Rightwing Outlets Smear Senator Who Asked Question, Ignore Stunning Newsworthiness of Answer
Iraq Vet Source Dubious About Secretary of State's Admission that Military Lacks Body County Estimates...
By Brad Friedman on 1/12/2007, 1:57pm PT  

Well, it looks like we've got our answer. The White House didn't bother to even come up with a casualty estimate for their new escalation plan in Iraq. So much for "supporting the troops." At least if Sec. of State Condoleezza Rice is to be believed.

We've been asking since last Sunday --- and then again just after Bush's Wednesday night speech when he said, "We must expect more Iraqi and American casualties" --- what the White House's estimates are for the increased (or decreased) body count that we can expect vis-a-vis his new plan for a troop "augmentation" (nee "surge") in Iraq.

Surely due diligence when creating such a plan requires such estimates be made by the military for the cost expected in blood for our U.S. troops before such a plan is actually implemented.

Well, finally, the question has been asked of the White House, or at least of Rice, during yesterday's Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the planned escalation.

If Rice is to be believed, the White House has made no such estimate.

When asked directly by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), "Do you have an estimate of the number of casualties we expect from this surge?", Rice's answer came back as: "No, uh, Senator...I don't think there's any way to give you such an estimate."

Boxer's question came after a morning of tough questions and statements for Rice --- from both Republicans and Democrats --- and after the Senator's own statement in which she discussed the fact that "we are alone in this escalation of troops." She was referring to the point that no other countries among our allies in Iraq would be increasing their own troop strength. In fact, the British have announced they will be decreasing troops in the region over the next few months.

(The entire hearing can be seen via Real Video from C-SPAN here. Boxer's questioning of Rice comes at appx. the 1:47:00 mark.)

And while one would think the admission that the White House has announced a plan to send more than 20,000 U.S. troops into harm's way without first measuring the cost in blood expected by such an increase to be rather newsworthy, rightwing pundits from outlets such as Fox "News" and the New York Post have taken the opportunity to criticize Boxer for the way in which she framed the question instead. In the bargain, they've virtually ignored both the question itself, Rice's answer, and the apparent stunning delinquency of the White House if Rice is to be believed.

Jon Soltz, an Iraq War vet who is co-founder and chairman of VoteVets.org, tells The BRAD BLOG he's dubious of Rice's statement.

"The Pentagon knows how many casualties they estimate for any of the actions the additional troops will be taking part of. It’s basic war planning," Solz told us this morning. "Depending on what happens, that number could go up or go down, but they know what they expect."

Soltz joins our call for the public release of such an estimate from the Pentagon or White House --- if it in fact exists --- given the new policy comes in the wake of previous policy errors and underestimates.

"Normally, the military shouldn’t have to release those estimates, but given that the administration is asking more troops to pay for its mistakes, they should be up front about how many they believe are going to make the ultimate sacrifice," he explained.

Solz has been critical of Bush's planned escalation, and was the only Iraq War veteran invited to speak at a recent Senate Leadership press conference in response to the new plan.


As reported by RAW STORY this morning --- the New York Post, while ignoring Rice's news and choosing instead to focus on Boxer having pointed out that neither she nor Rice had children who would directly pay the price for the planned increase in troops sent to Iraq, characterized the question as a "slur" to Rice.

"IT'S WAR: Dem Childless Condi Slur," screamed their front page this morning. Their friends and corporate partners over at Fox "News" were all too happy to pick up that ball and run with it as usual. Their front page screamer: "Boxer's Sucker Punch: Calif. senator lashes out at Rice's personal life."

Over at Fox "News" however, not only did their website manage to avoid discussion of Rice's stunning admission, their FOX & Friends morning crew spent much of the day not just attacking Boxer for the way she framed the question, but they unquestioningly parroted Rice's answer --- "I don't think that any of us, uh, have a number. That, of expected casualties." --- to the Senator...

Boxer introduced her question to Rice by asking: "Who pays the price? I'm not going to pay a personal price. My kids are too old and my grandchild is too young. You're not going to pay a particular price, as I understand it, with an immediate family. So who pays the price? The American military and their families. And I just want to bring us back to that fact."

