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Fox News' Goler Misleading, Muddled on Bush Iraq Flip-Flop

Reported by Judy - October 25, 2006 -

Fox News White House correspondent Wendell Goler reported Tuesday (October 24, 2006) on the Bush administration's October surprise on Iraq -- a plan to cut U.S. troops there within 12 to 18 months -- but Goler's report was so muddled and full of misinformation that viewers probably stopped listening after a few seconds.

Goler ostensibly was supposed to provide information about statements by General George Casey, the U.S. commander in Iraq, that Iraqi security forces could take over security for that country in 12 to 18 months.

Here's what Goler said:

"General Casey says he thinks Iraqis could take the lead within the next year and half, but he says they will still need the support of U.S. troops. U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad says the country’s leaders have agreed to a time-line for making some political decisions and security improvements, but General Casey’s prediction is not part of the time line and a time line, officials here say, is not a deadline.

"And General Casey’s prediction is not a part of the prepared remarks for the president’s speech as he campaigns for a Republican Congressional candidate in Sarasota, Florida. He could refer to it if he likes, but the betting is against it.

"Mr. Bush has characterized all of the Democrats’ calls to set some time frame for withdrawing U.S. troops for Iraq, as 'cut and run,' a phrase the Democrats hate. They have responded by branding the administration’s policy as 'stay the course,' a phrase Press Secretary Tony Snow says President Bush will no longer use because Snow says it doesn’t reflect the flexibility of U.S.. strategy in iraq.

"Snow says the Americans and Iraqis have set a bench mark, a number of bench marks for the country to achieve, but not with the threat of some punishment if the Iraqis fail.”

After airing a brief tape of Snow saying the administration sat down with a "clean sheet of paper," Goler picked up his report again.

"Military officials were saying at the end of last year they thought they security situation would be such that the U.S. could cut the troop deployment in Iraq below 100,000 by the end of this year. The president, who gave a series of speeches trying to rebuild support for the war at the end of last year, made no reference to the hopes of reducing the troop levels. In fact, it turned out the insurgency and increased secetarian violence forced officials to add 6 or 7,000 troops to about 140,000 in Iraq, to what it is now.”

Is Goler intentionally trying to obfuscate the situation or is he just inept? His sing-song delivery of the line about Casey's time-line not being part of the Iraqi time-line and the time-line not beng a deadline, with its repetition of the same words over and over, is confusing and has the effect of causing viewers to tune-out what he is saying.

When Goler repeatedly tells the viewer that this change in plans is "not a timeline" and "not" in Bush's speech, and "not" this and "not" that, he really is telling the viewer that the information is not very important. By stressing what it is not rather than what it is, Goler undermines the significance of the information he is supplying, thus reassuring Fox News Bush audience that Bush is not flip-flopping.

Furthermore, Goler was out and out wrong with his statement that Democrats have called the administration's Iraq plan "stay the course." Bush himself has used that phrase over and over. It is not a Democratic invention. The administration, though, has tried to distance itself from the phrase, as Media Matters has noted. Fox News is the administration's willing whore in that effort.

And then there was that digression about Bush's speeches at the end of last year not mentioning military projections about cutting troop levels last year. That was nothing but filler, taking up time that Goler otherwise might have had to spend discussing something like, oh, I don't know, the timing of Casey's announcement two weeks before the midterm elections.

MacCallum, of course, did not press Goler on any of these points. When she went to Fox News military analyst Bob Scales, MacCallum also failed to ask him the "Why now?" question.

Together, MacCallum and Goler make a good team. Goler provides a nearly incomprehensible report filled with irrelevant information so that Fox News can say it reported the latest development on Iraq, and MacCallum fails to ask any follow-up questions.