Taranto: Reporters Look Like 'Obama's Pet Hamsters' In Avoiding His Strange Denial of a 'Red Line'

NewsBusters wasn't the only site collecting strange media treatment of Obama's strange denial that he'd ever set a "red line" against Syria's use of chemical weapons. James Taranto at The Wall Street Journal wrote on Thursday that "The fierce watchdogs of the press, confronted with this brazen falsehood, show themselves once again to be Obama's pet hamsters."

Take the "fact checkers." Instead of giving its attention-grabbing "Pants On Fire" rating to Obama, PolitiFact.com's Jon Greenberg claimed Obama was "reframing comments rather than denying them." Taranto was amazed: "Greenberg can't even say the statement is half true, so he withholds a rating altogether." There were more examples:

Peter Baker of the New York Times has his own euphemisms, writing that Obama was "citing longstanding international norms" and "trying to break out of his isolation."

The funniest dodges come from Shawna Thomas of NBC News, who on Twitter calls Obama's whopper "a definite change in tone" and an attempt "to unilaterally widen the circle of responsibility."

That last one is priceless. Next time someone accuses you of trying to weasel out of a commitment, say you're just trying to widen the circle of responsibility.

The Washington Free Beacon, meanwhile, reports that Secretary of State Kerry didn't get the memo: In congressional testimony yesterday "referenced . . . the date when 'the president drew the red line publicly.' " That's right, John Kerry is more forthright than the average journalist.


Before long, Taranto returned to that last sentence. He reported that under pressure from a Republican in House testimony, Kerry insisted "When I was in the United States Senate, I supported military action in any number of occasions, including Grenada, Panama--I can run a list of them."  Taranto noted "the U.S. operation in Grenada occurred in March 1983, when Kerry was Michael Dukakis's lieutenant governor. He did not join the Senate until 1985. More importantly, as the Boston Globe reported in 2003, his claim to have supported Grenada contemporaneously is false":

The thrust of Kerry's [1984 Senate] candidacy, however, was an attack on Reagan's economic, foreign, and military policies.

Kerry was scornful, for instance, of the Grenada invasion, launched by Reagan the previous October to evacuate US medical students after a Marxist-backed military coup on the Caribbean island.

At one point he likened it to "Boston College playing football against the Sisters of Mercy." Earlier, Kerry told The Cape Codder newspaper:

"The invasion of Grenada represents the Reagan policy of substituting public relations for diplomatic relations . . . no substantial threat to US interests existed and American lives were not endangered . . . The invasion represented a bully's show of force against a weak Third World nation. The invasion only served to heighten world tensions and further strain brittle US/Soviet and North/South relations."

Campaigning now for president, however, Kerry is rewriting that history. As he accuses President George W. Bush of hamhanded diplomacy before the invasion of Iraq, Kerry often lists Grenada among the US military incursions he says he has supported.

"I was dismissive of the majesty of the invasion of Grenada," Kerry says now. "But I basically was supportive. I never publicly opposed it."

He draws a parallel to his recent stance on Iraq. "I mean, I supported disarming Saddam Hussein, but I was critical of the administration and how it did its diplomacy and so forth," he explained of a position critics say is a telling example of Kerry's straddling.

Taranto concluded: "So Kerry is in fact at least as dishonest as the average journalist. We regret the error."

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis