The show featured Iraq War hawks Senators Joseph Lieberman (I-Ct.) and John Cornyn (R-Tx.), both of whom support sending additional troops to Iraq—a position endorsed by 12 percent of the public, according to the most recent polling (USA Today/Gallup, 1/5-7/07). (In another question, Gallup did find 36 percent support for Bush's plan to increase troops—but only when the increase was described as "temporary," an odd word choice for a troop spike that administration officials say may last up to two years.)
Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), for example, argued that the number of additional U.S. troops being discussed was not large enough: "It's going to be a gradual escalation of troops. And if 20,000 is the total, it will probably be inadequate. To make a difference, I think you'd have a much larger force. And so, as a result, I think it's going to be a little too little and probably too late." Reed argued that "we need more American troops" to train Iraqi forces.
Rep. Heather Wilson (R-N.M) was not a strong defender of the White House's policy, but stressed instead that the U.S. should focus on its "very narrow national security objectives" and the "need to strengthen our counterinsurgency strategy."
PBS ombudsman Michael Getler recently lamented the fact that the debate on shows like the NewsHour represents the Beltway establishment instead of the public at large. As he wrote on the PBS website (1/5/07):
"A national debate or dialogue needs to be much broader and deeper than what has passed for on-air discussion so far, in my view. The 'on-the-one-hand/on-the-other hand' type of journalism that is much more common can be less than enlightening at times such as these when such an approach can result in only a narrow band of conventional thought being expressed, and when issues that not long ago seemed extreme—such as a more rapid troop withdrawal, or a big surge in new troops—are being discussed by those who argue that they are no longer extreme and need to be heard."In this case, the NewsHour opted for a peculiar type of balance: The one "extreme" of an increase in troops had two forceful advocates, but the "extreme" of withdrawal—which apparently includes most of the American public—was left without a voice.
Tell the NewsHour that the January 8 debate on the Iraq War should have included forceful advocates for withdrawal from Iraq. Encourage the program to broaden future discussions to include such voices.
PBS NewsHour with Jim Lehrer
Web form: http://www.pbs.org/ombudsman/feedback.html