COMMENTS: Veto Bait

The approval by the House of Representatives of $124bn to fund the war in Iraq war was Story of the Day yesterday. Now the Senate approval--by a similar, narrow, margin--qualified for the next Story of the Day, even though only ABC led with the vote. Both houses of Congress split almost precisely along party lines so President George Bush should have no difficulty having his veto sustained. NBC chose cross-promotion for MSNBC for its lead: the cable news channel conducted an eight-candidate debate in South Carolina for the Democrats who would be President. CBS led with an Exclusive on the nuclear program in Iran.

On the Iraq vote, paradoxically, the Democrats found themselves voting to fund the war in order to bring it to a close; the President pledged to veto the funding in order to continue fighting. ABC's Jake Tapper summed up the difference thus: from the Republican President "win the war;" from the Democratic Congress "end it." The bill, which calls for the withdrawal of US combat troops to begin in six months and to finish by April 2008, will be presented to the White House next Tuesday, the fourth anniversary of the President's Mission Accomplished speech on the USS Abraham Lincoln, an "uncomfortable reminder," as Tapper put it, "of everything that remains unaccomplished."

On CBS, Sharyl Attkisson filed a package on the Senate debate complete with dueling soundbites: Sen Kit Bond (R-MO) saw "defeat for our troops and our safety in Iraq;" Sen Harry Reid (D-NV) called for the President to "work with us to bring the war to a responsible end." Attkisson also quoted Gen David Petraeus at the Pentagon reflect on looming deadlines: "There is a Washington clock ticking--actually, to be fair to those in Washington, it is an American clock." NBC was content with a live stand-up summary by Chip Reid: the looming veto "highlights just how powerless" Democrats are "to force any kind of change of course in Iraq."


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