After Iraq trip, Katie Couric a GOP 'sweetheart'
Despite their near constant scorn of the "liberal" media, Republicans these days can't seem to get enough enough of third-ranked evening newscaster Katie Couric, whose reporting from Iraq recently seemed to give credence to White House arguments about "progress" in Iraq.
Couric's reports were a top line in a Republican talking-point memo sent to GOP lawmakers last week.
Roll Call's Heard on the Hill gossip column reported that Couric's positive assessments of Iraq, filed when the anchor spent four days reporting there, were pointed out to members of Congress as they prepared for this week's testimony from Gen. David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker on the results of President Bush's troop surge.
"She's our sweetheart -- at least for now," an unnamed Republican told the column.
The memo appears to have been effective:
"Katie Couric, who's certainly been no friend of the president's or this effort, came back from actually going over and visiting," Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) said at Tuesday's Petraeus/Crocker hearing, noting her positive assessment of Fallujah. "I would suggest that both Sens. (Ted) Kennedy and (Robert) Byrd go over there, and they may experience the same type of conversion."
Even before this week, Republicans pointed to Couric's assessments.
"Katie Couric says that she has already seen dramatic improvements in the country," Rep. Jim Saxton (R-NJ) said during a Sept. 5 hearing on the Government Accountability Office's Iraq assessment, which painted a far less rosy picture than that from the general and ambassador.
Couric faced criticism that the trip was little more than a ratings stunt, but some mainstream press critics praised her performance in Iraq.
"She's done excellent work," Marvin Kalb, a CBS News reporter for 24 years and the Edward R. Murrow Professor Emeritus at Harvard University, told the Associated Press. "She deserves an honest reappraisal. Whether that will be given to her, who knows. But it's deserved."
Anti-war activists have criticized Couric's reports as little more than "stenography" of White House talking points, and MoveOn.org released a heavily edited video criticizing the lack of tough questions she posed to officials on the ground in Iraq.
CBS reacted with harsh insults to the complaints, according to some Crooks and Liars commenters who e-mailed the CBC Evening News.
"Actually most intelligent people were very impressed by the quality of our reports," read the response one MoveOn member said they received.
New York Times columnist Frank Rich said Couric "appeared to be drinking the same Kool-Aid" as others who see progress in Iraq, and he criticized her holding up Fallujah, "a bombed-out city with 80 percent unemployment," as an example of "what's going right." He also faulted Couric for "channeling the president's bait-and-switch" in failing to differentiate between al Qaeda in Iraq, which did not exist before the US invasion, and the al Qaeda that attacked the US on 9/11.
"When the line separating spin from reality is so effectively blurred," Rich observed, "the White House's propaganda mission has once more been accomplished."
Of course, even Couric acknowledged, "I saw what the military wanted me to see."