Couric didn't challenge McCain's false claim that Biden proposed "break[ing] Iraq up into three different countries"

››› ››› LAUREN AUERBACH

During an interview with Sen. John McCain, Katie Couric did not challenge McCain's false claim that Sen. Joe Biden "said you had to break Iraq up into three different countries" as part of his Iraq plan. On America's Election HQ, Karl Rove falsely asserted that Biden's proposal for Iraq involved "unilaterally splitting up a sovereign nation," a statement that Chris Wallace echoed. In fact, Biden introduced a "five-point plan" to "[m]aintain a unified Iraq by decentralizing it and giving Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis breathing room in their own regions." Further, Biden has made clear that he was not proposing that his plan be imposed on Iraq "unilaterally."

During an August 23 interview with Sen. John McCain, the video of which is available on CBS' website, CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric did not challenge McCain's false claim that Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) "said you had to break Iraq up into three different countries" as part of his Iraq plan. McCain's false statement was also aired without challenge on the August 24 edition of CBS News Sunday Morning. Additionally, on the August 23 edition of Fox News' America's Election HQ, Fox News contributor Karl Rove falsely asserted that Biden's proposal for Iraq involved "unilaterally splitting up a sovereign nation," while Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace falsely stated that Biden's plan consisted of "unilaterally dissolving a sovereign nation." In fact, Biden introduced a "five-point plan" to "[m]aintain a unified Iraq by decentralizing it and giving Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis breathing room in their own regions." The plan also states that "[t]he Iraqi constitution already provides for federalism" and that "[t]he central government would be responsible for common interests, like border security and the distribution of oil revenues." Further, Biden has made clear that he was not proposing that his plan be imposed on Iraq "unilaterally."

Biden and Council on Foreign Relations President Emeritus Leslie H. Gelb initially proposed their Iraq plan in a May 1, 2006, New York Times op-ed. They wrote that the idea "is to maintain a united Iraq by decentralizing it, giving each ethno-religious group -- Kurd, Sunni Arab and Shiite Arab -- room to run its own affairs, while leaving the central government in charge of common interests." In an October 3, 2007, Washington Post op-ed, Biden and Gelb explained that "we are not trying to impose our plan. If the Iraqis don't want it, they won't and shouldn't take it."

Indeed, a September 2007 Senate amendment proposed by Biden stated that "the United States should actively support a political settlement among Iraq's major factions based upon the provisions of the Constitution of Iraq that create a federal system of government and allow for the creation of federal regions." It did not call for "unilaterally" imposing such a system. Biden's amendment was co-sponsored by Republican Sens. Sam Brownback (KS), Arlen Specter (PA), Gordon Smith (OR), and Kay Bailey Hutchison (TX), as well as Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer (CA), John Kerry (MA), Bill Nelson (FL), Charles Schumer (NY), Barbara Mikulski (MD), and Blanche Lincoln (AR). It passed the Senate on September 26, 2007, by a 75-23 vote.

From Couric's interview with McCain:

COURIC: Do you think it will be more difficult now, Senator McCain, to criticize Barack Obama's foreign policy credentials when someone like Joe Biden is on the ticket, a very experienced and respected voice on Capitol Hill in these matters?

McCAIN: Well, I've always respected Joe Biden, but I've disagreed with him from the time he voted against the first Gulf War to his position where he said you had to break Iraq up into three different countries. I've never agreed with that, but I appreciate very much his dedication to trying to solve this genocide that's going on in Darfur and other things that Joe Biden has done. But we really have different approaches to many important national security issues. I look forward to whoever my running mate will be having a respectful debate with him on that as well.

COURIC: Where are you, Senator McCain, in the vice-presidential process?

From the August 24 edition of CBS News Sunday Morning:

DEAN REYNOLDS (CBS News correspondent): John McCain's campaign reacted critically, releasing a statement raising doubts about the pick more than an hour before it was even made official, and then following it up with an advertisement.

[begin video clip]

STEPHANOPOULOS: You said, "I think he can be ready, but right now, I don't believe he is. The presidency is not something that lends itself to on-the-job training."

BIDEN: I think I stand by the statement.

[end video clip]

REYNOLDS: McCain himself kept the pressure on in an interview yesterday afternoon with Katie Couric.

McCAIN [video clip]: Well, I've always respected Joe Biden, but I've disagreed with him from the time he voted against the first Gulf War to his position where he said you had to break Iraq up into three different countries. I've never agreed with that.

From the August 23 edition of Fox News' America's Election HQ:

ROVE: And most important of all, as we begin to examine the ideas, you know, particularly on foreign policy, I wonder if it's going stand up well to scrutiny. Barack Obama says John McCain is disqualified to be president by his judgment and supporting and voting for the Iraq war. Well, guess what? So did Joe Biden.

And some of the ideas that Biden has offered from his foreign policy perch are frankly a little goofy. You know, when the surge -- when there was an argument about the surge, he said, well -- his answer was to split the country into a Kurdish state, a Shia state, and a Sunni state. You know, the United States unilaterally splitting up a sovereign nation, Iraq, and telling everybody they had to move to their own geographically separate quarters. A little strange.

WALLACE: Yeah, it's interesting, because we got some reporting out of Iraq today, Karl, that one of the few subjects that all of the various ethnic and religious factions in Iraq agree about now is what a bad idea Joe Biden's tripartite splitting up of the country there would have been, and, as you say, the United States unilaterally dissolving a sovereign nation.

You talked about the weaknesses of Joe Biden. Now tell us about his strengths. If you're sitting there in the McCain camp, what about Joe Biden worries you?

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, War in Iraq
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel, CBS
Person
Chris Wallace, Katie Couric, Karl Rove
Stories/Interests
Joe Biden, John McCain, 2008 Elections
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