Bill Kristol, the Weekly Standard editor who predicted in 2003 that proponents of the U.S. invasion of Iraq would be "vindicated" upon the discovery of weapons of mass destruction there, is holding fast to the idea that the deadly and expensive conflict was the right move. Kristol's justifications for the war, however, have changed dramatically.
In a May 20 op-ed for USA Today, Kristol argued that U.S. intervention in Iraq was justified in 2003 "to remove Saddam Hussein, and to complete the job we should have finished in 1991." Kristol added that "we were right to persevere" in Iraq, "even with the absence of caches of weapons of mass destruction."
Kristol went on to blame President Obama for the failure of the war and the rise of ISIS, writing, "Obama threw it all away":
Even with the absence of caches of weapons of mass destruction, and the mistakes we made in failing to send enough troops at first and to provide security from the beginning for the Iraqi people, we were right to persevere through several difficult years. We were able to bring the war to a reasonably successful conclusion in 2008.
When President Obama took office, Iraq was calm, al-Qaeda was weakened and ISIS did not exist. Iran, meanwhile, was under pressure from abroad (due to sanctions) and at home (due to popular discontent, manifested by the Green uprising in the summer of 2009).
The Obama administration threw it all away. It failed to support the dissidents in Iran in 2009, mishandled the Iraqi elections in 2010, removed all U.S. troops from Iraq at the end of 2011, and allowed the Syrian civil war to spiral out of control from 2011 on.
We see, this week in Ramadi but this year throughout the Middle East, the predictable consequences of this disastrous policy of withdrawal and retreat.
And even though the threat is now clear as day, this administration shows no sign of changing course, as President George W. Bush did when it became clear his strategy in Iraq wasn't working.
Kristol's stance on the war's justifications today differs considerably from his arguments in favor of invading Iraq in 2003. At that time, Kristol -- one of many conservative voices drumming up support for the war -- claimed American forces "will be welcomed in Baghdad as liberators" and argued that "we'll be vindicated when we discover the weapons of mass destruction." From the March 5, 2003 edition of ABC's Nightline:
TED KOPPEL: Does it bother you that it appears that it is going to be a largely unilateral policy? I don't want to diminish the influence of our British friends, but this is clearly an American policy.
BILL KRISTOL: It is. One would always prefer to have more allies rather than fewer. And I think we actually will have lots of help in the reconstruction and democratization, actually, of Iraq. But, look, I think what we've learned over the last ten years is that America has to lead. Other countries won't act. They will follow us, but they won't do it on their own. And in this case, I think we'll be vindicated when we discover the weapons of mass destruction and when we liberate the people of Iraq.
The editors of USA Today summarized the consequences of the Iraq War in a May 20 editorial:
Nearly 4,500 Americans died, tens of thousands more were wounded, and $2 trillion was squandered in a war to destroy weapons of mass destruction that were never found.
And though the war disposed of a bloody dictator, Saddam Hussein, it ushered in something worse, at least for the United States: A sectarian civil war that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and gave birth to Islamist terrorism, now under the banner of the Islamic State.
Fox News host Bill O'Reilly interviewed a former biker gang leader about a recent biker shootout in Waco, Texas that left nine people dead. O'Reilly's interview with his white guest was a sharp contrast to interviews the host regularly has with African-American guests, where he lectures them about black violence, culture, and family structure.
On May 17, authorities arrested roughly 170 bikers following the deadly shootout between biker gangs and police in Waco, Texas that left nine people dead and 18 wounded outside of a restaurant. According to The New York Times, "Law enforcement officials and gang experts said the conflicts between two motorcycle groups, the Bandidos and the Cossacks, led to the shooting."
During the May 19 edition of his show, O'Reilly interviewed former Bandidos biker gang member Edward Winterhalder to comment on the bloody shootout. During the discussion O'Reilly asked Winterhalder about alleged violence and criminal activity among biker gangs and allowed Winterhalder to explain uninterrupted that "there is a lot of different types of individuals in a motorcycle club" but most are law abiding citizens who "are just regular guys who have jobs, families, and kids ... the only thing they're guilty of is having a little too much fun on the weekends":
Fox News defended Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush after he said he would still have authorized the invasion of Iraq "given what we know now," claiming that Bush simply misunderstood the question.
