Kurtz, NPR's Roberts cited NYT poll showing public trusts generals, but not Wash. Post poll showing skepticism of Petraeus' report

››› ››› BEN ARMBRUSTER

On September 10, the day of Multi-National Forces-Iraq commander Gen. David Petraeus' congressional testimony on progress in Iraq, Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz and National Public Radio (NPR) contributing senior news analyst Cokie Roberts both cited a September 4-8 New York Times/CBS News poll that found that Americans trust military commanders more than the Bush administration or Congress to "successfully resolv[e] the war in Iraq," while failing to note more specific poll results about Petraeus' credibility from a September 4-7 poll by The Washington Post and ABC News, which specifically found that a majority of Americans think Petraeus "will try to make things look better than they really are" in his report to Congress.

Similarly, on the September 10, 11 a.m. ET, edition of MSNBC Live, during a discussion of Petraeus' upcoming testimony, host Contessa Brewer asked, "How candid can he be in his answers to the lawmakers?" Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Rick Francona replied that "he's going to be right up front with them," adding that Petraeus "is going to stand up there with the uniform of a four-star general, and right now, the military is one of the most credible institutions in the United States." A second guest, Retired Army Col. Jack Jacobs, added: "The most credible. Sixty percent of the population thinks that they can rely on the military and only -- the Congress has the lowest approval rating of any institution in the United States." However, at no point during the segment did Brewer mention the Post/ABC News poll indicating that Americans are skeptical of Petraeus' report.

In the online edition of his September 10 "Media Notes" column, Kurtz quoted from a September 10 New York Times article, which reported that according to the recent Times/CBS News poll, "Americans trust military commanders far more than the Bush administration or Congress to bring the war in Iraq to a successful end." Kurtz then uncritically quoted the article's assertion that the finding "is almost certainly why the White House has presented General Petraeus and Mr. Crocker as unbiased professionals, not Bush partisans." From Kurtz's September 10 online column:

The war debate kicks into high gear today, and here are the latest numbers:

"Americans trust military commanders far more than the Bush administration or Congress to bring the war in Iraq to a successful end, and while most favor a withdrawal of American troops beginning next year, they suggested they are open to doing so at a measured pace, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll ...

"Only 5 percent of Americans -- a strikingly low number for a sitting president's handling of such a dominant issue -- said they most trust the Bush administration to resolve the war, the poll found. Asked to choose between the administration, Congress and military commanders, 21 percent said they would most trust Congress and 68 percent expressed the most trust in military commanders.

"That is almost certainly why the White House has presented General Petraeus and Mr. Crocker as unbiased professionals, not Bush partisans."

Nearly two-thirds say the United States should withdraw or begin reducing forces now.

On the September 10 broadcast of NPR's Morning Edition, when asked by host Steve Inkseep "if there is a danger at all for Democrats in going after this [Petraeus] report too hard," Roberts, citing the Times/CBS poll, asserted that "that the American people trust the military most of any institution to solve this war and get us out." Further, while Roberts referred to the Post/ABC News poll later in the interview, she did not mention its finding that most Americans believe Petraeus will exaggerate progress in Iraq.

From the September 10 edition of NPR's Morning Edition:

INSKEEP: It's Morning Edition from NPR News. Good morning, I'm Steve Inskeep. Today General David Petraeus offers his assessment of Iraq to lawmakers who have already had plenty of time to come up with their own assessments.

[...]

INSKEEP: We should mention we're discussing elsewhere in the program the actual security situation in Iraq, and we'll be discussing over the coming days the substance of what people have to say. What we're talking about right now is the politics of all of this. And I have to ask if there is a danger at all for Democrats in going after this report too hard?

ROBERTS: Sure there is, and there is a danger in appearing to be attacking a military man and a decorated general. The New York Times poll that's out today on the subject of Iraq says that the American people trust the military most of any institution to solve this war and get us out. And at time when the Democrats are not getting particularly high marks in these polls.

The ABC/Washington Post poll yesterday, today, New York Times/CBS poll, big polls on this subject. The confidence of the public in the Democrats to deal with the war in both is down from where it was in the spring. Now some of that could be because there's some people who feel Democrats haven't been able to pass a pull-out. But some also seems to reflect nuances in responses to the war.

From the September 10 edition of MSNBC Live:

BREWER: How candid can he be in his answers to the lawmakers?

FRANCONA: General Petraeus? I think he's going to be right up front with them. The problem is, are they going to believe him. I mean, there have been articles in the papers already attacking his credibility, and I think that is a very dangerous thing to do because General Petraeus is going to stand up there with the uniform of a four-star general and right now, the military is one of the most credible institutions in the United States.

JACOBS: The most credible. Sixty percent of the population thinks that they can rely on the military and only -- the Congress has the lowest approval rating of any institution in the United States.

From the September 4-7 Washington Post-ABC News poll:

16. As you may know, the U.S. commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, is preparing a progress report on the situation there. Do you think his report (will honestly reflect the situation in Iraq), or do you think it (will try to make things look better than they really are)?

Will reflect situation in Iraq

Will try to make things look better than they are

No opinion

9/7/07

39

53

7

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