After former Sen. Chuck Hagel was nominated as defense secretary, right-wing media outlets attacked him with distorted quotes, and similarly deceptive uses of those quotes surfaced at Hagel's hearing on Thursday.
During the hearing, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) highlighted a statement that Hagel made in a 2006 speech about the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah that was occurring in Lebanon at the time. Cruz claimed that Hagel had accused Israel of committing a "sickening slaughter."
But as Slate's Dave Weigel pointed out, this echoes a distortion promoted by The Weekly Standard. In reality, Hagel said that the "sickening slaughter on both sides must end" (emphasis added). As Weigel explains, Hagel "described the conflict that way -- a sickening slaughter was occurring -- blaming both sides, and quickly following up by criticizing Iran and invoking the 'special relationship'" between Israel and the United States.
Cruz also showed video of Hagel answering questions on an Al-Jazeera show in 2009. One of the questions Hagel fielded on the show was an email that asked:
Can the rest of the world be persuaded to give up their arsenal when the image of the U.S. is that of the world's bully? Don't we indeed need to change the perception and the reality before asking folks to lay down their arms (nuclear or otherwise)?
On the program, Hagel responded, "Well, her observation is a good one, and it's relevant. Yes to her question."
According to Cruz, the clip showed Hagel "explicitly" agreeing that the United States is "the world's bully." This echoes the take of the Washington Free Beacon, which discussed this exchange in a January 9 post misleadingly headlined "Hagel Agrees that America is 'the World's Bully.' " But as is clear from the question itself, Hagel agreed that there is an image of the U.S. as a bully that needs to be corrected.
From the January 24 edition of MSNBC's NOW with Alex Wagner:
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With Sen. John Kerry's confirmation hearing as secretary of state scheduled for January 24, media reports will likely invoke the coordinated 2004 campaign to "Swift Boat" Kerry. While the smears from the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth (SBVT) have long-since fallen apart under scrutiny, Jerome Corsi, one of the masterminds behind the campaign, is revisiting his old attacks.
A look at Corsi's "reporting" during the 2008 campaign and Obama's presidency confirms what quickly became clear during his efforts to hamstring Kerry's presidential run: he has utterly no credibility and his alleged reporting should not be taken seriously by media outlets.
Prior to the 2004 election, with the backing of major Republican donors, Vietnam veteran John O'Neill co-founded SBVT in an attempt to derail Kerry's presidential bid by casting doubt on his military service. The group launched a series of dishonest ads in August of that year, accompanied by Unfit for Command, a book co-authored by O'Neill and Corsi. In its review of Unfit for Command in October 2004, The New York Times explained that while the book was filled with "discredited," "faulty" and "totally unconvincing" claims, if Kerry's presidential bid were to fail, the tome would "go down as a chief reason."
When the book was released, co-author Corsi was practically unknown in political circles. He was a regular poster at conservative message board Free Republic and worked at a financial marketing group. After Media Matters highlighted a series of offensive comments he had made at Free Republic -- including calling Muslims "ragheads" and "boy buggers" and labeling Hillary Clinton a "fat hog" -- Unfit for Command co-author John O'Neill repeatedly tried to distance himself from Corsi to tamp down the controversy. While O'Neill tried to claim Corsi merely helped edit Unfit for Command, Corsi was listed as co-author on the book jacket and promotional materials for the book touted his involvement in co-writing it.
Shortly before the 2004 election, Corsi was hired by conservative publication WorldNetDaily, which has served as his main outlet. During the 2008 campaign and Obama's presidency, Corsi has used his WND platform to promote a staggering number of outlandish conspiracies about the president, including that Obama has a fake birth certificate and stolen Social Security number; that Obama is both secretly gay and secretly Muslim; and that Obama and his family have lied about the true identity of his father, who may be either communist writer Frank Marshall Davis or "some Indonesian."
