ABC's Raddatz Recoils from True Political Leadership

“So?” It may become the word that defines Dick Cheney.

Much to the chagrin of ABC's Martha Raddatz, Vice President Richard Cheney dismissed the importance of an ABC poll finding that two thirds of Americans think the Iraq war “was not worth fighting.”

Every election cycle we hear politicians claim they make decisions according to their core principles and judgment about what's best for the country, not according to the latest opinion polls.   Apparently Raddatz doesn't place much value on independent, principled thinking in politicians, at least in relation to a war despised by the liberal media.

Media coverage of the Iraq war has been skeptical and often hostile to the U.S. effort for the full five years of the conflict, as documented by MRC's Rich Noyes. 

Interviewing Cheney in Oman on Wednesday, March 19, the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, Raddatz advanced the ABC poll findings apparently to suggest that the U.S. should withdraw from the country.

Cheney responded by pointing out the “fundamental change and transformation and improvement” in Iraq, and gently tweaking the correspondent: “I think even you would admit that.”

Raddatz quickly got away from the progress in Iraq, pointing back to the poll findings and arguing that Americans oppose the war because its costs outweigh its benefits.  Cheney, perhaps thinking that the media routinely inform the public about the war's costs but rarely the benefits, responded with a single word: “So?”

Raddatz responded, “So? You don't care what the American people think?” 

Cheney drove it home: “No, I think you cannot be blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion polls.”

Network news coverage of the fifth anniversary of the Iraq invasion, March 19, emphasized the financial and human cost of the war, but said nothing of the benefits.  CBS's Katie Couric reported the U.S. casualty figures, nearly 4,000 dead and more than 29,000 wounded, and CBS interviewed the families of several fallen U.S. soldiers.  NBC's Jim Miklaszewski pointed out that the war has cost $600 billion, or 10 times the original estimate.  ABC reported that 80,000 Iraqi civilians have died (no mention of how many of these, probably the vast majority, were killed by al Qaeda and its allies) and interviewed three Iraqis whose lives have been disrupted by the war.

The nets also acknowledged that conditions have improved in Iraq, with NBC's Richard Engel reporting that the number of guerrilla attacks dropping from a peak of 210 a day in February 2007 to just 65 a day this month.  However, not a single network news program mentioned any benefit, short term or long term, the war may be providing to the United States, Iraq, or the world.

Here's the full transcript of ABC's interview with Cheney.

Raddatz: Two thirds of Americans say it was not worth fighting.

Cheney:  They ought to go spend time like you and I have, Martha. You know what's been happening in Iraq. You've been there as much as anybody. There has, in fact, been fundamental change and transformation and improvement for the better. I think even you would admit that.

Raddatz:  Let me go back to the Americans. Two thirds of Americans say it's not worth fighting. And they're looking at the value gain versus the cost in American lives, certainly, and Iraqi lives.

Cheney: So?

Raddatz: So? You don't care what the American people think?

Cheney: No, I think you cannot be blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion polls.

Or by an interviewer with an agenda.

Brian Fitzpatrick is senior editor at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.