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush faced criticism from conservatives for comments he made during a May 11 interview with Fox News host Megyn Kelly, where he said that he would have authorized the invasion of Iraq after Kelly asked him if he would have done so "knowing what we know now." Conservative columnist Byron York called Bush's response a "disastrous defense of the Iraq War" and radio host Laura Ingraham commented that "there has to be something wrong" with Bush for his answer.
But Fox News quickly helped Bush whitewash his comments as a misinterpretation. On May 11, soon after the interview aired, Kelly said that Bush was trying to answer a different question.
On the May 12 edition of his radio show, Fox's Sean Hannity gave Bush a platform to "clarify" his comments because "The media seems to be taking it another way and I wanted to see if I could clarify that today." Bush claimed that he "interpreted the question wrong" but argued "I don't know what that decision would have been" on invading Iraq.
Later on The Kelly File, Kelly discussed Bush's comments with Fox senior political analyst Brit Hume. Hume argued that Bush "clearly misunderstood your question, although the question was quite straightforwardly posed." Hume added that Bush's answer was "clearly and unmistakably an answer to a question about what you would have done had you not known what we know now."
Fox News' Geraldo Rivera was confronted by a Baltimore resident frustrated by the network's history of biased and incendiary coverage of racial issues. Rivera responded by retreating before going live on-air where he described the young black man as a "vandal," yelling at him, "you're making a fool of yourself!"
On April 28, Geraldo Rivera was confronted by a young black Baltimore resident as he prepared to report on the unrest in the city following the death of Freddie Gray. The resident explained his frustration with Fox News' failure to spotlight Gray's death while hyping the unrest that ensued. The young man explained to Rivera, "I want you and Fox News to get out of Baltimore City, because you are not here reporting about the boarded up homes and the homeless people under MLK. You're not reporting about the poverty levels up and down North Avenue. ... But you're here for the black riots that happen. ... you're not here for the death of Freddie Gray." Watch:
Fox Business host Lou Dobbs and Fox News contributor Keith Ablow blamed President Obama and his administration for violence in the wake of the mysterious death of Freddie Gray, who died a week after suffering an unexplained injury while in the custody of Baltimore police officers.
On April 19, 25-year-old Freddie Gray died of a reported spinal cord injury that he mysteriously suffered after being arrested on April 12 by police officers. After Gray's funeral on April 27, the governor of Maryland declared a state of emergency in Baltimore and activated the National Guard to respond to violence and looting in the city that resulted in injury to at least 15 police officers.
On the April 27 edition of Lou Dobbs Tonight, Fox host Lou Dobbs responded to the events by blaming the violence against the police on Obama, asserting that "there is a war on law enforcement" that is being "corroborated if not condoned by this administration."
Later during the show, Dobbs invited Fox contributor Keith Ablow to comment, and he also blamed Obama for the violence, adding that people who want to tear down the system like the people in Baltimore "might be taking [their] cues from this president" (emphasis added):
DOBBS: I'd like to begin with what drives, in your judgment, a police department and a mayor, who basically have given a free pass to those who are tearing up property, and injuring others, including law enforcement?
ABLOW: What drives them is a lack of respect for the foundation of governing and foundation of law upon which this nation rests. Contempt for such things and a kind of tacit acceptance, that protests can be violent because people are so frustrated. But the bottom line Lou, is that if you want to change things, you work within the system, that is the way it has always been. If you want to tear down the system, you might be taking your cues, by the way, from a president who has given the appearance that there is every justification for any level of anger at our country because we're such despicable people.
While reporting on the protests earlier in the day, Fox News' Shep Smith urged his colleagues to report on the protests objectively by "for now, just covering what happens," instead of indicting the community.
