Perhaps Katie Couric was only playing the reporter's role of devil's advocate, but one sensed she was speaking her own mind in interviewing Dem Rep. John Murtha on this morning's Today show.
And just what was on Katie's mind? That Iraq would dissolve into chaos and terror were the US to beat the kind of hasty retreat that Murtha advocates.
Murtha repeatedly praised the US military, but when it came down to it, flatly claimed that: "this mission is not something they can accomplish, not something they can do."
Murtha sought to distinguish between terrorism, of the type we fought in Afghanistan, and insurgency, of the kind we face in Iraq. His argument was that fighting insurgency amounts to nation-building that we cannot achieve.
Stretching at least this observer's credulity, Murtha claimed that if we withdrew as per his six-month timetable:
- violence in Iraq would decrease;
- the Iraqis - left to their own devices - would successfully "throw Al-Qaida out of there;" and
- Iraq would become "a safer place for democracy, for the region and for the United States."
Katie didn't seem to be buying:
"Let me give you the other side of the coin. What about the fact that there have been true political strides in Iraq: a constitution, an interim government, upcoming elections on December 15th. Many people say you have to look at that rather than incidences of violence."
She continued: "Furthermore, what about the argument that if the US withdraws prematurely, the country will dissolve into a bitter, terrible, extremely violent civil war. It will encourage instability throughout the region."
With her voice rising in a manner that indicated she was speaking her own mind, she suggested that "the United States will be seen as those who cut and run."
Murtha said that he believes "just the opposite" and asserted that "just because they say it doesn't make it so. They said there was an Al-Qaida connection before we went in, they said there were nuclear weapons . . . "
He was about to continue when a clearly agitated Couric cut him off: "but Congressman, what do you think will happen if the US pulls out?"
Murtha stuck to his guns: "I think there will be less terrorism. [The Iraqis are] a proud people. They're going to destroy Al-Qaida once we're done."
Katie continued to sound the alarum: "Are you afraid that a radical government will step into power in the vacuum, with the United States in its cross-hairs?"
He wasn't, and to the contrary repeated his proposal to "redeploy to the periphery" of Iraq.
What explains Couric's emphatic criticism of Murtha's cut-and-run strategy? Has moderation crept into Today? Is Katie serving as a stalking horse for Hillary? Too early to tell, but we'll certainly be keeping watch.