Lauer: Iraq Funding Cut Would Be 'Disaster'

Matt Lauer said the right thing. Was it for the wrong reason?

Discussing on this morning's "Today" with Tim Russert the current wrangling between the Bush administration and the Dem congress over a bill to fund the Iraq war and the Dems' attempt to include a "date certain" for troop withdrawal, Matt Lauer said:

"Robert Gates, the Defense Secretary, has said that sometime next month that the funding for troops on the ground will run out. So now we've got a very high stakes game of political chicken. And can you imagine the Democrats getting to a point where they actually stop the funding for troops on the ground? That would be a disaster, wouldn't it?"

View video here.

Russert took the question as a purely political one:

"Politically, they're [the Dems] obviously very fearful of that. On the other hand, the White House also realizes that if they are unrelenting in saying we want the money, no restrictions, no conditions, no non-binding resolutions; we are going to fight this war for as long as we want and will not accept any date certain or any kind of benchmark on the Iraqis, the Democrats think they can lay claim."

Bonus Coverage on Edwards Family: Later in the interview, Lauer, with considerable trepidation, asked Russert whether Elizabeth Edwards' illness might provide a political boost for her husband's campaign.

LAUER: I'm stalling a little bit here, because the question I want to ask you is one that's going to sound terribly inappropriate and I'm trying to figure out the right way to say it. Neither John nor Elizabeth Edwards asked for this. However, one of the facts that remains this morning is that John Edwards' picture is on the front page of the New York Times, the Washington Post, USA Today. And in some ways we have to ask the political question of what is the impact going to be on a campaign that was toiling in third place?"

RUSSERT: I think people see them as a couple of resolve. They look at them with some sympathy, with some compassion. And in politics, whenever you connect, whenever you relate, it is obviously of benefit.

I say Matt was right to broach the matter. In other "Today" segments, the appropriate sympathies were expressed and the medical implications analyzed. Thousands of families confront these kinds of situations every day. This family's situation is receiving extensive attention because John Edwards is a candidate for President of the United States. Mrs. Edwards' illness is likely to have a political impact, and as uncomfortable as it might be to raise, it can and should be discussed, which Matt did in a reasonable way.

Mark was in Iraq in November. Contact him at

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