Today, Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) held a press conference in Iraq. Both McCain and Graham charged that the media are not giving the American people “the full picture of what’s happening here.” As evidence of progress, they spoke of the time they were able to spend in the Bab al-Sharqi market, at which 88 people died in suicide bomber attack on Jan. 22. “We went to the market and were just really warmly welcomed. I bought five rugs for five bucks. And people were engaging,” said Graham.
What McCain and Graham didn’t mention: CNN’s Bob Franken noted today that the senators’ press conference was “held in the very, very, very heavily secured Green Zone, the center city area of Baghdad.” Additionally, the “delegation was accompanied by heavily armed U.S. troops when they were not in the Green Zone, site of the U.S. Embassy and Iraqi government. They traveled in armored military vehicles under heavy guard.”
Just last week, McCain told CNN that President Bush’s escalation is working so well, “Gen. Petraeus goes out there [in Baghdad] almost every day in an unarmed humvee.” CNN’s Iraq correspondent Michael Ware said the reaction to McCain’s claim among military sources was “laughter down the line.”
UPDATE: Newsweek’s Babak Dehghanpisheh writes: “In any case, it didn’t take the insurgents long to send their reply. Less then 30 minutes after McCain wrapped up, a barrage of half a dozen mortars peppered the boundaries of the Green Zone, where the senators held their press conference.”
GRAHAM: But what we’re doing today is different. And to say it’s not different is just really not being fair. We have a fundamentally different approach to our security problems. We’re doing now what we should have done three years ago and there are some signs of success. Two things: we cannot let suicide bombers, homicide bombers, and car bombers set the pace for the 21st century. We cannot let them determine the future of the Iraqi people or the future of the American people, and it’s the resilient people [inaudible.] We went to the market and were just really warmly welcomed. I bought five rugs for five bucks. And people were engaging, and just a few weeks ago, hundreds of people, dozens of people were killed in this same place.
CNN HOST: And, Bob, with American people going to go along with what they are hearing. You hear McCain and Lindsey Graham saying they went to this market. Lindsey Graham saying I got five rugs for five bucks. Sounds like a great deal, but we see all of the violence at the same time. Are they are going to be able to in a trip like this and come back and report back to their constituents and help the American people see that well, maybe it’s not so bad? A lot of the blame they are putting on the media for not covering things like that market, or something like that. But there’s so much violence. Are the American people really going to start to get the impression that hey, maybe things are going really well in some areas?
BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, let’s talk about the whole picture. Today, for instance. The news conference is being held in the very, very, very heavily secured Green Zone, the center city area of Baghdad. Just today, we heard news that a couple of suicide vests had been found in this very fortified area. So, that would really contradict the impressions that many people would feel that Senator McCain is trying to give of increased stability. So it’s a big picture.