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Fact checking Jim Webb
Posted by: McQ on Saturday, January 27, 2007

On Jan. 23rd, Senator James Webb (D-VA)delivered the Democratic response to the State of the Union address given by President Bush. In his speech, he said:
The majority of the nation no longer supports the way this war is being fought; nor does the majority of our military.
Earlier in that day, while questioning LTG Petraeus, the newly confirmed commander in Iraq, he was a bit more specific on his point about military support:
There was a poll in the Service Times fairly recently that showed a majority of the people in the military no longer support the approach of this administration in terms of how the war should be fought.
Well not exactly. What Webb is citing is instead a survey, not a poll, and it was a survey of only subscribers to the Military Times publication:

In fact, it was this survey he was talking about:
The mail survey, conducted Nov. 13 through Dec. 22, is the fourth annual gauge of active-duty military subscribers to the Military Times newspapers. The results should not be read as representative of the military as a whole; the survey’s respondents are on average older, more experienced, more likely to be officers and more career-oriented than the overall military population.
First a survey is not a poll. In this case it was probably sent out with the publication during those weeks and it was up to the subscriber to decide to fill it out and send it in. In essence it is a "gauge" of those who took the time to fill it out and respond. But it can't be considered as scientific polling anymore than any other "reader survey" or "on-line poll" can be.

Scientifically, it probably has no real significance since there is absolutely no way to certify the results as representative of the whole. In fact the Military Times specifically says it should not be "read as representative of the military as a whole".

Obviously it could be presented as "of those who responded to the survey from Military Times, the majority were against" whatever. But it is more than a stretch to say "a poll in the Service Times fairly recently that showed a majority of the people in the military no longer support the approach of this administration in terms of how the war should be fought."

No, it did not. But that's what Webb claimed. It is a total mischaracterization of that survey to pretend that to be the case.

I don't think, having used it twice in one day in two important venues, that anyone doubts he'll try to use this again.


What will be interesting is to see if he modifies this to reflect the truth of that survey and its real significance (or lack thereof) or whether he'll continue to push this politically valuable but patently dishonest characterization of the survey.

I'm guessing the latter.

Any takers?

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Previous Comments to this Post 

Jonah Goldberg had a pretty good riposte to another part of Jim Webb’s SOTU response speech:
’AS I LOOK AT Iraq, I recall the words of former general and soon-to-be-President Dwight Eisenhower during the dark days of the Korean War, which had fallen into a bloody stalemate. ’When comes the end?’ … And as soon as he became president, he brought the Korean War to an end." This was part of freshman Virginia Sen. Jim Webb’s stentorian Democratic response to President Bush’s State of the Union address.

One wonders if the untold millions of North Koreans who’ve starved, bled and died since then would similarly applaud Eisenhower’s courage and wisdom. For more than half a century, North Korea has been a prison-camp society beyond the imagining of George Orwell, where public executions for stealing food are familiar events. The man-made famine of the 1990s alone claimed the lives of up to 1 million people (hard data from Stalinist regimes are difficult to come by).

One also wonders when our troops are going to come home. Technically, the Korean War isn’t really even over. We’re merely enjoying a cease-fire — much like the one we had with Iraq in the 1990s.

Webb favors a "formula that will in short order allow our combat forces to leave Iraq." Well, our forces have been in South Korea for almost six decades. Something tells me the antiwar base of the Democratic Party doesn’t have that sort of timetable in mind for Iraq.

So, except for the fact that the Korean War didn’t end, our troops are still there and the outcome has been the source of humanitarian and national security nightmares, Webb’s salute to Eisenhower’s statesmanship really strikes home.

In fairness, Webb is a thoughtful man who takes foreign affairs more seriously than most politicians. But his closest-weapon-to-hand style of attack against Bush does not reflect well on him or the Democratic Party that chose him to be its representative.
Written By: Aldo
URL: http://
I seem to recall that one of the reasons the Chinese were willing to end the Korean war was that Eisenhower implied that nuclear weapons might be used if the fighting continued much longer. I think Webb may have overlooked that little detail.
Written By: timactual
URL: http://
Seriously though, all poll/survey parsing aside, do you really think that a majority, even a slim majority, of the military actually supports THE WAY THIS WAR HAS BEEN CONDUCTED.

A person could the biggest pro-war hawk on the planet and they would almost certainly consider this war to have been executed poorly.

But hey, skip that, let’s parse.

