In the past several weeks, events outside the United States have commanded as much of Mr. Obama’s attention as the nation’s domestic concerns. The upheavals in the Middle East and North Africa have provided a fresh reminder that the Oval Office is occupied by the nation’s commander in chief.
That alone might not be enough to displace the economy as the No. 1 issue for Mr. Obama. But as the president’s top advisers survey the field of potential Republican rivals in 2012, one other fact is glaring: Almost none of them have any serious foreign policy credentials.
During Monday's "Morning Joe," Time's Mark Halperin and co-host Mika Brzezinski helpfully provided some spin for the White House to borrow as President Obama finishes his prepared remarks for Monday evening's address to the nation on the events in Libya.
President Obama has received sharp criticism for his foreign policy concerning Egypt and Libya, but Halperin threw cold water on that, calling Obama's strategy "extremely deft in a very tough situation." Brzezinski agreed with his premise, adding that his "deft" handling is also in accord with promises he previously made.
"He's pro-democracy, right? He's anti-violence. He's anti-unilateral U.S. intervention," Halperin noted of Obama, trying to connect his current policy with the peacemaker he claimed to be as a presidential candidate.
(Video below the jump. Comments begin at the 12:30 mark.)
Was Hillary Clinton defending the Secretary of Defense . . . or jerking him back into line?
It was a stunning power play. On Meet The Press this morning, after Defense Secretary Bob Gates conceded that Libya is not a "vital interest" of the United States--but before he could complete his comments--Hillary cut him off. She launched into a minute-and-forty-second monologue seeking to justify US military involvement in Libya.
Gates had to sit and take it . . . and never got to say another word.
Libyan rebel commander admits his fighters have al-Qaeda links Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi, the Libyan rebel leader, has said jihadists who fought against allied troops in Iraq are on the front lines of the battle against Muammar Gaddafi's regime.
So how will the U.S. press deal with this hot potato?
In the lead-up to the Iraq War, the media "hammered Bush" about getting congressional approval, NewsBusters publisher Brent Bozell noted on last night's "Hannity" during the "Media Mash" segment. Yet such scrutiny has been missing in President Obama's actions on Libya, he noted.
What's more, the media have failed to press Obama on violating his own standards on presidential use of military force:
Well, it is official. The president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, has asked the Norwegian Nobel Committee to take back President Barack Obama's Nobel Peace Prize owing to Obama's missile strikes in Libya. The head of Russia's Liberal Democratic Party, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, also has weighed in, and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is really in a snit. This is the best news Col. Moammar Gadhafi has had in weeks.
President Obama, who ordered airstrikes against Libya and then took his wife and the girls on a sightseeing and official junket to South America, probably took little note of the Bolivian's and Russians' actions, but it does show how difficult it is to get "world opinion" behind the use of force, even against a fla fla dictator such as Gadhafi. There is more unease in the "world community." Amr Moussa, the head of the Arab League, at first was for enforcing a "no-fly zone" over Libya. Now he is not so sure. The next thing you know, he will be on Gadhafi's side. World opinion can be volatile.
While a report on ABC's Good Morning America on Tuesday referenced 2007 comments from then-Senator Barack Obama against a president taking military action without congressional approval, CBS and NBC both failed to point out President Obama contradicting those earlier statements by failing to seek congressional approval before committing U.S. forces in Libya.
As NewsBusters' Scott Whitlock earlier reported, ABC correspondent Jake Tapper noted during the Tuesday GMA report: "There was a conference call over the weekend in which one Democrat, one liberal Democrat, read a quote from candidate Obama about the need to seek congressional approval before taking military action and the member of Congress said, 'I agree with candidate Obama.'"
On Wednesday's Newsroom, CNN hyped the concerns of psychiatrist Terry Kupers over the imprisonment of Wikileaks suspect Bradley Manning. Kupers labeled Manning's months-long solitary confinement "cruel or inhumane treatment, and by international standards, they constitute torture." The guest also claimed that "nobody has been accused of crimes like Bradley Manning's."
Anchor Carol Costello noted in her introduction to her interview of Kupers (which aired 47 minutes into the 10 am Eastern hour) that "Manning, the man accused of giving Wikileaks classified documents, spent most of the last nine months in solitary confinement. One psychiatrist tells CNN that amounted to torture, and it could have done more harm than good." An on-screen graphic trumpeted this charge: "Wikileaks Suspect 'Tortured': Doc: Months of solitary does permanent damage."