Fox News baselessly suggested that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton personally approved a deal that eventually gave the Russian government ownership of U.S. uranium mines to benefit a Clinton Foundation donor. But Clinton reportedly had no personal involvement in the deal, which was approved by representatives of nine U.S. agencies after a rigorous review process.
On the April 4 edition of Special Report, host Bret Baier previewed his upcoming hour-long special on discredited conservative author Peter Schweizer's forthcoming book Clinton Cash, in which he accuses Bill and Hillary Clinton of influence peddling with foreign governments in exchange for donations to the Clinton Foundation and speaking fees. The segment focused on Schweizer's allegations regarding Clinton's purported role in approving the sale of the uranium mining company Uranium One to the Russian government.
New York Times reporter Jo Becker, whose own reporting on the Uranium One story has been criticized by the Clinton campaign for burying "original reporting that debunks the allegation that then-Secretary Clinton played any role in the review of the sale," also appeared in the segment. Both the Times and Fox reportedly "made arrangements for exclusive access" to the book.
During the preview, Schweizer detailed the sale of Uranium One to the Russian state corporation Rosatom. He and Schweizer then had the following exchange:
BAIER: Now, does Secretary Clinton factor into this?
SCHWEIZER: For that deal to go through, it needs federal government approval and one of those people that has to approve that deal is Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Baier concluded: "So what this amounts to, in the end, is a Russian company essentially controlled by Vladimir Putin, will now be in charge of a substantial portion of American uranium. Russia sends uranium to its client state, Iran. So American uranium could well be sent to the very nation we're negotiating with to try to slow its ability to develop a nuclear weapon. Thus, we see how far-reaching the effect of the Clinton blur, as Schweizer puts it, can be."
But Baier's preview omitted important context to misleadingly suggest that Clinton personally approved the Russian purchase. According to Time, which received this chapter of Schweizer's book in advance, the State Department's role in approving the deal was part of an extensive bureaucratic process, and Schweizer's chapter offers no indication of Hillary Clinton's personal involvement in, or even knowledge of, the deliberations. In fact, Time quotes Jose Hernandez, who as former Assistant Secretary of State for Economic, Energy and Business Affairs was involved the deliberations on behalf of the State Department, denying that Clinton was involved in the matter at all.
Moreover, Time pointed out that the "deal's approval was the result of an extensive interagency process that required the assent of at least nine different officials and agencies" through the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. According to the report, "State has just one vote on the nine-member committee, which also includes the departments of Defense, Treasury and Energy. Disagreements are traditionally handled at the staff level, and if they are not resolved, they are escalated to deputies at the relevant agencies. If the deputies can't resolve the dispute, the issues can be elevated to the Cabinet Secretary level and, if needed, to the President for a decision. The official chairman of CFIUS is the Treasury Secretary, not the Secretary of State."
Furthermore, the Uranium One deal also had to receive approval from "the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, an independent agency outside of the State Department's purview, as well as Utah's nuclear regulator. The deal also received approval from Canada's foreign investment review agency."
Clinton campaign press secretary Brian Fallon has denied any wrongdoing by Clinton and criticized Becker for burying crucial facts from her report "that debunks the allegation that then-Secretary Clinton played any role in the review of the sale."
Relying largely on research from the conservative author of Clinton Cash, today's New York Times alleges that donations to the Clinton Foundation coincided with the U.S. government's 2010 approval of the sale of a company known as Uranium One to the Russian government. Without presenting any direct evidence in support of the claim, the Times story -- like the book on which it is based -- wrongly suggests that Hillary Clinton's State Department pushed for the sale's approval to reward donors who had a financial interest in the deal. Ironically, buried within the story is original reporting that debunks the allegation that then-Secretary Clinton played any role in the review of the sale.
Fox News' Andrea Tantaros defended Indiana's controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), asserting that businesses owners "would go out of their way not to discriminate." But a business owner in Indiana has already pledged to use the law to deny services to LGBT customers.