In this report:
- "Where's The Birth Certificate?": Corsi Is Leading Birther Conspiracy Theorist
- "Where's The Real Birth Certificate?": Corsi Led Charge To Declare Obama's Long-Form Fake
- "I've Always Thought The Father Was Indonesian": Corsi's Quest To Find Obama's "Real" Father
- Corsi: Obama Is Possibly Gay, Definitely A Muslim
- A Superhighway To The Education Camps
From the January 23 edition of CNN's Erin Burnett OutFront:
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From the January 23 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
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Fox News contributor Laura Ingraham mocked Secretary Clinton for "lip-syncing" an emotional reaction during her testimony on the September 11 attacks on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya. The portion of the testimony that Ingraham was mocking came as Clinton recalled her feelings while contacting the families of Americans killed in the attack:
The tweet was highlighted in "Fox Nation's Hot Twitter Box" on Clinton's testimony.
As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton prepares to testify before Congress about the September 11 attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, Media Matters reviews the falsehoods conservative media have pushed regarding Clinton and her response to the attack.
Washington Times columnist and National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent equated President Obama's decision to have Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder lead the administration's gun violence prevention efforts with asking serial killer and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer for child-rearing advice.
Nugent recently claimed gun owners will become the next Rosa Parks and offer nonviolent resistance if President Obama issues an executive order confiscating guns, a comparison that drew sharp criticism from civil rights leaders and advocates.
Nugent followed up that comment by appearing on the January 13 edition of WorldNetDaily reporter Aaron Klein's radio show and saying that having Biden and Holder lead a gun safety task force is "like hiring Jeffrey Dahmer to tell us how to take care of our children."
The Drudge Report and WorldNetDaily have promoted Nugent's comments on Klein's show, during which Nugent also said that Obama and others must be "psychotic" for trying to strengthen gun violence prevention laws.
Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace allowed Bill Kristol to attack the nomination of Chuck Hagel as defense secretary without disclosing that Kristol is currently waging a full-scale campaign to oppose the nominee. Wallace further failed to challenge Kristol on his previous support of Hagel until he publicly supported a withdrawal from the Iraq War.
Fox News contributor Bill Kristol has been leading a relentless attack campaign against former Republican senator Chuck Hagel, President Obama's nominee for defense secretary. During television appearances and on his site The Weekly Standard, Kristol is actively encouraging the Senate to block Hagel's nomination. The Emergency Committee for Israel, a political advocacy group Kristol founded, has even launched an anti-Hagel website complete with attack ads.
Yet on Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace asked Kristol to opine on Hagel's nomination without any mention of his advocacy to prevent Hagel from becoming defense secretary. After saying Hagel is a "controversial pick for defense secretary," Wallace directed Kristol: "Your comments on Hagel?" Kristol replied, "I don't think Chuck Hagel is the right man to be secretary of defense. We'll see if the United [States] Senate agrees with that." Kristol opposes the nomination on the false grounds that Hagel is hostile to Israel and sympathetic to Iran.
Kristol even interjected Hagel attacks into unrelated conversations.
Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin jumps on the "picking fights" bandwagon and writes that the nomination of Jack Lew for Treasury Secretary shows that Obama is "going to seek confrontation" in his second term. This is a problematic line of reasoning, given that the Republican Senate minority is doing everything it can to ensure confrontation, but Rubin teases out a broader criticism of Obama's nominations thus far, writing in her January 10 post:
It is not merely that President Obama has put up confrontational nominees. He is also replacing senior people with standing and reputations derived independent of his administration (e.g., Hillary Clinton, Leon Panetta, Tim Geithner) with confidants who are like-minded, disinclined to question the president or rebut his (often erroneous) thinking.
This is utter hogwash. Let's run down Obama's second term high-level nominees thus far: Sen. John Kerry for State; former Sen. Chuck Hagel for Defense; John Brennan for CIA director; and Jack Lew for Treasury.
Both Kerry and Hagel have standing and reputations derived from a combined 40 years spent in the Senate. Kerry and Obama obviously see eye-to-eye on most issues, but Hagel is a Republican and on more than a few topics he and the president are not "like-minded." Before his name was put forth as a potential Obama nominee Republican senators were singing Hagel's praises as someone who "understands the world better than almost anyone," and John McCain said Hagel would make a "great Secretary of State" in 2006, as McCain was preparing for his own presidential run.