Written By: Captin Sarcastic
URL: http://
You overlooked the other misleading aspect of citing that poll. The poll was done BEFORE the talk of the build-up, which is in fact a NEW DIRECTION. To the degree the survey was representative of people upset with the "current direction", that direction was the direction of Rumsfeld and Casey, not Gates and Petreous.

In fact, in that same survey, almost half the people who said they were "unsatisified" said the REASON they were unsatisfied is that they wanted MORE TROOPS.

Which is exactly the new direction being proposed, that Webb opposes.

In other words, A majority didn’t like the way things were going, and wanted more troops, and Webb cites that survey to suggest the military is opposed to the new plan to send reinforcements.

And he will now vote to symbolically deny the new General (who he just voted to confirm) the tools the General says he needs, and that a majority of the troops want.
Written By: charles
Excellent points, Charles.
Written By: McQ
A person could the biggest pro-war hawk on the planet and they would almost certainly consider this war to have been executed poorly.
Bull$h*te Captin...This shot out we didn’t fight the war FOR "the Little People." Yeah that’s right we didn’t send 500,000 troops to Iraq, for a host of reasons. One of which was WE DID LEARN FROM VIETNAM. The ARVN’s after 1965, never were allowed to grow into a proper army. This time that was going to be different. The Iraqis ARE going to fight the fight...Training up the Iraqi Army and Police Force takes time. The US Army was always going to be limited in size and was always going to run around putting out fires. You’re right, "no Clear and Hold"...Only Clear. The Army’s job was to buy time for the ISF to stand up. And that is happening, about a year longer than it ought to ahve admittedly.

So Captin you might think before you write... let your BDS take a holiday and think on the strategy.
Written By: Joe
URL: http://
Jonah Goldberg’s history leaves out the important point that our involvement in Korea was to keep South Korea free, not free the North Koreans. I’m not sure the US, nor Eisenhower more specifically, is responsible for the humanitarian nightmare there. I don’t think anyone has blamed the US for the tens of millions of deaths resulting from Stalin’s gulags.

Jonah’s statements on our continued presence in S.K. are interesting given that the South Koreans seem to have more complaints about our continued deployment there than the Democrats ever have. Before neolibertarians, there were libertarians who didn’t believe in staying places overseas where we weren’t wanted.

Finally on the survey, which the magazine itself calls a poll on numerous occasions, Charles has conveniently left out that "while they want more troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, nearly three-quarters of the re spondents think today’s military is stretched too thin to be effective." Maybe they are dissatisfied w/ the war b/c they know that staying the course in Iraq, including the proposal to add a marginally larger contigent, means that they will be staying/sent back to Iraq.

Of interest to me was Dr. David Segal’s analysis of the numbers and his explanation for why "on questions about the president and on war strategy, [the number of respondents who refused to answer]reached 20 percent and higher."

Segal, a military expert, "said he was surprised the percentage refusing to offer an opinion wasn’t larger."

“There is a strong strain in mili tary culture not to criticize the commander in chief,” he said.

So the numbers in the poll are possibly much higher than indicated in this annual poll (
Written By: ben mcarver
URL: http://
Bull$h*te Captin
It looks like we have one of those rare individuals in our midst, someone who thinks the war was well executed and apparently is satisfied with the post war planning, strategu, and tactics.

I wonder, if this is almost (just a year longer than expected) how we should have expected the war to go, why the administration didn’t bother to mention it. Instead, we heard drivel like "6 days, 6 weeks, certainly not 6 months". Was this avoidance of the actual question intended to make the administration look like it was not thinking about post war responsibilities, or to misdirect people away from asking if they were including post war calculations?

Written By: Captin Sarcastic
URL: http://
The poll was done BEFORE the talk of the build-up,
That is an excellent point.

We DO know how the American people feel about this escalation, but no, we do not know how the military feels.

Not sure that it matters, except that even if every civilian thinks it has no chance in Hell, I would still rather the military thought it could work.

I have done projects that were doomed and it sucks, I can’t imagine adding the very real risk of a violent death on top of working a project that was doomed to failure.

Written By: Captin Sarcastic
URL: http://
"The ARVN’s after 1965, never were allowed to grow into a proper army."

They weren’t? I probably disagree.

" I’m not sure the US, nor Eisenhower more specifically, is responsible for the humanitarian nightmare there."

Of course not. Communists worldwide are perfectly capable of absolutely unbelievable brutality without any outside assistance.

Written By: timactual
URL: http://

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