The Fox front page headline links to an article covering White House spokesman Tony Snow, "blasting" the exchange with Rice. It focuses entirely on the supposed "sucker punch" without any substantive discussion --- hardly even a mention --- of the failure of the White House to make, or at least to admit to having made, any of the appropriate estimates for the cost of their new escalation policy.

FOX & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade even went so far as to open his criticism of Boxer by declaring: "There were no questions! All there were were people pontificating, they're running for President, and you have the most important people in the world in front of you who you claim you need answers from!" Before unleashing with a scream: "Will you ask a question?!"

Of course, Boxer did ask a question, one which received little attention from the three co-hosts of the show owned by Rupert Murdoch, whose Newscorp media behemoth also owns the New York Post.

RAW STORY has the video tape of the morning outrage in their report by David Edwards and Ron Brynaert. The video also includes the FOX Friends' interview with Fox News Sunday host, Chris Wallace, who similarly failed to discuss the newsworthy point of Boxer's question and Rice's stunning admission.

In the scant attention paid to Boxer's question and Rice's answer, the co-hosts unquestioningly repeated Rice's response: "It's almost an impossible question to answer, however, because I don't think anyone knows the answer to that question," said co- host Gretchen Carlson.

"Condoleezza Rice said 'You want a hard answer to that question,' essentially and that is impossible," repeated military expert, weatherman and co-host, Steve Doocy.

Later, the popular morning show sealed the deal in an e-mail segment in which every note read was critical of Boxer. No comments on the White House sending more than 20,000 into a war zone without taking the time to set a metric for the expected cost in blood to our U.S. troops and their families.

"'I'm totally disgusted with this loony leftwing known as the Democrats. Barbara Boxer and her ilk should be ashamed I think they have no business to try and lead the country. And just how stupid are these people to elect these...' I can't say that other word and still keep my job." said Kilmeade reading from one letter.

And he continued: "Christy in Michigan said, 'I don't understand what these Democrats think the military is for. Barbara Boxer was way off base to verbally attack Ms. Rice. It just goes to show the party of the Democrats don't have any other good arguments and use personal attacks for their arguments for any cause.'"

Mission accomplished. Ship 'em out.

A transcript of the newsworthy section of the question and answer session between Boxer and Rice follows below...

SEN. BARBARA BOXER: Do you have an estimate of the number of casualties we expect from this surge?

SEC. CONDOLEEZA RICE: No, uh, Senator...I don't think there's any way to give you such an estimate.

BOXER: Has the President, because he said 'expect more sacrifice', he must know...

RICE: Senator, I don't think that any of us, uh, have a number. That, of expected casualties. I think that people understand there is going to be violence for some time in Iraq. And that there will be more casualties and...Let me just say, you know, I fully understand the sacrifice that the American people are making and especially the sacrifice that our soldiers are making. Men and women in uniform. I...I visit them. I know what they're going through. I talk to their families. I see it. (pause) I could never...and I can never do anything to replace any of those, uh, lost, uh, men and women in uniform. Or the diplomats...

BOXER: Madame Secretary, if you please...I know you feel terrible about it. That's not the point. I was making the point as to who pays the price for your decisions. And the fact that this administration would move forward with this escalation with no clue as to the further price that we're gonna pay militarily. We certainly know the numbers. Billions of dollars that we can't spend here in this country. I find really appalling that there's not even enough time taken to figure out what the casualties would be. Thank you very much.

RICE: Senator, I think it would be highly unlikely for the military to tell the President 'We expect X number of casualties because of this augmentation of the forces' ...and again, let me just say, the President sees this as an effort to help the Iraqis with an urgent task, so that the sectarian violence in Baghdad does not outrun the political process and make it impossible to have the kind of national reconciliation that we all want to see there.

1/13/07: The "Liberal" NYTimes joins Murdoch, Fox and Friends in bashing Boxer out of context --- and rationality --- and ignoring the actual news. Coverage here...