Friday, October 14

MTV: Shocked! Shocked!

MTV is shocked! shocked! to learn that the White House stages propaganda events ... but takes a balanced approach to the issue in its lede ....
It was billed as a candid chat between President Bush and American troops in Iraq about the upcoming constitutional referendum and the progress of the war. But critics are calling it a carefully scripted media play that was preceded by a dress rehearsal. The teleconference took place on Thursday when 10 hand-picked soldiers from the Army's 42nd Infantry Division were assembled in class-photo-style seating in a building in Tikrit ? the birthplace of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein ? to speak to the president, who was in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington. According to The Associated Press, the questions asked during the call were carefully choreographed to match the president's goals for the war in Iraq and Saturday's crucial vote on the nation's new constitution. "This is an important time," deputy assistant defense secretary Allison Barber told the troops before Bush arrived, according to the AP. "The president is looking forward to having just a conversation with you." Barber said the president wanted to cover three topics: the overall security situation in Iraq, security preparations for the weekend vote and efforts to train Iraqi troops (see "U.S. Sending 1,500 More Troops To Iraq This Fall"). After asking for some water bottles to be removed from the shot, Barber then staged what was described as a brief rehearsal, in which she asked the soldiers to act out the order of their answers and which topics each would cover. "If the question comes up about partnering ? how often do we train with the Iraqi military ? who does he go to?" Barber asked. "That's going to go to Captain Pratt," one of the soldiers said. "And then if we're going to talk a little bit about the folks in Tikrit ? the hometown ? and how they're handling the political process, who are we going to give that to?" she asked. Barber later said the soldiers were coached on general themes the president wanted to discuss, not specific questions. Once Bush got on the line, he thanked the soldiers and told them that the American people were behind them. "You've got tremendous support here at home," Bush said. A recent AP-Ipsos poll showed less than 40 percent of Americans approved of the way the president is handling the war in Iraq and that just over 50 percent now believe the war was a mistake. White House press secretary Scott McClellan denied that the event was staged and said the troops were expressing their own feelings. He explained that "coordination" is often needed to overcome such technological challenges as delays in transmission in the satellite feed. "I think all they were doing was talking to the troops and letting them know what to expect," McClellan said, explaining that the president wanted to talk with troops on the ground who have firsthand knowledge about the situation.
I can near the noise machine now: "We've been holding staged propaganda events ever since Firdaus Square, and they're just paying attention to it NOW? Cleary a liberal media conspiracy!"

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