ABC's undercover news show, What Would You Do, on Friday continued to search for examples of bigotry across America. Anchor John Quinones narrated a segment featuring two men pretending to be gay military veterans displaying affection in a New Jersey restaurant.
As cameras rolled, Quinones explained the set-up: "They're holding hands, stroking each other's hair and caressing each other's legs...So what will happen if we throw in our actor Vince, posing as an irritated diner, who's had enough of this PDA?"
An actor, "Vince," interrupted the faux soldiers and complained, "Excuse me. We appreciate your service to the country and everything, but you should respect the uniform a little bit more than that."
At the top of Friday's CBS Early Show, co-host Erica Hill proclaimed: "Tough talk. As the violence continues to escalate between rebel forces, and Moammar Qadhafi's military, President Obama sends a clear message." A sound bite was played of Obama calling on Qadhafi to step down on Thursday. In a later report, correspondent Mandy Clark claimed Obama had "drawn his line in the sand."
On the February 24 Early Show, co-host Chris Wragge touted the "very strong words" in the President's first public statement on the crisis. On that same broadcast, Clark claimed that Libyans "...felt encouraged that the President had come out with such strong words. They now feel that the eyes of the international community is upon Qadhafi, and that will force him to hold back on any bombing campaigns or any war crimes that he might commit."
For the second consecutive day, the CBS and NBC evening newscasts failed to devote more than fleeting news briefs to the fatal terror attack against a bus full of US airmen in Germany. ABC, which covered the story in more detail on Wednesday, did not even mention the tragic attack on the Thursday "World News."
Arid Uka, described as a 21-year-old "radical Muslim," opened fire Wednesday on US airmen at Frankfurt Airport, killing two and injuring others, but CBS anchor Katie Couric and NBC anchor Brian Williams spent a scant 30 seconds each on the story during last night's newscasts.
The night of the shooting, neither the CBS "Evening News" nor the NBC "Nightly News" thought the slaying of American servicemen was worthy of more than terse news briefs, although ABC's Diane Sawyer covered the story more thoroughly on "World News."
Given the sacrifices that U.S. sailors and Marines make to serve our country, it hardly seems right to me to force them to go for months on end aboard surface ships without the right to light up a smoke.
But I'm not Mark Thompson.
Today the Time magazine staffer dusted off a convenient but recently-ignored liberal media bogeyman, Big Tobacco:
"President Obama has been taking a truckload of flak from the right for his measured response to the crises embroiling the Middle East," MSNBC's Martin Bashir harumphed as he opened his "Clear the Air" commentary on the March 1 program.
"Measured is my word because it's certainly not one that right-wing pundits have been using," Bashir complained.
Of course the term "measured" implies deliberate calculation and an overarching strategy, whereas the timeline of the Obama administration response to Libya suggests there has been, objectively speaking, some amount of "dithering" by team Obama.
USA Today's Wednesday cover story ("Killings Escalate Piracy Crisis"), has this reference to a quote obtained by the Associated Press:
Killing hostages "has now become part of our rules," said a pirate who identified himself as Muse Abdi in a statement to the Associated Press. "From now on, anyone who tries to rescue the hostages in our hands will only collect dead bodies," Abdi said. "It will never, ever happen that hostages are rescued and we are hauled to prison."
Pretty provocative, right? In fact, it resembles a declaration of war without the rules of war. You might even call it a declaration of t-t-t-t ... terrorism.
The problem is, Abdi's quote is no longer in any story at the Associated Press's home web site, and is rarely present in other Internet news reports.
Update (12:08 p.m. EST): Brewer just made this her question of the day on her MSNBC Live program.
MSNBC's Contessa Brewer injected a bit of liberal commentary to a link she posted Monday morning on her Facebook page.
"You know it's overfunded when even the Pentagon pushes for spending cuts. Why is defense such a sacred cow?" lamented Brewer in a comment posted above a link to a Wall Street Journal article on Obama's fiscal year 2012 budget blueprint.
I don't know, Contessa, maybe because the primary mission of the federal government is defending the nation from foreign enemies?
Tuesday's "Morning Joe" featured guest Daisy Khan, wife of Imam Rauf who tried to establish a mosque two blocks away from the site of the 9/11 terror attacks. The panel praised Khan and her husband as peace-making moderates, and arrogantly questioned why more Americans couldn't accept the mosque at Ground Zero.
