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Fox News Goes to War Against Troop Pull-out

Reported by Judy - November 19, 2005

Fox News Channel on Saturday (November 19, 2005) used one of its financial shows to try to drown out Americans' call for bringing troops home from Iraq, which at last was given voice in Friday's debate in the U.s. House. Brenda Buttner's "Bulls and Bears" tried to rally the stock market and viewers around President Bush's failed "stay-the-course" disaster in Iraq.

At the start of the show, Buttner promoted the discussion with typical Fox News' over-the-top rhetoric delivered in an urgent tone. "Will a troop pull out mean a stock sell off? ... What happens to stocks if we cut and run before a total victory? The market fall out if we pull out now."

Gary Kaltbaum of Kaltbaum & Associates responded to Buttner's hype, saying "of course" the impact would be negative for stocks. "Look we will lose our standing in the free world. Everybody will look at us as losers at that point in time and the comfort you're giving to the enemies. Al Qaeda is going to be partying in their caves and the potential for terrorists to take over the oil and more terrorism around the world, the repercissions around the world, you can't even start."

Gary B. Smith tried to focus the discussion on the market, not politics. "The market, as it has been doing all along with Iraq, it kind of shrugs its shoulders and says OK, that's one less thing we have to worry about. That's a few less dollars we have to worry about. That's a few billion less dollars we have to spend overseas. I think the market goes up. I think it just says OK, let's move on," he said.

Buttner didn't want to let that stand. "They're talking about getting out now. The market just shrugs its shoulders?"
Smith stuck to its guns, saying the pull-out is not going to be over night, as Buttner implied it would be, and that the market would adjust and probably "springs right up." In other word, the market would go up, not down.

Gary Olstein of Olstein Associates, agreed there wold bge "short-term confusion" in the market, but added, "We're not toally pulling out. we're going to have to guard the oil. Basically, the markets then move on to the next event. We're going to always have people there."

Buttner would not give up. "If we effectively surrender, what do stocks do? Surrender as well?"

Tobin Smith, who can always be counted on to bite on anything Buttner is dishing out, claimed the Democrats were proposing a "fairy tale" that would take oil to $85 or $90. a barrel. "The reality is, we made a five, ten-year commitment to this thing. We're in. Pulling out is preposterous. We have our brothers in arms, the Iraqis, if we pull out, I think that's just crap. It's not a laughing matter about the idea of pulling out and leaving people on the hook," he said.

There was some confusion over who was laughing, but Buttner went to the only cool head on the program week in and week out, Pat Dorsey. "Political repercussions aside, it does mean less spending. That should at least mean a reduction in the growth rate of the deficit, if not a reduction in the deficit in general. That's positive for the economy because we right now we have been spending beyond our means," he said.

But Buttner was ready. "Of course, that also means less stimulus to the economy and Wall Street doesn't like that," she said, one of the few times Fox News has admitted that government spending can be good for the economy.

Meanwhile, throughout the discussion, Fox News has been employing a split screen to show U.S. troops firing weapons, on patrol, and everything except being wounded or dying. At the same time, the chryon at the bottom read, "Will stocks sell off if we cut and run in Iraq?"

Scott Bleier must have been listening closely because he didn't miss his cue. "Less spending is less stimulus," he said, before going back to the political repercussions, rather than the economic ones, saying, "All hell will break loose. There will be a massive civil war in Iraq and the next step will be the Saudi oil fields and I think that's the biggest problem." All hell, of course, has been pretty much breaking out all over except for the green zone.

Having touched bases with everyone, it was back to Kaltbaum. "These terrorists are going to be partying. They're going to decide to come after us again. The implications of the future for what these people want to do. All these people want to do is destroy, maim and murder. The implications are out there and something should be done. We should not cut and run. It's crazy," he said.

Meanwhile, the chyron read, "Cut and Run Disaster?" Buttner added to the tone of hysteria. "Doesn't this mean we are effectively abdicating the war on terror?"

Of course not, since the war in Iraq has nothing to do with the war on terror and nothing to do with 9/11. Tobin Smith, however, pretended to have some first-hand knowledge of the situation, saying that conversations with U.S. allies and with troops in the field stress staying up. "The men and women over there say finish the job, and our people better listen."

Again being way too cool and rational for this crowd, said, "I kthink the question is, what is finishing the job? I mean, there's a democratically elected government in there. The insurgency is not going to go away any time soon because they're the folks who were in power and now they're not in power and that won't change if we're there or if we pull out. ... "

In some cross-talk, someone said, "So you're saying, the job is to give Iraq back to Iraq." "It's already back to them," said Dorsey.

Kaltman wouldn't give up. "Our standing in the free world of us cutting and running and abandoning the people that risked their lives to vote for democracy in Iraq with their purple thumbs. I don't see how that cannot affect markets or the economy. We will look bad across the globe," he said.

Buttner then asked the question she should have asked at the beginning: whether they themselves would do anything different if the U.S. began beginning troops home. "The answer is no," said Gary B. Smith.

The entire discussion is a demonstration of the way Fox News stacks the deck against having a truly balanced discussion. It is a mostly, if not exclusive, Republican panel, although Dorsey shows signs of independence if not of being a Democrat. The debate is framed in terms of an extreme course of action phrased in the most negatve terms possible -- "cut and run" counterpoised to "total victory." The pro-administration line is subtly reinforced with images on the screen and by slant of the moderator's "questions." No one with any relevant information is involved. Tobin Smith's purported conversations with allies are ridiculous. I wouldn't be surprised if most of his conversations take place in martini bars with 20-somethings. And of course, the whole issue is only marginally relevant to what the show is supposed to be about -- picking stocks.

Totally absent from the discussion, of course, was what the Iraqi people want. And they want us out, according to this poll. We should oblige them and do what Henry Kissinger did in Vietnam: Declare victory and withdraw.

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