As for Brennan and Lew, both have spent the last four years in the administration, but Brennan's "standing" and "reputation" come from a career spent in the CIA. He was also the first director of the National Counterterrorism Center. Jack Lew is the only nominee for whom Rubin's criticism is even close to accurate, but it's still a stretch. Lew was Bill Clinton's director of the Office of Management and Budget from 1998 -2001, a job he held again under Obama.
There are still at least two nominations to go, now that Labor Secretary Hilda Solis has tendered her resignation and Environmental Protection Agency administrator Lisa Jackson has said she will step down. Given the trajectory of the commentary it seems likely that (for conservative bloggers at least) their replacements will be controversial and confrontational figures who owe their careers and reputations to Obama's largesse, no matter who they may be.
President Obama's forthcoming nomination of White House chief of staff Jack Lew for Treasury Secretary is not sitting well with the Wall Street Journal editorial board. The Journal, in an editorial headlined "Team of Liberal Loyalists," criticizes Obama's selection of a "loyalist" for Treasury who will "advance and implement his agenda," rather than a figure who will "offer independent advice."
President Obama is expected to name Jack Lew as his Treasury secretary on Thursday, continuing his cabinet's second-term makeover in his own image. He is assembling a team of personal and ideological loyalists whose job will be less to offer independent advice than to advance and implement his agenda for a larger, more redistributionist government.
What a difference an administration can make. Back in late 2004, as the newly reelected President Bush was mulling Cabinet replacements for his second term, the Journal editorial board weighed in on potential Treasury secretaries. Looking back at his first term, they praised Bush for dumping Paul O'Neill (because he "didn't agree with the President's agenda") and replacing him with John Snow, who "has been loyal and has served honorably."
More than Defense or State, and certainly more than Homeland Security, if there's a single Cabinet post that could ruin President Bush's second term, our choice would be Treasury. So we hope the White House is doing more thinking about the position than it has exhibited so far.
Mr. Bush's first choice, Paul O'Neill, was an unguided missile who didn't agree with the President's agenda and had to be fired. Second choice John Snow has been loyal and has served honorably, though no one we know would describe him as another Andrew Mellon, or even a Robert Rubin, in terms of his clout both inside and outside the Administration. If there was any doubt about this, the nasty recent leak from someone in the White House that Mr. Snow would only be around for a few more months hardly enhanced his stature. Whether he's leaving or staying, the Secretary deserved better treatment.
The Journal did want to see a Bush Treasury Secretary with "the stature to fight the White House tendency to make economic choices for short-term political reasons," but what sort of independent, agenda-free non-loyalist did they have in mind for the position? Donald Rumsfeld. They even wrote favorably of Andrew Card who, like Lew, was chief of staff and ran "a disciplined White House." (They also worried that Card "would be perceived as the choice of the weak-dollar lobby.")
As a bonus let's take a look at Wall Street Journal editorial board member Bret Stephens' November 29, 2004, column on the role of the Cabinet. Per Stephens, the Cabinet is there to be stuffed with loyalists and used as an instrument to enact the president's agenda:
This brings us back to the current administration. George W. Bush is accused of burying cabinet government for good with his appointments of close confidantes Rice, Alberto Gonzales and Margaret Spellings. Nonsense. Contrary to Andrew Sullivan, a cabinet is not something a president governs with; and contrary to Andrew Jackson, it is not something a president governs around. Ideally, a cabinet is what a president governs through. Now that Mr. Bush has moved his own people into the cabinet, he may at last be able to do just that.
President Obama is busily nominating replacements for the various Cabinet officers and Cabinet-level officials who aren't sticking around for his second term. The emerging consensus in the media is that in doing so, the president is "picking fights" with the Senate GOP minority that will have to vote for or against the nominees. Former Republican senator Chuck Hagel's nomination for Defense Secretary has been cast as an especially provocative move by the White House. It's a curious way to frame the story -- if indeed Obama can be said to be "picking fights" with Cabinet nominees, that's only because Senate Republicans have made clear they'll fight anyone Obama picks. And casting Obama as the disruptive force masks the Republican obstructionism underlying the confirmation fights.
