One thing historians will say about President Obama was that he had an affinity for drone warfare for the purposes of taking out terrorists. In that respect President Trump was doing the same thing when he ordered that Qasem Soleimani be taken out, but that's not how MSNBC's Andrea Mitchell saw things on her Tuesday show.
After playing a clip of Attorney General Barr making the argument that there was no difference between Trump's order to take out Soleimani and any one of many Obama orders to drone terrorists, Mitchell welcomed Reuters White House correspondent Jeff Mason to talk about why Barr was wrong.
Despite the fact that Soleimani was part of an organization that has been designated by the U.S. as a terrorist organization, Mitchell declared Soleimani to not be a terrorist, "the droning of terrorists is not the same as droning and killing a general who is part of a state government."
That would be a government that uses terrorism to advance state goals and a general who was in theater to conduct such attacks against American interests. Mason, for his part, echoed Mitchell's other concerns about the inconsistencies in the White House's explanations for the strike.
As the segment ended, Mitchell added, "And my reporting is there were no alerts to the embassies, none of the required warnings that would indicate that they knew of an imminent threat, other than the previous attack on the Baghdad embassy."
At least Mitchell mentioned the embassy siege, even if she downplayed Soleimani's connections to that, because most of the media seem content to flush that down the memory hole when pressing the Administration for details on the nature of the threat. Surely, Mitchell and the rest of the media would not be as persistent in trying to correct any inconsistencies coming from Obama over Benghazi or Iran. Those situations simply call for a softball interview with Ben Rhodes.
Here is a transcript for the January 14 show:
Andrea Mitchell Reports
12:38 AM ET
ANDREA MITCHELL: A couple of things about that, joining me now to sort it all out is Jeff Mason, White House correspondent for Reuters. Jeff, as you well know, it was the administration who raised the subject of imminence, that's the standard that they put out there, Pompeo and of course the president himself, had expanded on it. If he can talk about it on Fox to Laura Ingraham and in talk about it in Toledo, how can Mike Pence then say we can't talk about what the justification is? Secondly, the droning of terrorists is not the same as droning and killing a general who is part of a state government.
JEFF MASON: Sure.
MITCHELL: There's a legal distinction there.
MASON: Yeah absolutely, and you have to listen to William Barr's comments that made me think they're showing a little bit of regret for not just not saying at the beginning this wasn’t about imminence, this was about taking someone out who needed to be taken out. What you've heard Trump say, repeatedly, this is a bad guy, we needed to get him, but for something as weighty as potential war with an adversary like Iran, they didn't have a clear and still don't have a clear and still don’t have a consistent explanation for why they did that particular attack.
MITCHELL: And, you would think that their messaging would be coherent. I mean here they are at brink of something, from all that we've seen now from northern Iraq; Richard Engel’s incredible reporting. You've seen the pictures. The Iranians did attack sleeping quarters on a base and it's only because we had this early warning system, our own very sophisticated early warning system of incoming missiles that they were down in the bunkers.
MASON: Absolutely. I was standing in the White House the day that the president same out and made his remarks after those attacks and, you know, there was a sense the night before and the night -- or that morning of, you know, we could be at the brink of war. And messaging matters. At that point and on everything else. But in this case, it's really -- it's really been something that has failed them. And they have created some tension, actually, with some of the president's supporters as well and some of his outside advisers have thrown up their hands and said what's the deal here in the weeks and days around that announcement.
MITCHELL: And my reporting is there were no alerts to the embassies, none of the required warnings that would indicate that they knew of an imminent threat, other than the previous attack on the Baghdad embassy.