International incidents are a prime opportunity to daydream about foreign leaders who'd make better presidents than Barack Obama, at least inside the conservative media bubble. David Cameron has now joined Vladimir Putin and Benjamin Netanyahu on the right's list of foreigners they'd rather have in the Oval Office than the man the nation elected.
On August 28, President Obama delivered remarks on the U.S. military's approach to the rising terror threat from the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL) and recent developments in Ukraine. Right-wing media figures responded with disdain, accusing the president of failing to view the Islamic State as a threat and even suggesting it's understandable to think Obama sympathizes with terrorists. Yet when Cameron delivered similar remarks on the Islamic State's threat to the United Kingdom the next day, the right's response was much different -- Fox News contributor Erick Erickson tweeted:
Can we borrow David Cameron? He fights.-- Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) August 29, 2014
Cameron joins a select group of foreign leaders whom the right-wing media have determined to be better suited for the U.S. presidency than the man chosen by American voters.
Fox News contributor Erick Erickson responded to President Obama's press conference addressing the Islamic State by asserting that he understands why "so many" believe Obama "is a closet Muslim jihadist sympathizer."
On August 28, Obama held a press conference to deliver remarks on the Islamic State and recent developments in Ukraine. During his statement, Obama explained that U.S. airstrikes have allowed Kurdish forces to push back the extremists, but added that more needed to be done with allies to root out the "cancer" that is the Islamic State:
As I've said, rooting out a cancer like ISIL will not be quick or easy, but I'm confident that we can and we will, working closely with our allies and our partners. For our part, I've directed Secretary Hagel and our Joint Chiefs of Staff to prepare a range of options. I'll be meeting with my National Security Council again this evening as we continue to develop that strategy. And I've been consulting with members of Congress, and I'll continue to do so in the days ahead.
Despite Obama's strong condemnation of the Islamic State, Erickson said on his radio show that "I don't believe Barack Obama is a closet Muslim jihadi sympathizer. But I now - today, after this press conference -- totally understand why so many of you think he is." Erickson repeated the incendiary comment on Twitter:
Erickson's inflammatory remark is the latest in a long line of extreme rhetoric from the Fox contributor. In 2012, Erickson called Obama a "composite Kenyan" on his blog RedState. He also has a history of sexist and homophobic comments: Erickson labeled Texas state lawmaker and gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis "Abortion Barbie" and claimed that gay people need to "overcome" the "struggle" of homosexuality.
Conservative media are suggesting that the Obama administration is "working with foreigners to subvert the Constitution" by seeking a climate agreement with other nations without Senate approval, but legal experts agree that because it is not expected to be legally binding, the accord does not require Senate ratification.
The Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) and the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) are demanding action from Fox News after a host linked all Muslims to terrorists and advocated for violence against practitioners of the faith.
In an August 27 statement, the Asian American Journalist Association condemned Fox co-host Andrea Tantaros for making blanket statements conflating all Muslims to the Islamic State and advocating for violence against them. AAJA called on the network to apologize:
AAJA calls for Tantaros and Fox News to apologize for the irresponsible, inflammatory statements. We also call on Fox News to discourage its journalists from making blanket comments that serve to perpetuate hate and Islamophobia.
Muslims and Islam are not interchangeable terms with terrorists or ISIS. We in the media know better and must be vigilant in our choice of words.
The AAJA joined the Muslim Public Affairs Council in their outrage over the offensive Fox segment. MPAC previously called for the network to fire Tantaros following her inflammatory statements.
The growing call for action from Fox News comes after an August 20 segment of Outnumbered featured co-host Andrea Tantaros discussing the death of journalist James Foley at the hands of the Islamic State. Suggesting that the history of Islam set a precedent for the murder, Tantaros declared that "this isn't a surprise," and that the only way to solve the situation was "with a bullet to the head. It's the only thing these people understand":
From the August 27 edition of MSNBC's The Ed Show:
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A central question of Fox News' latest documentary on Benghazi has already been answered by official congressional and State Department investigations into the terrorist attacks.
On August 27, Fox announced "13 Hours at Benghazi," a new documentary hosted by Special Report anchor Bret Baier that will reportedly include "exclusive" interviews with three American security personnel who were present for the September 2012 attacks. The production, scheduled to air September 5, is based on a forthcoming book written by journalist Mitchell Zuckoff and the CIA contractors.