Here's The Hill from January 7:
Obama nominates Hagel for Pentagon, picking fight with Senate Republicans
President Obama on Monday nominated former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) to be the nation's next Defense secretary despite warnings of a tough confirmation fight from some Senate Republicans.
Here's the Washington Post, also from January 7:
President Obama picks a confirmation fight. Can he win it?
When President Obama formally nominates Chuck Hagel to be the next Secretary of Defense later today, he can be certain of one thing: The former Nebraska Republican Senator will face a major fight to win confirmation.
And here's Politico from this morning:
Why President Obama is picking fights with Congress
Barack Obama is looking for a few good fights.
Obama, the same president who campaigned twice on breaking the cycle of conflict in Washington, sees the utility -- even the necessity -- of rattling Republican cages as he plunges into a succession of upcoming battles over the nomination of Chuck Hagel as secretary of defense, the debt ceiling, $1 trillion in automatic budget cuts, immigration reform and gun control.
Fox News contributor Bill Kristol has recently headed a relentless attack campaign against former Sen. Chuck Hagel after President Obama nominated Hagel to be the next defense secretary. However, Kristol used to speak favorably towards Hagel, only changing his opinion when Hagel voted in favor of a withdrawal timeline for the Iraq War in 2007.
Kristol's opposition to Hagel was on full display today when he took to Fox's America's Newsroom to smear the nominee as anti-Israel.
However, as Think Progress noted, back in 2000, Kristol spoke in favor of Hagel, at one point describing him as an "impressive and attractive first-term senator" with a "decent shot" at becoming the VP for George W. Bush.
What changed? As The New York Times reported on March 28, 2007, Hagel shocked both Republicans and Democrats by voting in favor of a military spending bill that included a withdrawal date for troops in Iraq -- something Republicans were emphatically against. From the Times:
By a vote of 50 to 48, with a few crucial votes shifting in favor of the Democratic position, the Senate rejected a Republican effort to strip from the military spending bill any mention of a withdrawal date. The legislation will now move forward with a provision to begin a gradual withdrawal of American troops from Iraq within 120 days of the measure's enactment, with a nonbinding goal of pulling out by March 31, 2008.
The outcome of the Senate vote took both parties by surprise. Republicans were stung by the defection of Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, who has not supported a timetable for withdrawal before although he is his party's most outspoken critic of the war in Congress.
"There will not be a military solution to Iraq," Mr. Hagel declared. "Iraq belongs to the 25 million Iraqis who live there. It doesn't belong to the United States. Iraq is not a prize to be won or lost."
Watch as Kristol turned on the former Senator he once called "impressive and attractive," instead describing him as "irresponsible," during the March 27, 2007, edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:
The Wall Street Journal argued in an editorial that the National Labor Relations Board, which is charged with protecting workers' right to organize, has overstepped its authority to do unions' bidding regardless of the law--particularly in its approach to employers' social media policies. A review of the NLRB Office of the General Counsel's memos, however, demonstrates that the WSJ's characterization of the body's policies is without merit.
The January 6 editorial, titled "Another NLRB Power Grab," accused the body of becoming "a wholly-owned subsidiary of Big Labor, rather than a neutral arbiter of fair labor practice." In support of this claim, the WSJ presented blatantly false statements about the NLRB's approach to employers' social media policies:
Also insidious is the NLRB's effort to regulate how companies handle social media. In the Facebook and Twitter age, employers have an obvious interest in rules that prohibit their employees from defaming colleagues, or broadcasting confidential information. The NLRB has nonetheless decided that even reasonable restrictions impinge on concerted activity.
In fact, both the NLRB's Office of the General Counsel (OGC) and the Board itself have explicitly stated that employers may set certain limits on their employees' social media activities as long as they do not prohibit activities protected under the National Labor Relations Act. Three OGC memos provide guidance about what types of employer policies pass muster under the NLRA.
