CNN's Foreman falsely claimed McCain was "getting Barack Obama's record right" on military spending

››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

CNN's Tom Foreman falsely claimed that Sen. John McCain was "getting Barack Obama's record right" when McCain claimed that "during the primary" Obama told the group Caucus4Priorities "that he would cut defense spending by tens of billions of dollars"; Foreman also falsely suggested that Obama has only recently begun to advocate "increasing the size" of the military. In fact, Obama told Caucus4Priorities that he would cut "tens of billions of dollars in wasteful spending," not overall defense spending, and Obama repeatedly said during the primary season that he would increase the size of the military.

During the September 8 edition of CNN Election Center, correspondent Tom Foreman endorsed as "right" Sen. John McCain's false assertion that Sen. Barack Obama has flip-flopped on whether to "cut defense spending," and Foreman added another falsehood of his own, suggesting that Obama has only recently begun to advocate "increasing the size" of the military. Specifically, Foreman falsely claimed that McCain was "getting Barack Obama's record right" when McCain claimed that "during the primary," Obama told the group Caucus4Priorities in an October 2007 video "that he would cut defense spending by tens of billions of dollars"; Foreman later added: "Obama does not say anything on that video about plans which are on his website now for increasing the size of the Army by 65,000 soldiers, the Marines by 27,000." In fact, Obama told Caucus4Priorities that he would cut "tens of billions of dollars in wasteful spending," not overall defense spending, and in 2007 and early 2008, Obama repeatedly said that he would increase the size of the military.

On CNN Election Center, anchor Campbell Brown stated that "John McCain pointed to Barack Obama's record on defense spending to make the case that Obama is a flip-flopper, not a maverick." Brown then aired September 8 remarks in which McCain said:

This weekend, Senator Obama was asked for an example of a time when he bucked his party. His answer was defense spending. He says now he wants to increase it, but, during the primary, he told a liberal advocacy group that he'd cut defense spending by tens of billions of dollars.

[...]

And that's not bucking his party. That's telling them just what they want to hear. Senator Obama told the extreme left what they wanted to hear during the primary. And now he thinks -- he's trying to tell you what he thinks you want to hear. And my friends, you may not always agree with me, but you will always know where I stand.

Following the clip of McCain's remarks, Brown asked Foreman: "Tom, is McCain getting Barack Obama's record right?" Foreman replied: "Well, Campbell, John McCain is right. Barack Obama said all that and more less than a year ago, as he was fighting for the Democratic nomination. Obama's ideas about cutting military spending were posted online in October 2007 in a message he taped for the Caucus4Priorities. That's a liberal group that wants a $60 billion decrease in Pentagon spending, saying tax money is being wasted on obsolete Cold War weapons." Foreman then played a portion of the October 2007 Caucus4Priorities video in which Obama said he would cut "tens of billions of dollars in wasteful spending." So, contrary to Foreman's claim, McCain was not "right" in his suggestion that Obama has reversed himself on defense spending.

After airing Obama's Caucus4Priorities remarks, Foreman further stated: "Obama does not say anything on that video about plans which are on his website now for increasing the size of the Army by 65,000 soldiers, the Marines by 27,000. The website suggests that, by cutting out wasteful spending, more tax dollars could, in fact, be spent putting boots on the ground." But contrary to Foreman's false suggestion that Obama is only "now" calling for an increase in the size of the military, in addition to eliminating "wasteful spending," Obama also repeatedly asserted during the Democratic primary that "we need to increase the size of our military." For example:

  • In a March 19 speech, Obama said: "As Commander in Chief, I will begin by giving a military overstretched by Iraq the support it needs. It is time to reduce the strain on our troops by completing the effort to increase our ground forces by 65,000 soldiers and 27,000 Marines, while ensuring the quality of our troops."
  • In an August 21, 2007, speech, Obama said: "I will add 65,000 soldiers and 27,000 Marines to relieve the strain on our ground forces. I will maintain our technological edge and invest in the capabilities we need to succeed in the missions of the 21st century."
  • In an April 23, 2007, speech, Obama said: "But the war in Afghanistan and the ill-advised invasion of Iraq have clearly demonstrated the consequences of underestimating the number of troops required to fight two wars and defend our homeland. That's why I strongly support the expansion of our ground forces by adding 65,000 soldiers to the Army and 27,000 Marines."

Foreman's remarks echoed a September 7 press release by the Republican National Committee asserting "Obama Contradicts His Own Position On Defense Spending." In the release, the RNC claimed that Obama's statement on the September 7 edition of ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos that "we need to increase the size of our military" was at odds with his remarks in the October 2007 Caucus4Priorites video.

