Media use announcement of new Afghanistan strategy to revive "Obama's war" label


Since President Obama's announcement of a new strategy in Afghanistan, the media have revived the label "Obama's war," despite Obama's having inherited the 7-year-old conflict.

While reporting on President Obama's announcement of a new strategy for American involvement in Afghanistan, several media outlets have revived the label "Obama's war," despite the fact that the conflict began more than seven years ago under President Bush, who was criticized for alleged mismanagement of the conflict and diversion of resources to Iraq.

The label is not new. Numerous media outlets have previously referred to the conflict in Afghanistan as "Obama's war" including USA Today and The New York Times, which used the label in their headlines. But in the last 24 hours, several media outlets have reacted to Obama's new strategy by referring to the conflict in that way. As Politico senior political writer Ben Smith noted, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) forwarded the phrase in a March 27 post on his Twitter page: "Listning Prez on FOX anounce his Afhgan stategy Now it bcomes Obama War Not Bush war any longer."

The media have also again adopted this label. For example:

  • In a March 26 article headlined " 'Obama's war' -- New troops, new plan," chief political correspondent Mike Allen and reporter Alexander Burns attributed the phrase to an unnamed "official": " 'He's gone all in,' said an official briefed on the plan. 'This is Obama's war. He's pushed all the chips to the center of the table.' "

However, a later version of the article removed the quote but retained the original headline, with "Obama's war" in quotations.

  • On the March 27 edition of MSNBC Live, Hardball host Chris Matthews led off his report on Obama's new strategy by stating, "Obama's war: In less than half an hour, President Barack Obama unveils his new strategy for Afghanistan." The on-screen text that aired echoed Matthews' phrase:

During NBC News chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd's response, the following graphic appeared, again titled "Afghanistan: Obama's War":

  • Similarly, later in the day, MSNBC Live aired a caption that included the phrase "Afghanistan: Obama's War":

  • During the March 27 edition of Fox & Friends, while reporting on Obama's new strategy announcement, Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace stated, "I think it's fair to say that this afternoon, Afghanistan becomes Barack Obama's war."

From the March 27 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:

WALLACE: Good morning. We will be talking about the war in Afghanistan, as a matter of fact -- the perfect segue. And the president is going to, after all this focus on the economy -- is going to announce major plans for Afghanistan. He's going to send more troops there. He's going to spend a lot more money, tens of billions of dollars more, and I think it's fair to say that this afternoon, Afghanistan becomes Barack Obama's war. Well, we will be talking this weekend to the secretary of defense, Robert Gates. Also, an exclusive interview with the Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper. Canada, of course, has sent a lot of troops over there, suffered some terrible losses. They're planning to pull all of their troops out of there by 2011, and we'll ask the prime minister about that.

From the March 27 edition of MSNBC Live:

MIKA BRZEZINSKI (Morning Joe co-host): And now Chris Matthews continues our coverage. Thank you, Willie.

MATTHEWS: Obama's war: In less than half an hour, President Barack Obama unveils his new strategy for Afghanistan. More troops, more diplomats, more aid workers, and billions more dollars. Good morning, I'm Chris Matthews.

Mr. Obama taking ownership of the war in Afghanistan in what may turn out to be the biggest foreign policy gamble of his young presidency. Can he stabilize that country and take out the Taliban? And what about the crisis next door in nuclear-armed Pakistan? And what about the hunt for Osama bin Laden? Also, the implications for the president's domestic agenda. Just how much are the American people willing to sacrifice overseas while the economy's hurting here at home? Full team coverage during in this hour. That plus breaking news -- we'll go live to the banks of the Red River, where homes are being evacuated this morning as the waters rise to record levels and start to overwhelm those flood protection walls.

Let's begin with more on the president's plan for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Chuck Todd is NBC News political director and chief White House correspondent. Chuck, a note of great concern this morning as we begin this new policy. Those of us who grew up in the '60s and remember it wonder whether -- when John Kennedy became president and saying we weren't going to fight for Laos but we were going to fight for Vietnam, thereby beginning our long involvement in that war. Barack Obama is taking ownership of the war in Afghanistan, having said very little about the war in Iraq. Is he now becoming the war president in Afghanistan?

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