Echoing McCain, Lowry misrepresented Obama's comments on Pakistan

››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

On Hannity & Colmes, National Review's Rich Lowry aired a clip of Sen. John McCain falsely asserting that Sen. Barack Obama said he's "going to bomb a country that is a sovereign nation," a distortion of Obama's statement about Pakistan that McCain has repeatedly made. Lowry then echoed McCain by saying that Obama "detailed his willingness to bomb suspected terrorist cells in Pakistan." In fact, Obama said: "If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and [Pakistani] President [Pervez] Musharraf won't act, we will."

On the February 21 broadcast of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, after airing a clip of Sen. John McCain falsely asserting that Sen. Barack Obama said he's "going to bomb a country that is a sovereign nation," a distortion of Obama's statement about Pakistan that McCain has repeatedly made, guest host and National Review editor Rich Lowry echoed McCain by asserting that Obama "detailed his willingness to bomb suspected terrorist cells in Pakistan." Lowry added that, in an attempt at "political posturing," "[t]he Obama campaign said McCain distorted the Illinois senator's positions." Lowry did not elaborate on the Obama campaign's objections to McCain's distortion of Obama's comments, nor did he note what Obama has actually said. In fact, during an August 1, 2007, foreign policy speech, Obama stated: "If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and [Pakistani] President [Pervez] Musharraf won't act, we will." Obama did not mention "bomb[ing]" in general, nor did he specify what action he would take. He did not say he would take action against Pakistan, but against "high-value terrorist targets," and that any action would be conditional on the receipt of "actionable intelligence" and the failure of Musharraf to act.

Lowry also did not mention reports that the United States recently struck terrorist targets inside Pakistan without seeking approval from the Pakistani government. As Media Matters for America previously noted, several media outlets, including The Washington Post on February 19, reported that the United States recently used a CIA Predator aircraft to launch missile strikes inside Pakistan and that "the U.S. spy agency did not seek approval" from that country's government. In a February 19 post on the Talking Points Memo blog, managing editor David Kurtz noted McCain's mischaracterization of Obama's position on Pakistan and wrote that "[i]ronically enough, the Washington Post is reporting today on just such a U.S. military strike into Pakistan." According to the Post, "Having requested the Pakistani government's official permission for such strikes on previous occasions, only to be put off or turned down, this time the U.S. spy agency did not seek approval. The government of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf was notified only as the operation was underway, according to the officials, who insisted on anonymity because of diplomatic sensitivities." The article then stated that the "incident was a model of how Washington often scores its rare victories these days in the fight against al-Qaeda inside Pakistan's national borders: It acts with assistance from well-paid sympathizers inside the country, but without getting the government's formal permission beforehand."

According to a February 21 Post article, when asked about the Post's February 19 report about U.S. strikes against Al Qaeda targets inside Pakistan, McCain "declined to comment."

From the February 21 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes:

[begin video clip]

McCAIN: Well, the best idea is to not broadcast what you're going to do. That's naive.

The first thing that you do is you make your plans and you carry out your operations as necessary for America's national security interest. You don't broadcast that you are going to bomb a country that is a sovereign nation.

[...]

McCAIN: It's just fundamentals of the conduct of national security policy.

[...]

McCAIN: I especially think that, in some cases, that -- that rhetoric has to be substantiated by specific recommendations. And I think that Senator Obama has not been specific in his recipe as to how we address these challenges.

[end video clip]

LOWRY: That was John McCain attacking Barack Obama's foreign policy experience. The controversy started after Obama detailed his willingness to bomb suspected terrorist cells in Pakistan.

The Obama campaign said McCain distorted the Illinois senator's positions, but putting political posturing aside, is Obama as naive as McCain says? And which candidate from the presidential pack has the best grasp on fighting the war on terror?

Joining us now is the author of Marching Toward Hell: America and Islam after Iraq [Free Press, February 2008], former head of the CIA bin Laden unit, Michael Scheuer.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Rich Lowry
Show/Publication
Hannity & Colmes
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, 2008 Elections
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.