COMMENTS: Beltway & Baghdad

The war in Iraq was Story of the Day as all three networks covered a pair of angles. CBS led with the plan by Congressional Democrats to insist on a fixed date for withdrawing US troops. NBC led with Gen David Petraeus, the commander of occupation troops in Baghdad, countering that the deployment would be long drawn out. ABC did not lead with Iraq--it chose a fatal family fire in The Bronx instead--but covered both the Democrats and Petraeus anyway.

NBC's Williams started his newscast with a promo for an Exclusive one-on-one tomorrow with the four-star general who has the reputation as "the smartest general in all of the USArmy…a new warrior and a new thinker." Williams' interview was upstaged by Petraeus' decision to go ahead with the first open press conference of his tenure in Baghdad. NBC and CBS covered it from Baghdad, ABC from the Pentagon. Petraeus presented plenty of contradictory options for reporters to focus on.

NBC's Richard Engel noted Petraeus' decision to underplay the importance of his troop build-up: "There is no military solution to the insurgency of Iraq," Petraeus declared, as he advocated political talks with insurgent forces. CBS' Lara Logan concentrated on Petraeus' plea for patience: "He will not be rushed," she said, as he acknowledged that some suicide attacks "are impossible to stop." ABC's Jonathan Karl focused on Petraeus' demand for reinforcements--"He is going to need those additional troops for some time to come…Petraeus does not rule out asking for even more troops"--and contrasted it with Pentagon plans to begin a drawdown of troops as soon as this September: "The stress on the army is simply too great to maintain higher force levels any longer than that."


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