NBC's Curry and Russert So Excited to Report Bad News on Iraq, Truth Gets in the Way

NBC is so giddy to report on Bush’s failures in Iraq, they’ll even spin the truth. On Friday’s Today, Ann Curry and Tim Russert deeply implied their shared beliefs on an incompetent, stubborn, and increasingly isolated Bush administration. Curry inquired, "just how extraordinary were the events of this week?"

They got so carried away in their Bush bashing, Tim Russert strayed from the truth claiming, "a new secretary of Defense says, no we’re losing in Iraq."

However, what incoming Defense Secretary Robert Gates actually said was that the United States is "not winning but, not losing." As fellow news analyst Michael Rule noted, CBS misquoted Robert Gates as well. The entire transcript is below.

Ann Curry: "Tim Russert is NBC's Washington bureau chief and the moderator of Meet the Press. Tim, good morning."

Tim Russert: "Good morning Ann."

Curry: "What a week this was Tim. First let's go over Tuesday at his confirmation hearings, hearing, the incoming secretary of Defense Robert Gates says the U.S. is not winning the war in Iraq. On Wednesday, the bipartisan Iraq Study Group releases a damning assessment, as we just heard, about the war in Iraq. And then on Thursday, at a news conference, the press confronts the president with being in denial. Put this into some perspective for us. Just how extraordinary were the events of this week?"

Russert: "Well, it's just amazing Ann. When you think about a month ago Donald Rumsfeld was the secretary of Defense. The president said we are making progress and winning the war. And, suddenly, all in the course of 72 hours, a new secretary of Defense says no, we're losing the war. A panel headed by former President Bush's secretary of State says that the situation is grave and deteriorating. And Prime Minister Blair says that that's exactly right. It's a very bleak situation. If nothing else, of all of these recommendations in the content of this report, the one thing that the American people heard this week and was embraced by their leadership, Democrat and Republican, is that the situation in Iraq is very, very bad."

Curry: "You know you mentioned the former secretary of State, you're talking about James Baker. How much having, does having his face on this report given all of his background as an advisor to the first Bush, President pose a problem for this presidency, for this administration?"

Russert: "Well, it's a hugely important position and the image is real. Here's James Baker who no one is closer to his father. And then you couple that with Ed Meese, who was the attorney general to Ronald Reagan, Sandra Day O'Connor the first woman ever on the Supreme Court appointed by Ronald Reagan, Alan Simpson the former senator from Wyoming, a friend of Dick Cheney's for forty years. This was not just a group of people that was cobbled together for the sake of finding a commission who would agree with one another. These people have very strong Republican credentials. The Democrats, headed by Lee Hamilton, have strong Democratic credentials but they were able to find and speak in a unanimous voice."

Curry: "Mean time, you know, this has got to be a tough time for the president. But, you know, we heard earlier on this program from Al Gore, earlier this week, that, that his recommendation to the president was simply to not take all of this personally. Is there a sense in Washington that the president is having such a time with, a tough time with this personally that it is making it difficult, is affecting his judgment over what to do next in Iraq?"

Russert: "Well, Ann there is no doubt about it that, that this president has invested everything in the Iraq War. The night he went to war, I suggested he bet his presidency on the outcome on the war in Iraq. And he's trying to will it through. It's very hard for a commander and chief, three and a half years in, not to understand why it has not been a clear cut victory. But I think the one thing that the president understands and his people understand, is that the status quo is not acceptable. You may not like all of the elements of Baker-Hamilton. You may reject some of the things the Pentagon or State Department are saying, but something has to change. When Lee Hamilton, the co-chairman of this committee, says it may be a matter of days before everything breaks loose on the ground in Iraq, something must be done to prevent total chaos and anarchy."

Curry: "But, on the other hand, Tim, let's just take a listen to what we heard, what Bill Bennett, a conservative commentary-tator, wrote about the report on Thursday. He wrote, 'in all my time in Washington I have never seen such smugness, arrogance, or such insufferable moral superiority, self-congratulatory, full of itself, horrible.' Do you think that conservatives, who supported this war, agree with Bennett's assessment? And how much do you think that might help the president if he backs away from some of these 79 recommendations?"

Russert: "There are some very outspoken conservatives, Bill Bennett, Rush Limbaugh, Bill Kristol, who are very outspoken about the commission, John McCain saying it's a recipe for potential loss. But the president, and the president will calculate their views, but overwhelmingly the American people now have a negative view of this war. Polls show it in the 70 percentiles Ann. And you cannot continue to have a country at war without the support of its people. The president has to change this equation. Not only with the American people, but he has to change the events on the ground in Iraq. And that's very difficult to do. The one thing that Prime Minister Maliki of Iraq said, and this report said, is that it's a political problem as much as a military problem."

Foreign Policy Iraq

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