"America is the beacon of the world," co-host Mika Brzezinski said echoing Khan's earlier words affirming American freedom. "And yet, we had such a controversy about the community center that you and your husband were trying to start blocks away from Ground Zero," she added, questioning the American "understanding" of the center.
"One of the most depressing things to me was the fact that in 2010, Americans seemed to be less accepting of Muslim Americans than they were even in the months after 9/11," co-host Joe Scarborough lamented from his soapbox. "Why do you think we Americans had such a reaction – again, in New York, a place that's supposed to be the most open-minded and pluralistic?" he asked guest Lesley Jane Seymour, editor-in-chief of More magazine.
Every so often, MSNBC anchor Dylan Ratigan goes on a rhetorical bender that stupefies his guests and defies logic.
On his eponymous program today, Ratigan latched onto conflicting reports concerning the treatment of Pfc. Bradley Manning, who was arrested under suspicion of illegally downloading classified military documents and funneling them to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, to assert that the American justice system is akin to that of the Communist Chinese.
"Think about that in the context of 243 days in confinement, 23 hour-a-day lockdown, sleep deprivation," bemoaned Ratigan. "And you think China's bad?"
Ratigan also made repeated references to Guantanamo Bay, implying that Manning is being treated like an enemy combatant.
Before telling a 100 percent falsehood about Reaganomics on HBO's "Real Time," the MSNBC commentator said the Strategic Defense Initiative would never work because you can't shoot a missile out of the sky with another missile (video follows with transcript and commentary):
The Washington Post on Friday took on Seymour Hersh's outlandish conspiracy theory that "neo-conservative" members of Opus Dei and the Knights of Malta inside the military "overthrew the American government" and are waging a "crusade" against Muslims. The newspaper reported that, contrary to Hersh's claims, General Stanley McChrystal was not a member of either organization, and that there was "little evidence of a broad fundamentalist conspiracy within the military."
Writer Paul Farhi began his article, "Hersh rebuked on 'crusaders,'" by stating that the journalist for The New Yorker's "latest revelation is drawing some puzzled reactions and angry denunciations." After recounting Hersh's accusations from his recent speech, that he "advanced the notion that U.S. military forces are directed and dominated by Christian fundamentalist 'crusaders' bent on changing 'mosques into cathedrals'" and his accusations against McChrystal and other members of the special operations community, Farhi continued that there "seem to be a few problems with Hersh's assertions," and quoted from the former general's spokesman:
Liberal journalist Seymour Hersh unleashed on President Obama in a speech in Qatar on Monday, voicing his extreme disappointment with his foreign policy: "Just when we needed an angry black man, we didn't get one." Hersh also revealed his Dan Brown-style conspiracy theory about how "neo-conservative radicals" in the military's special operations community "overthrew the American government."
Blake Hounshell of Foreign Policy magazine reported on Tuesday that the writer for the New Yorker, whose last conspiracy theory from 2009 also involved bizarre allegations against the Joint Special Operations Command and the CIA, gave a speech at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service's branch campus in Doha that was "billed as a discussion of the Bush and Obama eras." Hounshell recounted how Hersh "delivered a rambling, conspiracy-laden diatribe...expressing his disappointment with President Barack Obama and his dissatisfaction with the direction of U.S. foreign policy."
A man is arrested and detained for months without any charges being brought against him. He is being held in deplorable conditions, forced to endure extreme physical and mental distress. He is exposed to the same ‘torture’ tactics that other enemies of the United States have allegedly suffered through.
So why isn’t the Commander-in-Chief taking heat for this travesty of justice?
Because this isn’t the Bush administration.
Firedoglake blogger, David House, has been detailing a recent visit with Bradley Manning, accused of leaking classified documents to Wikileaks, at a military prison at the Quantico Marine base in Virginia (h/t Weasel Zippers). Of course, House bemoaned the ‘inhumane’ treatment of Manning, describing the toll that months of solitary confinement have taken on his physical and mental well-being.
AFP ran with the story and made it clear that they had no intention of offering a balanced report. In fact, viewing the headline, one would never know that the story came from an extremely liberal website, reading more as fact than a slanted accusation.
Appearing on Thursday’s Good Morning America to discuss the recent legislative activity in Congress, ABC’s Cokie Roberts managed to avoid using the word "illegal" as she recounted the failure by Senate Democrats to pass the Dream Act to provide a mechanism for the children of illegal immigrants to obtain citizenship. Framing the Senate vote as a "disappointment" for Obama, she went on to contend that the loss "certainly bodes badly for immigration."
