Seemingly impervious to the hypocrisy of Vice President Dick Cheney's derision of comments Senator John Kerry made in an August 5 speech -- in which he called for a "more effective, more thoughtful, more strategic, more proactive, more sensitive war on terror that reaches out to other nations and brings them to our side" -- conservative pundits echoed Cheney's taunts on radio and television.
An August 13 account of Cheney's remarks in The Washington Times made clear what lay behind the taunts: "The escalation of rhetoric began when the Bush camp belatedly realized that Mr. Kerry's week-old call for 'sensitive war' had the potential to be as politically damaging as his March acknowledgment that he had voted for $87 billion in funding for troops in Iraq before voting against it."
But listening to Cheney, former House Speaker and FOX News Channel political contributor Newt Gingrich, FOX News Channel's Hannity & Colmes co-host and ABC Radio host Sean Hannity, or radio host Rush Limbaugh, one would never know that President George W. Bush, Cheney himself, and other administration officials have made very similar comments about the need for sensitivity in the conduct of foreign policy and the war on terror. At the same 2004 UNITY Conference for minority journalists where Kerry made the comments that have provided such mirth for Cheney, Bush discussed the need for sensitivity in intelligence gathering. Responding to a question regarding the scrutiny to which certain minorities have been subject since the September 11 terror attacks and the need to ensure that innocent people are not unfairly targeted, Bush mentioned the necessary "balance between running down intelligence and bringing people to justice," and said, "we need to be very sensitive on that."
In addition to Bush's comments August 6, the American Progress Action Fund has gathered numerous examples of Bush and other administration officials describing the need to be "sensitive" in conducting foreign policy and military operations, including the following:
BUSH: Precisely because America is powerful, we must be sensitive about expressing our power and influence (3/4/01).
CHENEY: We recognize that the presence of U.S. forces can in some cases present a burden on the local community. We're not insensitive to that (4/13/04).
DEFENSE SECRETARY DONALD RUMSFELD: [W]e have to be sensitive [to the threat of terrorist attacks outside of Iraq]. To the point the world thinks the United States is focused on the problems in Iraq, it is conceivable that someone could make a mistake and believe that that is an opportunity for them to make-- to take an action which they otherwise would have avoided, and we have to see that we are arranged, and it is clear to the world that that is-it will not be an opportune time (2/5/03).
ATTORNEY GENERAL JOHN ASHCROFT: The United States is very sensitive about interfering in the internal politics of other countries (Federal News Service, 4/28/03).
American Progress Action Fund's website lists more examples, including several by Cheney: "In conducting the first war in Iraq, then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney repeatedly stressed the need for America to fight a 'sensitive' war" and "On 2/7/90, Cheney told Congress that the Pentagon must be 'sensitive' in developing weapons."
Notwithstanding the administration's prior endorsement of sensitivity in highly charged situations, Cheney attacked Kerry's remarks on August 12 by distorting Kerry's desire to fight a "more sensitive war on terror that reaches out to other nations and brings them to our side." Within hours of Cheney's remarks, conservative TV and radio pundits were echoing the vice president's attacks against Kerry.
Gingrich on the August 12 Hannity & Colmes:
GINGRICH: [A]s Michael Dukakis' lieutenant governor, as a George McGovern worker back in 1972, as an anti-war activist, and as somebody who in the Senate has consistently voted to kill a lot of weapons systems [a false claim refuted here], Kerry, in fact, represents the natural sensitive wing of American foreign policy.
Gingrich also accused Kerry of being "very sympathetic to the [former Vermont Governor] Howard Dean, cut and run, hope the world doesn't come get you, unilateral disarmament wing of the Democratic Party." But both Kerry and Dean have made clear their opposition to prematurely pulling troops out of Iraq, and Kerry even said in December 2003: "I fear that in the run-up to the 2004 election the [Bush] administration is considering what is tantamount to a cut-and-run strategy."
Hannity, from a radio interview with Cheney on the August 12 Sean Hannity Show that was rebroadcast on Hannity & Colmes:
HANNITY: You know, and I can't imagine, really, al Qaeda being impressed by sensitivity.
Limbaugh, from the August 12 Rush Limbaugh Show:
LIMBAUGH: Ladies and gentlemen, the United States military, in coordination with the Iraqi military, has launched a very insensitive assault on the home of Muqtada al-Sadr in Najaf. U.S. forces in Najaf have stormed al-Sadr's home -- a very, very insensitive act, here, of warfare, unlike that which would have been commanded by -- by -- by -- by Lieutenant Kerry. Senator Kerry.
LIMBAUGH: What is this sensitivity? And what are we -- supposed to greet the terrorists with Hallmark cards?