In the most recent memo, dated May 30, 2012, the OGC examined seven cases about employer social media policies and concluded that one of the employer policies was lawful in its entirety, while some provisions of the remaining six policies "are overbroad and thus unlawful under the National Labor Relations Act."
Although the OGC concluded that some aspects of a confidentiality policy were invalid, it also recognized that a policy that "admonishes employees to '[d]evelop a healthy suspicion[,]' cautions against being tricked into disclosing confidential information, and urges employees to '[b]e suspicious if asked to ignore identification procedures' " is lawful.
Nor did the OGC state that all social media posts are "concerted activity" that is protected under the NLRA. In fact, although it concluded that employees' Facebook posts can be protected if they meet the requirements applicable to communications outside of social media, it defined such posts narrowly. In a January 2012 memo, the OGC restated the NLRA requirement that protected activity must be "concerted," meaning that it seeks to involve other employees in a discussion of the terms and conditions and employment, and advised that an employee's online discussion would not be protected just because fellow employees "liked" a post.
Policies that are sufficiently clear and not limited in scope can pass muster in their entirety. The OGC advised that policies "that clarify and restrict their scope by including examples of clearly illegal or unprotected conduct, such that they would not reasonably be construed to cover protected activity, are not unlawful."
In short, the WSJ's characterization of the NLRB's positions on social media bears no resemblance to the guidance it has publicly shared.
CNN distorted former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel's positions on potential U.S. negotiations with Hamas and sanctions on Iran to privilege the bogus argument that the senator is anti-Israel. In fact, Hagel's positions on these issues are not out of the mainstream and are not anti-Israel.
During a report that President Obama is going to nominate Hagel to be secretary of defense, CNN host Zoraida Sambolin played a clip of Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) saying that a Hagel nomination is an "in your face nomination by the president to all of us who are supportive of Israel." CNN foreign affairs correspondent Jill Dougherty followed up that clip by asserting that Hagel's critics "would question his devotion to anything that would help Israel. He, for instance, believes in talking to Hamas." Dougherty also highlighted the argument that Hagel's views on sanctions against Iran show that he is not sufficiently pro-Israel.
But the position Hagel has taken on Hamas is well within the mainstream and the position he has taken on Iran is not an anti-Israel position, but part of his long-held view that unilateral sanctions do not work. Furthermore, Hagel is supported by high-profile pro-Israel commentators.
Regarding Hamas, in 2009, Hagel co-signed a bipartisan letter suggesting steps the United States could take to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinians. One of the recommendations in the letter was that the United States should take "a more pragmatic approach toward Hamas and a Palestinian unity government." The United States has a policy of not negotiating with Hamas, which won Palestinian legislative elections in 2006 and is the de facto ruler of the Gaza Strip, due to its support of terrorism.
The letter stated: "Direct U.S. engagement with Hamas may not now be practical." But it added that Israel has acknowledged Hamas "is simply too important and powerful to be ignored." It recommended that the United States shift its policy "from ousting Hamas to modifying its behavior, offer it inducements that will enable its more moderate elements to prevail, and cease discouraging third parties from engaging with Hamas."
This is far from an extreme or anti-Israel position. The letter was co-signed by two former U.S. National Security Advisers, Zbigniew Brezinski, who served in the Carter administration and Brent Scowcroft, who served in the Ford, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush administrations. Other signers include former Sen. Nancy Kassebaum-Baker (R-KS), former 9/11 Commission co-chair Lee Hamilton, and former Federal Reserve chair Paul Volcker. New York Times columnist Roger Cohen also endorsed the position on Hamas taken by the letter.
Furthermore, the Israeli government itself has said it is willing to talk to Hamas under certain conditions. The Jerusalem Post reported that Israeli President Shimon Peres said that "Israel would be willing to talk to Hamas, if Hamas complied with the three conditions set down by the Mideast Quartet, namely renunciation of terrorism, recognition of Israel and willingness to negotiate with Israel." The Post also reported: "There's nothing wrong with talking to Hamas, Peres clarified, but Hamas won't talk to Israel."