Last week, video surfaced of an August 2007 town hall meeting featuring Rep. Paul E. Kanjorski (D-PA), in which the Congressman said that Democrats “stretched the facts” about their ability to stop the Iraq war during the 2006 election season. The 31-second You Tube video is available here. Here is an imperfect transcript of the Congressman’s controversial remarks:
I’ll tell you my impression. We really in this last election – when I say we [I mean] the Democrats – I think pushed it as far as we can to the end of the fleet – didn’t say it, but we implied it – that if we won the congressional elections, we could stop the war. Now anybody who was a good student of government would know that wasn’t true. But, you know, the temptation to want to win back the Congress, we sort of stretched the facts, and people ate it up.
This short clip was posted by a user called “PAWatchter,” who joined You Tube on May 22, 2008. The video was posted on May 23, and by Sunday it had been viewed over 30,000 times. The remarks are taken out of context, so it’s not clear what exact question Kanjorski was responding to.
Luckily, there exists an extended video on You Tube of the very same town hall meeting. This video is almost eight minutes long, and was posted in September 2007, just one month after the town hall occurred. With context intact, it appears that Kanjorski was responding to a question about the feasibility of impeaching President Bush when he admitted that Democrats “stretched the facts” about stopping the Iraq war. Kanjorski went on to acknowledge that Democrats would pay a price when “we over-promise, or mis-promise, what could happen.” The eight-minute version of Kanjorski’s remarks has been viewed just over 800 times in eight months.
So “PAWatcher” edited Kanjorski’s “stretched the facts” comment into handy soundbite form, making it easily digestible for internet news watchers. Thus Kanjorski was compelled to issue a statement on Friday about his months-old remarks:
“In an August 2007 town meeting, I shared the frustration of my constituents that the war in Iraq continued,” he said. “I expressed my belief that some Democrats in 2006 overestimated the ability of a single house of Congress to end the war, particularly in the face of an intransigent President and Senate Republicans who are committed to continuing the war.”
Despite this clarification, the central point that Democrats “stretched the facts” about their desire to end the war in Iraq is self-evidently true. In 2007, tens of thousands of additional troops were sent to Iraq as part of Gen. David Petraeus’ counterinsurgency strategy, with only rhetorical opposition from Democrats. Just before Christmas, the U.S. House approved $70 billion in war funding for 2008 as part of a $555 billion spending bill. House Democrats have not made serious efforts to pass a timetable for troop withdrawals, or establish mandatory legislative benchmarks that the Iraqi parliament must achieve.
Presumptive Democrat presidential nominee Barack Obama has made ending the Iraq war one of his central campaign themes. However, Obama has also repeatedly said that as Commander in Chief he will evaluate the situation on the ground, and consult with military commanders before making any changes to our force structure. Could Obama be over-promising – or even mis-promising – about his ability to end the war in Iraq? As Kanjorski pointed out, that strategy was a winner in the 2006 elections.