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Running His Mouth

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The president says it was a State of the Union slip-up, but Greg Sargent reviews all the times that Bush has referred to the "Democrat Party."

How far can a beat reporter go in discussing the Iraq war? "Nightline" co-anchor Terry Moran ponders the issue:

"The New York Times has publicly reprimanded reporter Michael Gordon--a great journalist, author of the definitive Iraq War book Cobra II--for saying in a television interview that he thinks the US can still win the war.

"Gordon was on The Charlie Rose Show on January 8th and was asked if he believed 'victory was within our grasp.' Included in Gordon's answer was this statement:

"'So I think, you know, as a purely personal view, I think it's worth it [sic] one last effort for sure to try to get this right, because my personal view is we've never really tried to win. We've simply been managing our way to defeat. And I think that if it's done right, I think that there is the chance to accomplish something.'

"The Times' public editor, Byron Calame, brought readers' complaints about what Gordon had said to the paper's editors. Philip Taubman, the paper's Washington Bureau Chief, decided Gordon had violated a basic principle, writing in an e-mail Calame made public:

"'I would agree with you that he stepped over the line on the 'Charlie Rose' show. I have discussed the appearances with Michael and I am satisfied that the comments on the Rose show were an aberration. They were a poorly worded shorthand for some analytical points about the military and political situation in Baghdad that Michael has made in the newspaper in a more nuanced and unopinionated way. He agrees his comments on the show went too far.'

"All this raises some interesting questions for those of us in the media, and for the public we serve. Should reporters want the US to win the war in Iraq? Whatever their personal judgment, should reporters say whether or not they believe the US can win the war? What role, if any, should patriotism play in the reporting of the United States at war?"

And how far should presidential candidates go in tackling the war? Washington Monthly's Kevin Drum is growing impatient:

"Obama's description of his legislation very carefully avoids any mention of funding other than to explicitly say that it ' does not affect the funding for our troops in Iraq.' (Italics mine.) Without that, he must know that his legislation is almost certainly futile.

"I realize that in one sense this is all meaningless since George Bush will veto legislation of any kind that mandates an end to the war, whether it includes a funding cutoff or not. Still, I can't help but get the feeling that this bill is carefully crafted to sound a lot more ag[g]ressive than it really is. If Obama is serious about getting us out of Iraq, why not include the one thing that everyone agrees is a bulletproof way of accomplishing his goal?

"As you may recall, I had the same complaint about his healthcare speech last week. I hope this isn't a trend. Walter Mondale managed to crush Gary Hart pretty thoroughly in 1984 with his slogan 'Where's the Beef,' and I wonder if Obama is opening himself up to the same kind of attack this year."

How many people remember that Where's the Beef was a takeoff on a Wendy's ad, deriding its hamburger rivals?


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