According to Fox's announcement, the production will specifically explore "Whether or not military assistance was requested by the security team and whether orders from above hindered their response to the violence that claimed the lives of U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans."
The problem with this premise is that both of those questions have already been answered by official intelligence investigations.
As the Daily Beast's Eli Lake has explained, on the night of the attacks there was a 23-minute delay between the initial distress call from the diplomatic mission and when the CIA contractors departed the nearby Annex to respond. Despite suggestions from some in the intelligence community that this delay hindered their rescue effort, investigations found no evidence that the CIA operatives were delayed by "orders from above," as Fox's announcement suggests.
Instead, the Senate Intelligence Committee's January 2014 review of the attacks found that during that delay, the CIA's Chief of Base "attempted to secure assistance and heavy weapons" from US allies in the region, and that (emphasis added):
Although some members of the security team expressed frustration that they were unable to respond more quickly to the Mission compound, the Committee found no evidence of intentional delay or obstruction by the Chief of Base or any other party.
The State Department's independent Accountability Review Board also found the CIA team was not obstructed by officials:
The departure of the Annex team was not delayed by orders from superiors; the team leader decided on his own to depart the Annex compound once it was apparent, despite a brief delay to permit their continuing efforts, that rapid support from local security elements was not forthcoming.
Finally, the House Intelligence Committee, chaired by Republicans, also found no evidence that any response effort was blocked by official orders. According to Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD), the "bipartisan, factual, definitive report" on the Intelligence Community's actions the night of the attacks "shows there was no 'stand down order' given to American personnel attempting to offer assistance that evening."
Fox's Bret Baier, the host of the upcoming special, reported on the House Intelligence Committee's findings on August 5.
Baier has hosted previous Fox specials on Benghazi and has repeatedly used his Fox News program to promote myths about the attacks and their aftermath. The false claim that CIA contractors received "orders to wait" was also pushed by 60 Minutes' infamous since-retracted Benghazi report, which featured a discredited "eyewitness" account from a British security contractor.
Fox News aired a deceptively cut clip of a speech President Obama gave to the American Legion to accuse him of blaming America's military for the threat posed by the terrorist organization known as the Islamic State (IS). But in his speech, Obama actually stressed that political differences in Iraq are driving this problem.
On the August 26 edition of Happening Now, Fox's Heather Nauert hosted the American Enterprise Institute's Danielle Pletka to scrutinize Obama's speech and overall approach to confronting IS. Fox played only a small portion from Obama's speech:
OBAMA: The crisis in Iraq underscores how we have to meet today's evolving terrorist threat. The answer is not to send in large scale military deployments that overstretch our military and lead for us, occupying countries for a long period of time and end up feeding extremism. Rather, our military action in Iraq has to be part of a broader strategy to protect our people and support our partners.
After playing the video, Nauert said, "it almost sounded like he was blaming our troops and past occupations for this terror crisis that we're dealing with." Quick to agree, AEI's Pletka asked, "why is he suggesting up front that the presence of American troops anywhere is what fosters extremism? That is extraordinarily offensive."
From the August 26 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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Fox News' chief White House correspondent Ed Henry misrepresented comments by chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey to baselessly suggest the White House forced Dempsey to downplay the threat of the extremist group known as the Islamic State. In reality, the two statements from Dempsey that Henry referenced are not inconsistent in their evaluation of the Islamic State as a threat to the U.S., and the Defense Department had already denied the notion that it was directed to change its rhetoric.
Conservative author Dinesh D'Souza compared unrest during the Ferguson protests to the beheadings carried out by the terrorist group that calls itself the Islamic State.
Speaking on the August 21 edition Newsmax's The Steve Malzberg Show, D'Souza opined on the heated protests that have taken place in Ferguson, Missouri following the fatal shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by a police officer. D'Souza likened the actions in Ferguson to the Islamic State terrorists who beheaded innocents. From BuzzFeed (emphasis added):
MALZBERG: I just want to concentrate on Holder for one more second and his going down there and his saying what he said, do you believe that that prejudices a grand jury -- could prejudice a jury? And could it result in the prevention of a fair trial for the officer?
