NBC's Matt Lauer Signals New Line on Petraeus Report on Iraq: 'It Doesn't Matter'

The tide may be turning now with glimmers of good news emerging out of Iraq. On Thursday’s Today, Matt Lauer’s questions to John McCain signaled that success in Iraq won’t be an impediment to Democrats sticking with the doom line and demanding rapid "redeployment." Suddenly, the once-crucial Petraeus report in September is now developing into a so-what moment:

LAUER: "You, you've been in Congress a long time, in the Senate for an awfully long time. You now which way the wind is blowing. There are some people who say, Senator, that the momentum, right now, in Congress is so strong to pull the troops out of Iraq that it doesn't matter what's in that report, in the middle of September from General Petraeus, or even in reports that follow that. Even if we start to change momentum in Iraq and start to see more success, the momentum in Congress is already so strong that it's unstoppable. How do you feel about that?"

McCAIN: "We are, we are winning there. The strategy is succeeding. It's only been in place for a short time. The previous strategy, which I bitterly opposed and, and proposed this strategy caused Americans to be very frustrated and angry and sad at the sacrifice that's been made. This strategy is winning --"

LAUER: "But is it going to matter? Is it going to matter? Is Congress going to wait for it to take hold and, until we see true success?"

McCain said victory is essential, but it’s clearly not essential for Russert’s pundit stable. Lauer asked weird questions all over, not just these. He asked McCain to run down Mitt Romney’s sons for not serving in the military, asked if Barry Bonds had a tainted home run record, if Don Imus should be allowed back on the radio, and if McCain would steal glimpses at his teenage daughter’s diary or Facebook page. It almost made YouTube snowmen look like better interviewers.

On his national radio show Thursday night, Mark Levin was highlighting an interview on CNN’s American Morning with Senators Dick Durbin and Bobby Casey early on Wednesday. The senators acknowledged military success on the ground – and then shifted into saying the only thing that mattered was political and parliamentary progress. MRC’s Matthew Balan showed me this transcript, and it's worth noting that CNN anchor John Roberts draws out the point that the Dems are acknowledging military success:

ROBERTS: "Certainly, no one is questioning the dedication of the troops. What they are questioning is whether or not the troops are making any progress. Senator Durbin, Brookings Institution scholars Michael O’Hanlon and Ken Pollack were over there recently, wrote an editorial in ‘The New York Times,’ in which they said, yes, there is progress, and the progress is significant enough that U.S. troops should stay on the ground at least until the beginning of 2008. Did you see any of the progress that they were talking about?"

DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: "There were two important parts of this story, the military part as Senator Casey said, where men and women were doing their best and making real progress. We found that today as we went to a forward base, in an area that for, in the fifth year of the war, it's the first time that we're putting troops on the ground to intercept al Qaeda. But I have to tell you there's another side to this story that the Brookings Institution shouldn't miss. As we are seeing military progress, the political scene is very discouraging. We have seen this al Maliki government, which was once branded a government of national unity, coming apart. We see Shias leaving, Sunnis walking out. It’s not the kind of promise that we want, in terms of bringing stability to this country."

ROBERTS: "But hold on. Let me back you up there. You said you did see military progress?"

DURBIN: "Well, what we find is that the surge has troops going into areas, where for four and a half years, we have not seen our military in action. And naturally, they are routing out the al Qaeda in those areas. That's a good thing. But there is no evidence of the government of Iraq in these areas. There are no Iraqi policemen, no Iraqi soldiers. These are Americans."

ROBERTS: "I understand all of that. But Senator Durbin, everybody in the Democratic Party is saying that the surge has failed. Senator Casey, do you agree with your colleague that there are some signs of military progress here?"

BOB CASEY, JR. (D): "Sure, there are, John. And we have said from the beginning that our troops are doing their job. The problem here is that the President of the United States continues to insist on stay the course policy, no change in direction, no sense that the American people can determine that there's a light at the end of the tunnel. That's why I think there's a bipartisan agreement right now to change the course. I think the president should listen to the will of the American people."

Levin said a lot of what the Democrats said was hooey, especially Casey Junior’s insistence that the Democrats have said from the beginning that the troops are doing their job. Their job is to win the peace, and Democrats have never acknowledged that they are doing that.

But the CNN interview was fascinating, because the Democrats admitted military success, and then changed the subject. The media/Democrat complex used to smirk and say President Bush stubbornly ignored the facts on the ground and was not a member of the "reality-based community." Who’s looking stubbornly against facts now as the facts on the ground improve?

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