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We're Trying to Win a War, Mr. Russert & Mr. Kennedy

6:39 PM, Dec 4, 2005 • By DANIEL MCKIVERGAN
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On Meet the Press today, Tim Russert and Sen. John McCain had the following exchange over what Sen. Ted Kennedy has called "a devious scheme."

MR. RUSSERT: The Pentagon, in fact, was paying Iraqi journalists to publish articles favorable to the United States' position. The Los Angeles Times first reported it. The Pentagon has now admitted it. Should they stop it?

SEN. McCAIN: If these are accurate stories and written by legitimate people, then I don't think there's anything wrong with it. If they are not accurate and they are made up by different people, then, of course, it should be stopped.

MR. RUSSERT: But here we are trying to teach democracy...

SEN. McCAIN: Yeah.

MR. RUSSERT: ...and freedom of the press...

SEN. McCAIN: Yeah.

MR. RUSSERT: ...and lack of state-sponsored censorship if you will and we're paying Iraqis to print articles?

SEN. McCAIN: Well, I don't know if that's a standard practice or not in Iraq. If these are accurate stories, we should make every effort to get them out if they're accurate. We're in a propaganda war where this is a war for the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people as well. I think we need more details as to exactly what went on, but if it's legitimate...

MR. RUSSERT: But in principle you have not problem paying the Iraqis...

SEN. McCAIN: But if that's the standard procedure in Iraq, if that's what you need to do to get a story in one of these newspapers, but it has to be accurate and it has to be done by a legitimate person. I understand these are men and women who serve in our military that are responsible for these stories. If that's the only way you get stories in, then I'm not terribly offend by it, Tim.