D'SOUZA: I think this is a really -- this is a serious issue, because here you have guys like, you have Obama, you have Holder, and you have Al Sharpton. Now, can a cop acting under the exigencies of his job expect justice if those three guys were deciding the outcome? I mean, it seems really clear that they are fostering an atmosphere in Ferguson that basically goes, "Let's declare that this guy is probably guilty and let's see what we can do to put him up against the wall." The idea that he would get impartial justice is becoming highly questionable, so this has become a real problem.
Now, historically, blacks have faced this problem and it looks like what we're seeing is a kind of complete flip, so that we're going from one set of injustices to another. And that's, you know, what the common thread between ISIS and what's going on in Ferguson is you have these people who basically believe that to correct a perceived injustice, it's perfectly OK to inflict all kinds of new injustices. Behead guys who have nothing to do with it. Go and loot shops from business owners who are not part of the original problem whatsoever. And all of this is then licensed by the left and licensed to some degree by the media.
From the August 22 edition of Fox News' Outnumbered:
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Fox News' The Kelly File hosted 2012 Republican presidential nominees Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan to attack President Obama's foreign policy and rewrite the history of U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq.
President Obama on August 7 authorized limited airstrikes against the Islamic State extremist group in Iraq to prevent "genocide" and protect Americans in the region. The Islamic State released a video of its murder of American journalist James Foley on Tuesday, citing the U.S. airstrikes and demanding an end to them. The airstrikes prompted a right-wing media backlash blaming President Obama for the withdrawal of American troops from Iraq, which they accused of increasing the danger posed by the Islamic State.
On August 21, Fox host Megyn Kelly accused President Obama of a reversal on "whether he did or did not order the withdrawal of all of our troops," and of making the decision not to leave a residual force in Iraq. After making this assertion, she asked 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney whether Obama "is misleading the American people." Romney claimed President Obama had made "extraordinary errors with regards to the Middle East," and cited the lack of "the Status of Forces Agreement that would allow us to have troops in Iraq" as a fundamental cause contributing to the growth of the Islamic State and the danger it represents.
Contrary to this attempt to rewrite history, President Obama did not refuse to negotiate a SOFA with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to leave behind American forces. His attempts to negotiate the SOFA were thwarted by the Iraqi government, whose parliament was unwilling to approve the agreement -- approval that was made necessary by a precedent set in 2008 by President Bush.
Time reported in 2011 that the U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq was "an overwhelmingly popular demand among Iraqis, and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki appears to have been unwilling to take the political risk of extending" the existing SOFA. The AP also noted that the Iraqi government stopped the SOFA negotiations when it became unwilling to grant American troops legal immunity -- protections "common in nearly every country where U.S. forces operate," and similar to those guaranteed in Bush's 2008 SOFA. Colin H. Kahn, the senior Pentagon official responsible for Iraq policy during the first three years of the Obama administration, explained:
Iraq's prime minister, Nuri al-Maliki, told U.S. negotiators that he was willing to sign an executive memorandum of understanding that included these legal protections. But for any agreement to be binding under the Iraqi constitution, it had to be approved by the Iraqi parliament. This was the judgment of every senior administration lawyer and Maliki's own legal adviser, and no senior U.S. military commander made the case that we should leave forces behind without these protections.
Unfortunately, Iraqi domestic politics made it impossible to reach a deal. Iraqi public opinion surveys consistently showed that the U.S. military presence was deeply unpopular (only in Iraqi Kurdistan did a majority of people want American G.I.s to stay). Maliki was willing to consider going to parliament to approve a follow-on agreement, but he was not willing to stick his neck out.
So when Iraq's major political bloc leaders met in early October 2011 in an all-night session, they agreed on the need for continued U.S. "trainers" but said they were unwilling to seek immunities for these troops through the parliament. The die was thus cast. Obama and Maliki spoke on Oct. 21 and agreed that U.S. forces would depart as scheduled by the end of the year.
From the August 21 edition of MSNBC's The Ed Show:
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Fox News hosts criticized the Department of Justice's decision to investigate the beheading of journalist James Foley by Islamic State extremists. In fact, such investigations are routine and were pursued under President George W. Bush for Americans killed abroad during his administration.
From the August 21 edition of Fox News' The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson:
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