Whitewashing the 'Red Line,' Part 2: PolitiFact's Excuse Is That Obama 'Never Denied Using the Phrase'

In Part 1 of this pair of posts on the press whitewash of President Barack Obama's "red line" on the use of chemical weapons in Syria, I looked at the Washington Post's Glenn Kessler, who excused President Barack Obama's contradictory "red line" remarks as "offhand" statements" which shouldn't count for much compared to official statements and press releases by diplomats and the White House. (Who knew?)

PolitiFact's Jon Greenberg has also predictably weighed in with the excuse-makers. The web site didn't even bother applying a "Truth-o-meter" rating, claiming that Obama "never denied using the phrase or giving it the significance it has today." Excerpts follow the jump (bolds are mine throughout this post):


In Context: President Obama, Syria and the ‘red line’

PolitifactRedlined

... Readers asked us for a fact check on whether Obama "set a red line" and now denies it. But a full reading of the question and his answer shows he never denied using the phrase or giving it the significance it has today.

... The reporter (who asked the question on August 20, 2012) raised the issue of the U.S. using force. Obama said he had no plans at the moment but that would change if chemical weapons were used. There was no confusion. The red line described the point at which military force could be brought to bear.

... (Obama's September 4 Stockholm response) was a statement about who decided chemical warfare is so bad that it merits that punishment. "I didn’t pluck it out of thin air," he said.

This statement addresses a very different point compared to the first time he used the phrase "red line." It describes why chemical weapon use is a red line. A year earlier, he described in vague terms the consequences of crossing the red line.

The rest of his answer attempted to move the focus away from his political problems and recast it as a moral dilemma every nation faces at this moment.

... This September, he was repeating that theme and, with the probable use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government at hand, he was pressuring Congress and the international community to follow his lead. His policy had moved to attack mode, but he was seeking a broader base of support.

All of this could only conceivably be true (even then, it's a big stretch) if Barack Obama, instead of being President of the United States, has somehow become "Spokesman for the Entire World." He hasn't, on two levels.

The first and most obvious is that the world isn't mirroring his take on things. Even Great Britain has refused to get involved militarily.

The second is that, as Ed Morrissey at Hot Air pointed out yesterday, the world consensus on the use of chemical weapons isn't what Barack Obama say it is (link is in original):

... the world has never — never — set a red line for military intervention for just the use of chemical weapons. Since the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted the 1925 Geneva Protocol banning the use of chemical weapons, at least a half-dozen deployments have occurred before the Syrian civil war. None of them produced outside military intervention, not even the 1988 massacre of 5,000 Kurds by Saddam Hussein at Halabja. The red line creates imperatives for diplomatic and perhaps economic sanctions, but not until now has a nation proposed a unilateral intervention for chemical-weapons attacks, especially not in a civil war.

Greenberg doesn't even try to deal with this fundamental truth. But that's because PolitiFact long ago stopped being about the truth, choosing instead to become a leftist and progressive spin machine.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.