Sep 2 2008

ABC Errs on Obama’s Iraq Votes

Echoing McCain line on 'funding for troops'

ABC‘s Good Morning America (8/24/08) inaccurately described Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama as opposing funding for U.S. troops in Iraq–an erroneous charge being circulated by the McCain campaign.

In the wake of Barack Obama’s selection of fellow Democratic Sen. Joe Biden as running mate, ABC reported: “There are some policy differences between Biden and Obama. You can expect the Republicans to exploit those.” One of those differences, ABC correspondent John Berman noted, was that “Biden voted for extending funding for U.S. troops in Iraq, which Obama opposed.”

While Biden and Obama were indeed at odds on one war funding vote in 2007, ABC did the Republicans’ work for them in exploiting that difference by repeating the misleading charge that Obama opposed funding for U.S. troops. “Funding for U.S. troops” is a tendentious way to describe war-funding bills, and a vote (or a veto) against such bills is clearly not a measure of a politician’s support for the troops–a point that ABC journalists surely ought to know.

In fact, Obama voted for every war funding bill that came before him in the Senate through April 2007, when the Senate included a non-binding call for a timetable for withdrawal in the war funding bill H.R. 1591 (, 1/5/08). When George W. Bush vetoed that bill, Obama and other Democratic Senators (not including Biden) voted against the May 24 version that removed the timetable. As Berman’s online colleagues reported during the primary campaign (, 9/17/07), Obama explained his vote: “We are going to bring an end to this war and I will fight now in the United States Senate to make sure that we don’t pass any funding bill that does not have a deadline to start bringing our troops out.”

McCain’s campaign has pushed to paint Obama’s antiwar vote as “a vote against funding our troops,” as claimed in a July 18 ad, which contrasted that to McCain, who “has always supported our troops.” But McCain himself voted against an earlier version of the war funding bill that included the timetable, and he urged Bush to veto H.R. 1591 (, 4/26/07). So both McCain and Obama could be described, by ABC‘s logic, as voting against “funding for U.S. troops in Iraq.”

Ultimately, the war funding bill vote was not about support for the troops, but about whether there should be a timetable for withdrawal; ABC‘s decision to frame Obama’s vote as opposition to funding for the troops perpetuates the right-wing myth that working to end the war is anti-troop.

Berman’s ABC colleagues reported online just two days prior to his on-air account (, 8/22/08) that “The GOP is planning to step up its attacks on Barack Obama’s war-funding record if the presumptive Democratic nominee taps Joe Biden to be his running mate.” The piece quoted a Republican official who told ABC News:

Our argument will be that the Biden pick only underscores how inexperienced Barack Obama knows he is. Obama’s vote against funding our troops was an example of inexperience and poor judgment. The fact that his more experienced running mate made the right call highlights Obama’s mistake. Whereas to date that vote hasn’t gotten a lot of attention, now it will.

And thanks to ABC‘s Good Morning America, the attention it has gotten has been given the Republican spin treatment.


Ask ABC News to correct its misleading characterization of Obama’s war-funding votes.


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