Today Taunts White House "Rhetoric vs. Reality," Highlights Sad Sack Iraqi

The truce is over. It's war again.

No, I'm not speaking of the situation on the battleground in Iraq. I'm referring to the Today show's attitude toward the Bush administration and the war in Iraq. In recent posts, here, here and here, I'd noted a surprising moderation in Today's tone.

But this morning, it was back to good old Bush-administration bashing. The segment's essence was a questioning of the administration's truthfulness. "Rhetoric vs. Reality" read the on-screen graphic, asking "When Can U.S. Troops Come Home?"

With a little help from his friend Katie Couric, NBC reporter Jim Miklaszewski narrated the segment.

Couric introduced him by noting that this is "a deadly time for US troops," and Miklaszewski began his report by echoing that notion.

As the total number of US dead and wounded were displayed on screen, Miklaszewski observed: "those American casualties continue to climb."

Well, true. But then again, how could the total number of dead and wounded ever decline?

Then it was on to a gloomy take on the training of the Iraqi military. Of all the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi soldiers, Today chose to play a clip of one who was a caricature of a skinny sad sack, literally being pushed by his US trainer.

We were next treated to a clip of John Murtha claiming the US military has become "the enemy" in Iraq.

NBC employee, retired Lt. Col. Rick Francona, was then briefly brought in to intone that: "most people are disappointed with the progress of Iraqi forces in the field."

Ret. Gen. Barry McCaffrey, another NBC employee, was then heard from: "the prolonged war has put tremendous stress on US military forces, with many headed back to Iraq for their third or fourth tours. That will affect the families' willingness to commit to re-enlistment or staying in the armed services."

And of course no Today show Bush-administration bashing would be complete without some sniping from John McCain.

Miklaszewski, noting that McCain was a Republican, played a clip of him blasting Donald Rumsfeld in these terms: "We paid a very heavy price in American blood and treasure because of the Secretary of Defense's failure to recognize the obvious."

Miklaszewski stated that McCain was one of many who criticize the administration for "underestimating the potential strength of the Iraqi insurgency and not providing enough American troops to finish the war at the very start:"

Miklaszewski seemed ready to finish by sounding this pessimistic note: "And even if troop withdrawals begin soon there could still be as many as 100,000 American forces in Iraq by the end of next year; tens of thousands for the next 2-5 years."

But Katie wasn't quite ready to let Jim end the gloom-a-thon, asking this follow-up:

"Many people are asking the question why it's taken so long for Iraqi forces to be adequately trained?"

Mik replied that US civil administrator Paul Bremer had disbanded the Iraqi military right after the war and that we therefore had to start from scratch.

Added Mik: "The bigger problem is the Iraqi police. Many police forces are infiltrated or even taken over by local militias."

Katie 'helpfully' suggested: "Isn't fear playing a part in this too, Mik? They're afraid there'll be repercussions against them by the insurgency?"

Perhaps by this point grown tired of the script, Jim ended with a bit of a push back at Couric, noting that despite all the problems, there are still "more [Iraqi] recruits than they can train at any one time."

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