Defending claim that Clinton said surge was "working," Union-Leader editorial page editor provided evidence to the contrary

››› ››› RAPHAEL SCHWEBER-KOREN

Responding to Media Matters' criticism, Manchester Union Leader editorial page editor Drew Cline defended the newspaper's statement that Sen. "Hillary Clinton said Gen. David Petraeus' troop surge is working." Cline wrote: "Media Muddles preposterously asserts that when Clinton said 'change tactics in Iraq' she was not talking about the surge. ... Oh, OK. The changed tactics refer to what, then? THE SURGE!" But the articles that Cline cited for support show that she attributed the progress in Iraq's Al Anbar province to U.S. agreements with local tribal leaders that began in September 2006.

In an August 28 post on his official blog, Manchester Union Leader editorial page editor Drew Cline, responding to Media Matters for America's criticism of an August 24 Union Leader editorial, defended the editorial's statement that Democratic presidential candidate "Hillary Clinton said Gen. David Petraeus' troop surge is working." As Cline noted, in an August 20 speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Clinton said, "We've begun to change tactics in Iraq and in some areas, particularly in Al-Anbar province, it's working. We're just years too late changing our tactics. We can't ever let that happen again." Quoting the headline of the Media Matters item, Cline wrote that, "Media Muddles claimed breathlessly: 'Union Leader editorial falsely claimed Clinton said "troop surge in Iraq is working." ' " But, Cline asserted, "[W]e're right and they're wrong. ... Media Muddles preposterously asserts that when Clinton said 'change tactics in Iraq' she was not talking about the surge. ... Oh, OK. The changed tactics refer to what, then? THE SURGE! This is deliberately disingenuous on the part of Media Muddles. The group would have us believe that Clinton was not referring to the surge just because she didn't call it the surge. But of course it is precisely what she was referring to." But two articles that Cline cited to support his claim in fact show that she had previously attributed the progress in Al Anbar to U.S. agreements with local tribal leaders, which, as Media Matters has noted, began in September 2006. And indeed, while Cline asserted that, in citing progress in Al Anbar in earlier articles, Clinton was actually talking about the overall "surge," one of the stories he cited is from mid-March, when, as he later noted, the overall "surge" had just "g[otten] underway."

Cline wrote:

Media Muddles quotes our note that Clinton had previously referenced surge successes in March and May, then writes dismissively, "Media Matters could find no reports of Clinton 'not[ing] the surge's successes' in March or May."

That's because, again, Media Muddles rules out any Clinton comments that do not use the word "surge." But Media Muddles then cites the precise two examples we referred to. In March Clinton noted progress in Anbar province, and she did so again in May. She just didn't call it "the surge."

However, in both of the articles to which Cline linked, a March 16 post on the New York Daily News Mouth of the Potomac blog that included the transcript of an interview of Clinton, and a May 7 New York Observer article, Clinton explicitly attributed the progress in Anbar province to U.S. agreements with tribal leaders -- which, as Cline later noted, date to September 2006 -- and said that she would aim to continue the progress those agreements have achieved with a limited number of troops.

In the Daily News interview, Clinton said: "We seem to be making a little progress in Al Anbar province because we have an alliance with the tribal sheiks for the very first time." Later, she said that she would leave some troops in Anbar province to preserve any "good cooperation" there against Al Qaeda in Iraq, but added, "I don't know anybody who has looked at this from a military perspective who says that we would need a lot of troops to keep that up. We're talking mostly special forces." Additionally, at the beginning of the interview, she specifically called for "no escalation" in Iraq.

From the March 15 Daily News interview with Clinton:

[Q:] How can keeping troops in Iraq translate into ending the war?

[A:] "Every one of us who has put forth a comprehensive plan and of course the resolution that I'm now supporting, the Democratic resolution in the Senate, all call for a remaining military mission. And of course if we could start now to do what many of us believe we should -- like no escalation and forcing political solutions and international involvement and all the things I've talked about for a very long time -- then we would be on the path toward reducing drastically the number of troops we have with these remaining missions.

The problem is that it doesn't appear the President is going to change course. And so when I'm President, January 2009, I'm going to have to start ending the war and that will mean moving our troops out in a safe and orderly way with these remaining missions, and we will then have to make an assessment. How well are we doing against Al Qaeda? We seem to be making a little progress in Al Anbar province because we have an alliance with the tribal sheiks for the very first time. How are the Kurds doing up in the north? Because they've been performing well and we don't want to undercut them. What's happening with Iranian influence that could be a danger to the region, to us, to Israel?

And finally, if the Iraqi government, by January 2009, has begun to reconcile some of their internal problems and they have an army and a police force that is functioning well, we'll provide them logistical support. We'll continue to provide them training but we are not going to put American troops into the middle of this sectarian civil war. That's the bottom line for all of us.