Indiana's "religious freedom" law -- which provides a legal defense for businesses that refuse to serve LGBT customers for religious reasons -- ignited a firestorm of criticism this week, with legal scholars and LGBT advocates raising concerns about the law's broad language.
On the April 1 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered, co-host Tantaros downplayed concerns about the law, claiming, "these big businesses are going to go out of their way, of course, not to discriminate," adding that she doesn't "see Christian businesses refusing to serve eggs to anyone."
But at least one Indiana businessowner has already pledged to refuse to serve LGBT people. Crystal O'Connor, an owner of Memories Pizza shop in Walkerton, told ABC 57 that she supported RFRA and would refuse service to a gay couple because "we are a Christian establishment." "If a gay couple came in and wanted us to provide pizzas for their wedding, we would have to say no," she stated.
Fox News media critic Howard Kurtz downplayed the bloody arrest and subsequent national media coverage of a black University of Virginia (UVA) student, arrested during an alleged dispute over his ID, claiming "such arrests are common in this college town."
The Washington Post reported that Virginia's Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) is under scrutiny after the violent arrest of UVA student Martese Johnson, who "sustained head injuries that left him with bloody streaks down his face" following St. Patrick's Day celebrations near the UVA campus in Charlottesville. Photos of Johnson's bloody face sparked widespread outrage and protests over the use of excessive police force.
During a segment on March 20 edition of Special Report, Kurtz criticized the national media attention claiming that this was a local story with "no evidence that race was a factor" in the arrest. Kurtz later downplayed the arrest as typical, asserting that "bartenders tell us such arrests are common in this college town."
Former Fox News contributor and journalism professor Jane Hall explained that the media should hold Fox News host Bill O'Reilly to the same standard Brian Williams faced after news broke of his multiple reporting fabrications.
Recently, O'Reilly has faced increased criticism and scrutiny following the news of various discrepancies and fabrications in stories he told about his journalistic credentials which may have wrongly benefited his career. The controversy has spurred calls from a veterans group and other organizations for O'Reilly to be held accountable for his fabrications by Fox. O'Reilly has even faced criticism from former colleagues at CBS, Inside Edition, and now Fox News.
During an interview with The Wrap, O'Reilly's former colleague at Fox, American University journalism professor Jane Hall said that media outlets should hold O'Reilly to the same standard as Brian Williams, who was suspended for six months after he acknowledged "exaggerating his role in a helicopter episode in Iraq." According to Hall:
"I think the media reporting should hold [O'Reilly] to the same standard [as Brian Williams]," former Fox News contributor and American University Journalism Professor Jane Hall told TheWrap. "He reaches how many millions of people a night? If people in the media are dismissing him as, 'he's an entertainer,' I think they're vastly underestimating his influence."
A Fox News spokesperson told The Wrap Hall's contract was not renewed and she was let go; Hall says she left of her own volition.
Hall thinks NBC News' swift response to the Williams scandal was appropriate in the context of the sober "Nightly News" brand, but emphasized O'Reilly shouldn't be let off the hook.
"He is an opinion host, but I don't think that means reporters shouldn't be writing about it given his influence and his ratings," adding that the question reporters need to ask is, "what is your audience, what is your reach, what is your political influence?"
Fox News host Bill O'Reilly boosted his idea that the U.S. is in a holy war against the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL), demanding the Obama administration "take the holy war seriously" and urging American clerics to lead the fight.
After the Islamic State's beheading of 21 Egyptian Christians in Libya, O'Reilly claimed that "the holy war is here" on the February 17 edition of his show. O'Reilly later called on "all Christians, Jews, and secularists who love their country" to call the White House and "say enough."
On the February 18 edition of his show, O'Reilly again claimed it is "appropriate to define the worldwide conflict between Muslim fanatics and nearly everybody else" as a "holy war" and demanded President Obama "take the holy war seriously." O'Reilly asserted that the West must come together to eliminate the Islamic State, adding that "if the politicians won't do it, the clergy must lead the way."