Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Withdrawing From Debate On Iraq

Public's view too 'extreme' for media discussion

The forthcoming report from the independent Iraq Study Group, which according to press reports will possibly recommend a gradual and tentative withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq while rejecting any deadlines or timetables to carry it out, seems likely to further marginalize advocates of meaningful troop withdrawal in the media debate over Iraq.

The group, led by Bush family friend and ally James Baker and former U.S. Rep. Lee Hamilton, will reportedly recommend a staged pullback of troops, with further withdrawal dependent on certain advances by the Iraqi government. The group apparently rejected any firm timetables. But as Time magazine notes this week (12/11/06 ), the commission's report will likely dominate media discussion of Iraq, with "several days of nonstop interviews on every media outlet, network and cable-TV station—a media blitz that will run well into the Sunday-morning news programs."

That "media blitz" seems more likely to embrace the narrow range of debate among elites than the sentiments of the public. According to the 2006 exit polls, 55 percent of voters prefer that the U.S. withdraw some or all of its troops from Iraq, a finding consistent with other major opinion polls. And a recent Pew poll (11/9-12/06) found that respondents who favored a timetable outnumbered those opposed by 56 percent to 36 percent.

Immediately following the midterm elections, though, many in the media sought to eliminate the prospect of troop withdrawal from serious discussion. The Washington Post's editorial page (11/14/06 ) weighed in against Rep. John Murtha's bid to become majority leader, claiming that Murtha's call for the redeployment of U.S. troops from Iraq is "an extreme step that most congressional Democrats oppose." That is hard to square with the fact that about half the Democrats in Congress have co-sponsored Murtha's resolution (ThinkProgress, 11/14/06).

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