ABC Finds Soldiers in Iraq Backing Candidates: Obama and Clinton

ABC, which wasn't so interested in 2004 in reporting overwhelming military support for President Bush over John Kerry, on Monday night aired a story on how soldiers in Iraq are split between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton -- with only an afterthought about how “some” prefer John McCain. Relating how “only moments before we talked to them, these troops had been listening to Vice President Cheney give a rousing speech,” but Cheney “didn't change their political preference,” Raddatz played clips from two soldiers backing Obama and two supporting Clinton.

Those endorsing one of the Democrats echoed common campaign themes as Obama's supporters asserted Obama “has our better interests in mind” and “he represents change” while the Clinton backers declared “that her husband did a good job as President” and “that we should have a gradual draw down,” but Raddatz chose to air just this one soundbite from the McCain supporter with a rather narrow self-interest: “Well, Republicans paid my paycheck this far. Might as well keep it going.”

The November 2, 2004 MRC CyberAlert item, “Most in Military Back Bush, But ABC and CBS Avoid that Reality,” recounted:
Though it's illegal to poll the military about their voting choices, a National Annenberg Election Survey found that when those in the active duty military were "asked whom they would trust more to handle the responsibility of commander-in-chief, 69 percent...preferred Bush to 24 percent for Kerry" while 69 percent had a favorable view of Bush compared to just 29 percent for Kerry. But on Monday night, CBS and ABC managed to avoid conveying that presidential preference in stories on Marines in Iraq preparing for an assault on Fallujah. CBS's Kimberly Dozier asserted that "most" of the Marines "didn't even know Election Day was almost here." A Lance Corporal declared: "I really don't have any favorites right now. They both got their pluses and their minuses."

ABC's Jim Sciutto, however, found the Marines very aware of the election with "many" having "voted three weeks ago" by absentee ballot. Sciutto featured a political comment from one Marine who echoed Ralph Nader: "I hope that the people try to make the decision on who to vote for take into consideration that this conflict needs to end. And it needs to end now."...
The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video to provide this transcript of the story on the Monday, April 7 World News on ABC:
CHARLES GIBSON: We have heard a great deal from voters in this campaign season. But one block of voters we haven't heard from much are the men and women stationed in Iraq. The war is their key issue, of course, but it's not the only one. ABC's Martha Raddatz has talked with many of the troops about whom they support and why.

MARTHA RADDATZ: The military is not supposed to engage in partisan political activity, making these endorsements by troops in Iraq all the more striking. Who do you want for President?


RADDATZ: And why?

SLATE: Because I think he has our better interests in mind. Yes.

RADDATZ: He wants to pull out of Iraq right away.

SLATE: Yes, so.

RADDATZ: You do, too?

SLATE: Well, that would be nice. I'd like to be home. Yes.



GLOVER: Because I think that her husband did a good job as President.

RADDATZ: Only moments before we talked to them, these troops had been listening to Vice President Cheney give a rousing speech. But he didn't change their political preference.


RADDATZ: And why?

LOTO: I think he, it will be something different.

RADDATZ: He wants to pull out of Iraq.

LOTO: Pull me out, too.

FIRST SERGEANT DAVID LOGAN, U.S. ARMY: I'm leaning towards Hillary. I think that we should have a gradual drawdown.

RADDATZ: Who are you supporting for President?


RADDATZ: And why?

KELLER: He represents a change.

RADDATZ: There were some McCain backers. Why is that?

SENIOR AIRMAN JEDIDIAH BRYAN, U.S. ARMY: Why? Well, Republicans paid my paycheck this far. Might as well keep it going.

RADDATZ: On visits to Iraq and Afghanistan, we found that U.S. troops are following the presidential race and the issues closely -- issues far beyond the wars they are fighting.

SPECIALIST MATTHEW DURKIN, U.S. ARMY: I'd have to say that education back in the states is one of my main concerns.

UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: The economy is a big part. Things like gas prices and looking at the environment and what we're going to be leaving to our children.

RADDATZ: These soldiers, deployed here a year ago, some of them for the second or third time.

SERGEANT JUSTIN SARBAUM, U.S. ARMY: Iran, obviously, a big issue. Here in Iraq for my third time as, you know, is starting another world right now, is that really necessary?

RADDATZ: Immigration. Where does that stand with you?

SPECIALIST GUY ANDREASON, U.S. ARMY: I think that's a big deal. As far as illegal immigrants coming over here and, you know, working under the table.

LIEUTENANT DANIEL HARTMAN, U.S. ARMY: My platoon sergeant, for example, he was born in Mexico. Immigrants do contribute to our society. But I think a lot of people forget that. They just focus on the problem.

RADDATZ: At this remote outpost in Afghanistan, where these soldiers have also spent the last year, many of the same concerns.

LIEUTENANT LEAH WICKS, U.S. ARMY: We do think about, you know, how our family's doing back home. And so that's, those are major concerns, like how the economy is doing and also, as well as, you know, where we're going to be in the future.

RADDATZ: These opinions are likely to matter. In 2004, 73 percent of the U.S. military voted for a presidential candidate. Officials believe it may be even higher this time around. Martha Raddatz, ABC News, with U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The online version of the Raddatz story, with video of it.
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center