The Politico doubles down on Iraq

A day after one false report, here comes another.

By Tim Grieve
November 14, 2007 5:03PM (UTC)
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What is it with the Politico and Iraq?

A day after claiming -- falsely -- that the Democrats are "zero-for-40" when it comes to getting war-limiting measures passed by both houses of Congress, the Politico is now reporting -- again, falsely -- that "no Democrat who has previously supported a troop withdrawal timetable has switched sides and voted against such a policy."


In fact, Democratic Sens. Chris Dodd, Ben Nelson and Mark Pryor have done just that. On April 26, 2007, Dodd, Nelson and Pryor all voted in favor of a bill that would have tied funding for the war to a timetable for ending it. Then, on Sept. 21, 2007, Dodd, Nelson and Pryor voted against a bill that would have started a timetable for the withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq.

To be fair, Dodd said he switched sides because he didn't think the legislation he opposed went far enough in stopping the war. Nelson and Pryor? So far as we can tell, they just switched sides. Indeed, the Politico specifically notes that Nelson "supports a change in mission but not a mandatory troop withdrawal." It just doesn't bother to mention that he voted in favor of a troop withdrawal back in April.

To its credit, the Politico has finally gotten around to acknowledging that it was wrong when it reported yesterday that the Democrats are "zero-for-40" in getting limits on the president's warring approved by both houses of Congress. After fixing the story sub silentio yesterday, the Politico now has an update posted at the bottom of it saying that the original account "inaccurately stated that none of the 40 Democratic efforts to limit the Iraq war cleared Congress." Of course, by the time that "update" went up -- in journalism, they call it a "correction" -- ABC's "The Note," NBC's "First Read," the Drudge Report and Politico's own Mike Allen had all passed along the Politico's "zero-for-40" statistic as if it were fact.


But we don't mean to beat up on the Politico. The Iraq debate can be confusing, especially if you're not really paying attention. And if you need proof of that, check out these sentences from consecutive paragraphs in today's Politico report:

"So far, the Democrats' message continues to be that the Bush 'surge' has been somewhat successful in reducing violence ..."

"Democrats also refuse to give Bush any credit for the improved security situation in Iraq ..."


Update: A spokesman for Nelson tells us that the Nebraska Democratic has been consistent in opposing a timetable for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. While the spokesman acknowledges that Nelson voted for the April 2007 bill that tied funding for the war to a timetable for redeploying troops, he says Nelson did so only as part of a "deal" to get "benchmarks" for the Iraqi government included in the measure. What Nelson said at the time: "We were also successful in retaining the Senate language calling for soft dates for redeployment rather than the hard deadlines imposed by the House bill. I do not support arbitrary dates for withdrawal, but this legislation represents a compromise that establishes that the American and Iraqi governments must undertake a political, economic and diplomatic strategy to provide stability in Iraq."

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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