In addition to Foreman, in a September 8 Washington Post article, Michael D. Shear and Peter Slevin uncritically reported McCain's comments without challenging them:

McCain accused Obama of pandering to the "extreme left" during the Democratic primaries, saying that the Democratic nominee once said he would reduce spending on weapons systems and now says that he will spend more on them.

"Mr. Obama told the extreme left whatever they wanted to hear during the primary," McCain said at the Missouri rally. "Now he's trying to tell you whatever he thinks you want to hear."

Additionally, in a September 8 post, CNN's Political Ticker noted Obama's remarks on This Week, and that McCain said "Sen. Obama told the extreme left what they wanted to hear during the primary, now he's trying to tell you what he thinks you want to hear," but failed to report Obama's repeated calls during the primary for an expanded military. From the September 8 post by political producer Peter Hamby:

McCain was referring to a YouTube clip from last October that features Obama promising the non-profit group "Caucus for Priorities" that he would reduce wasteful military spending.

"I will cut tens of billions of dollars in wasteful spending," Obama said in the video. "I will cut investments in unproven missile defense systems. I will not weaponize space. I will slow our development of future combat systems."

In the video, Obama also said: "As president, my sole priority for defense spending will be protecting the American people."

Obama, now the Democratic nominee, was asked on ABC's "This Week" on Sunday to cite examples of where he would be willing to break with his own party.

"I've said that we need to increase the size of our military," Obama answered, noting that such legislation might anger some on the left.

McCain, who claimed in his remarks that the world is simply too dangerous to reduce military spending, said Obama is guilty of general election pandering.

"Sen. Obama told the extreme left what they wanted to hear during the primary, now he's trying to tell you what he thinks you want to hear," McCain responded in Missouri. "My friends, you may not always agree with me but you will always know where I stand."

From the September 8 edition of CNN Election Center:

BROWN: Tonight, with the conventions behind us and the candidates out talking issues again, a lot of you are asking us about what they're saying -- what's true, what isn't true. Well, in Missouri today, John McCain pointed to Barack Obama's record on defense spending to make the case that Obama is a flip-flopper, not a maverick. So, let's put it to the "No Bias, No Bull" test. First, listen to what McCain is saying.

McCAIN [video clip]: This weekend, Senator Obama was asked for an example of a time when he bucked his party. His answer was defense spending. He says now he wants to increase it, but, during the primary, he told a liberal advocacy group that he'd cut defense spending by tens of billions of dollars. And he promised them he would, quote, "slow our development of future combat systems."

My friends, we have found out in recent days this is an even more dangerous world that we had thought. And, my friends, this is not a time to slow our development of future combat systems. This is not that time.

And that's not bucking his party. That's telling them just what they want to hear. Senator Obama told the extreme left what they wanted to hear during the primary. And now he thinks -- he's trying to tell you what he thinks you want to hear. And my friends, you may not always agree with me, but you will always know where I stand.

BROWN: Now, you saw somebody bump the camera right there at the end, but let's see whether McCain's argument is shaky. And here is Tom Foreman in Washington with our "No Bias, No Bull" test. Tom, is McCain getting Barack Obama's record right?

FOREMAN: Well, Campbell, John McCain is right. Barack Obama said all that and more less than a year ago, as he was fighting for the Democratic nomination.

Obama's ideas about cutting military spending were posted online in October 2007 in a message he taped for the Caucus4Priorities. That's a liberal group that wants a $60 billion decrease in Pentagon spending, saying tax money is being wasted on obsolete Cold War weapons. Listen:

OBAMA [video clip]: I will cut tens of billions of dollars in wasteful spending. I will cut investments in unproven missile defense systems. I will not weaponize space. I will slow our development of future combat systems. And I will institute an independent defense priorities board to ensure that the quadrennial defense review is not used to justify unnecessary spending.

FOREMAN: Obama does not say anything on that video about plans which are on his website now for increasing the size of the Army by 65,000 soldiers, the Marines by 27,000. The website suggests that, by cutting out wasteful spending, more tax dollars could, in fact, be spent putting boots on the ground. But Obama also says this in that video.

OBAMA [video clip]: I don't switch positions or make promises that can't be kept. I don't posture on defense policy, and I don't take money from federal lobbyists for powerful defense contractors. As president, my sole priority for defense spending will be protecting the American people.

FOREMAN: As you might guess, Republicans have been having a field day with this video online. Even at the time Obama initially posted it, however, the Caucus4Priorities called it pandering -- Campbell.

Posted In
Elections, National Security & Foreign Policy, Defense Funding
Network/Outlet
The Washington Post, CNN
Person
Tom Foreman
Show/Publication
CNN Election Center
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, John McCain, 2008 Elections
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