperation with the local government."

From the August 6 edition of the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric:

COURIC: As for the war in Afghanistan, President Bush and Afghan President Karzai vowed today to finish off the Taliban once and for all. The two presidents wrapped up a two-day summit at Camp David. Karzai told reporters the Taliban are still terrorizing Afghan civilians, but pose no threat to his government.

There is much more CBS News ahead, including "The American Spirit," nurses on a mission to rescue a generation of children.

From the August 6 edition of ABC's World News with Charles Gibson:

GIBSON: At Camp David, President Bush met with a key ally in the fight against terrorism, Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai. Mr. Bush sidestepped a question about whether the U.S. would seek Pakistan's permission before attacking Al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan. The president said, "I'm confident that with actionable intelligence we will be able to bring top Al Qaeda leaders to justice." He said of Pakistan: "It's in their interest that foreign fighters be brought to justice."

From the August 6 edition of NBC's Nightly News with Brian Williams:

CURRY: Then there is the threat of Al Qaeda. At a news briefing at Camp David today with Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai, President Bush was asked whether he would consult with neighboring Pakistan and wait for permission to attack if the U.S. had knowledge of Al Qaeda's whereabouts inside Pakistan. The president would not answer directly but said he is confident the U.S. would, quote, "get the job done."

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, International Conflicts
Network/Outlet
CBS
Person
Katie Couric
Show/Publication
CBS Evening News
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