After agreeing with host George Stephanopoulos that President Obama should be "pretty pleased" by the "incredible" lame duck session, she continued:
The disappointment, as [President Obama] said yesterday, was the Dream Act, that piece of legislation for immigrant children who have come to this country, not by their own volition, but allowing them to go to school and the military as a path to citizenship. That failed, which certainly bodes badly for immigration, in general, because that was considered the easy one.
As she and Stephanopoulos discussed the likely difficulty of President Obama and Congress reaching a budget agreement next year, Roberts also referred to cutting taxes as "giving something away." She then seemed to convey some wishful thinking as she suggested that Republicans may decide not to be "obstructionist" if voters lavish praise on recent bipartisan "cooperation":
Jeffrey Sachs has attacked distinguished military historian Victor Davis Hanson as an "extremist" who "has done more harm to the American people" than any other commentator.
Sachs, a Columbia prof and income redistributionist supreme, launched his surprising verbal assault in commenting on Hanson's National Review Online column, "The Obamites' About-Face." Hanson there makes the case that out of political pragmatism, Obama has flip-flopped on everything from "the environment, radical Islam, taxes, stimulus, the economy, national security" to foreign policy.
Now that openly gay men and women will be able to serve in the U.S. military, will liberal Ivy League institutions that shunned military Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) programs work to quickly welcome them back to campus?
In the video at the ABC link, George Stephanopoulos's intro at Good Morning America describes Holder as "a pretty circumspect man," but that on the subject of domestic terror threats, "he doesn't seem to be pulling any punches."
Really? If that's the case, Holder must have said a lot of things which got left on ABC's cutting-room floor. That's because in the entire three-page story at ABC (it's easiest to prove the following by looking at the print version, which can only be obtained at the link), the following words never appear:
Appearing as a guest on Monday’s Countdown show on MSNBC, the Huffington Post’s Howard Fineman - also a political analyst with MSNBC - spoke favorably of the repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law, asserting that "this historic vote will be remembered as a very important one in the social history of the United States," and, as he admitted that independent Senator Joseph Lieberman "takes a lot of guff on this network," gave the former Democrat-turned independent Senator "credit where credit is due" for supporting the measure.
Fineman went on to predict that, because the Republican House next year will seek to undermine various pieces of legislation passed by Democrats - which he referred to as "historic" - that President Obama will be running against a "‘tear down’ Congress." Fineman:
The dynamic of the next two years is going to be to re-litigate and reargue all the legislation that Obama and the Democrats for the most part passed in the first two years. That means efforts to defund, to delegitimize, to get rid of, you know, all the historic legislation that was passed these first two years, and spending is going to be the way to do it. ... So it's not that Obama's going to be running against the "do nothing Congress." The President is going to be running against the sort of "tear down Congress"because that's going to be the mode of the next two years.
Fineman also notably used the term "progressive" - the preferred term of liberals - instead of the word "liberal" as he referred to the left wing of the Democratic party, and contended that Republicans "went pedal to the metal on the fear strategy on immigration" as he explained why the Dream Act failed to pass the Senate.
Chris Matthews called it "the quote of the night," so let's see how our NewsBusters readers respond. Here was Barney Frank, reacting to the assertion by a young Marine that they are a macho bunch whereas gays are "girlie":
"I will confess that I left my purse at home."
Later, MSNBC political analyst Michelle Bernard, in a stunning non sequitur, was incapable of understanding how John McCain could oppose DADT repeal while having some years ago apologized for initially opposing the creation of Martin Luther King Day. Huh? For good measure, Bernard called McCain "the male Palin" and accused the entire state of Arizona of being "anti-immigrant."
Update (17:23): Monkey see, monkey do: MSNBC's Chris Matthews quoted extensively from this post on today's "Hardball" in a segment entitled "Whatever Happened to John McCain?" Matthews and his guests lamented McCain's swing to the right in 2010.
Hell hath no fury like Joe Klein disillusioned.
The Time magazine writer apparently had a bit of a liberal journalist man-crush on Sen. John McCain back when the Arizona Republican was reaching across the aisle to work with Democrats for illegal-immigrant amnesty.
Now post 2008, not so much, particularly since McCain has tacked to the right on immigration and border security and stayed there even after his successful reelection to the Senate in November.
Klein unloaded both barrels on McCain in a Saturday evening Time.com Swampland blog post entitled "Two Dreams, One Dead" (emphasis mine), calling McCain every label that popped into his head from "troglodyte" to "trigger-happy gambler":