THE BLOG
01/20/2007 12:31 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The Mainstream Media's Take on Iraq: Right, Left... And Dead Wrong

Divorced from the reality of what's going on in Iraq. Wedded to a deluded perception of the war. Unwilling to acknowledge widespread and irrefutable evidence to the contrary. Sound like anyone you know? No, I'm not talking about President Bush -- though it's certainly true of him as well. I'm talking about the mainstream media, and their relentless depiction of the Iraq war as a left/right issue, even as the facts give lie to this hoary framing.

According to a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll, 60 percent of Americans oppose Bush's escalation of the war, and 65 percent want to "withdraw right away" or "withdraw within a year." Other polls reach the same conclusion: Iraq is simply not a right vs. left issue.

But you'd never know it from watching the pundits on television.

Here's Howard Fineman on Countdown with Keith Olbermann: "...that's the tension that people like Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and Joe Biden are caught in as they try to move to the left on the war without taking themselves out of the mainstream of the country."

Of course, what Fineman means by "left on the war" is being in favor of ending the war, and against Bush's handling of it. No Democrats need worry that taking those positions will take them out of the mainstream.

But don't tell that to Candy Crowley. Here was her cobweb-covered analysis of Ted Kennedy's anti-escalation measure: "What Senator Kennedy is going to do is lay down the liberal view of things, which is to say, he will say, look, no additional troops and no additional money for additional troops, unless Congress approves."

The "liberal view of things"? More like the view of things of almost two-thirds of the nation.

Likewise, Judy Woodruff on Meet the Press, saying Iraq is "a huge problem for the Democrats. Their base wants the United States out of Iraq yesterday." So anyone who wants out of Iraq belongs to the Democratic base? Someone should give Howard Dean a raise for doubling the size of the party.

What makes this moldy messaging so disturbing is that ferreting out the truth of the matter wouldn't involve complex analysis. It would just require a glance at Capitol Hill.

Is Chuck Hagel, co-sponsor (along with Carl Levin and Joe Biden) of the Senate resolution condemning Bush's surge plan, a "liberal?" Is he "left on the war"? Is he "part of the Democratic base"? Is he "out of the mainstream"?

Or how about North Carolina Congressman Walter Jones? After enthusiastically supporting the war, Jones has become a harsh critic of Bush's Iraq policy. According to the media framing, that would make Jones a "liberal," right? But he's actually the proud owner of a 93 percent rating from the American Conservative Union for his seven-term voting record.

Then there's Sen. Sam Brownback, who, upon returning from Iraq earlier this month, announced, "I do not believe that sending more troops to Iraq is the answer. Iraq requires a political rather than a military solution." This flaming liberal has a 100 percent rating from the American Conservative Union, and is considered one of that group's "Best of the Bests." On Monday, Brownback will speak at the second annual conference of pro-life bloggers in Washington. Boy, are the pro-lifers going to be shocked when someone as "liberal" as Brownback shows up.

When the macro framing of the war is so warped, it makes productive discussion of how to deal with Iraq even harder. The encouraging thing is that while so many in the mainstream media continue to believe that being in favor of ending the war means you're a "left-winger" and "out of the mainstream," a growing number of politicians don't.

How long will it take for the media to recognize reality and drop their outdated, obsolete, and thunderingly inaccurate framing of the war debate?

Iraq is not about right and left. It's about right and wrong -- and the vast majority of the public clearly knows this. It's time for the media to catch up.