[...]

[Q:] The argument that I get from anti-war activists is that our presence brought Al Qaeda there, so they don't see how keeping troops there will help remove Al Qaeda, or win the war.

[A:] They're right on the first point, which is there's no doubt that our invasion and the mismanagement of the aftermath and the chaos that occurred led to Al Qaeda being able to have a beachhead. There is no doubt about that

When I look at this, I don't know how many [troops] we're talking about. If we're getting good cooperation in Al Anbar proivince [sic] and we've got Al Qaeda pinned down, we can't walk away from that. And I don't know anybody who has looked at this from a military perspective who says that we would need a lot of troops to keep that up. We're talking mostly special forces.

But we've got to have some openness to understanding what we need to do to protect ourselves, and that's what I'm talking about.

Likewise, Cline's second example, a May 7 report on Clinton's May 6 "Town Hall-style event," posted on the New York Observer's blog The Politicker, quoted Clinton as saying, "We are making some progress it turns out, in what is called Al Anbar province against al Qaeda and the reason we are is that our military leaders have learned a lot in the last several years there and they have made common cause with some of the tribal leaders, who don't like Al Qaeda any more than we do because Al Qaeda is also going after them."

Indeed, Cline asserted that Clinton, when she referred to, in his words, "progress in al Anbar" in March and May, was actually referring to the progress of the overall surge. However, as Cline himself stated, in a different context, the overall surge only "g[ot] underway" this spring: According to the August 27 Brookings Institution "Iraq Index," as of March 14, 6,000 new U.S. troops had been deployed to Baghdad, compared to the final figure of 16,700 that were deployed to Baghdad as of June 18 (as part of the overall build-up, troop levels in al Anbar province separately rose by 4,000 as of February. ).

From Cline's August 28 blog post, titled "Media Muddles' False Claim of Union Leader Falsity":

Media Muddles' false claim of Union Leader falsity

Tuesday August 28th 2007, 5:59 pm

Filed under: Blog Posts

Media Matters for America, the left-wing hit organization that makes a living defending all things Democrat and liberal with shoddy claims of bias in the news, has taken on our Friday editorial on Sen. Hillary Clinton's flip-flopping on the surge.

Media Muddles claimed breathlessly: "Union Leader editorial falsely claimed Clinton said 'troop surge in Iraq is working.' "

But we're right and they're wrong.

Here is what Clinton said on Aug. 20: "We've begun to change tactics in Iraq and in some areas, particularly in Al-Anbar province, it's working. We're just years too late changing our tactics. We can't ever let that happen again."

Media Muddles preposterously asserts that when Clinton said "change tactics in Iraq" she was not talking about the surge. "In fact, as Media Matters for America has noted, Clinton said in her August 20 speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) that changed tactics in Iraq are 'working' - not President Bush's troop 'surge' policy."

Oh, OK. The changed tactics refer to what, then? THE SURGE! This is deliberately disingenuous on the part of Media Muddles. The group would have us believe that Clinton was not referring to the surge just because she didn't call it the surge. But of course it is precisely what she was referring to.

Media Muddles accepts without question the Clinton campaign's line that she was referring only to results in Anbar province, writing, "According to an August 21 New York Times article, "Aides to Mrs. Clinton said her remarks that military tactics in Iraq are 'working' referred specifically to reports of increased cooperation from Sunnis leading to greater success against insurgents in Al Anbar Province."

But, um, that's not what she said. As the editorial pointed out, she said, "in some areas, particularly in Al-Anbar province, it's working." Media Muddles would have us swallow the Clinton campaign line that "some areas, including Al-Anbar province," means "only Al-Anbar province." Come on.

Media Muddles quotes our note that Clinton had previously referenced surge successes in March and May, then writes dismissively, "Media Matters could find no reports of Clinton 'not[ing] the surge's successes' in March or May."

That's because, again, Media Muddles rules out any Clinton comments that do not use the word "surge." But Media Muddles then cites the precise two examples we referred to. In March Clinton noted progress in Anbar province, and she did so again in May. She just didn't call it "the surge."

Media Muddles claims that Clinton was referring to changed tactics that began in Al Anbar last September. But that's running interference for Clinton, for she NEVER claims that. Nor, as far as I've seen, did she begin referring to the changed tactics as breeding success until this spring, as the surge was getting underway. What she said on Aug. 20 was "we've begun to change tactics in Iraq. . ." That's a reference to a recent change, not a year-old one.

Media Muddles is all wet on this one. Clinton said the surge was producing results, but when she got whacked by the left for it she backtracked and called the surge a failure. And by dissembling for Democratic candidates when they embarrass themselves, Media Muddles continues to diminish its own credibility (what there is of it).

Stories/Interests
Hillary Clinton, 2008 Elections
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.