Hannity invited McCain to criticize Obama for proposing to "slow" a program McCain has said "should be ended"

››› ››› MATTHEW BIEDLINGMAIER

In an interview with Sen. John McCain, Fox News' Sean Hannity misstated Sen. Barack Obama's position on defense spending, then invited McCain to criticize Obama for proposing to "slow the development of Future Combat Systems" without noting that the McCain campaign itself has said that program "should be ended."

On the October 9 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, in part two of his "exclusive interview" with Sen. John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin, co-host Sean Hannity falsely asserted that Sen. Barack Obama "said, very specifically, that he would cut tens of billions of dollars in defense spending," and invited McCain to criticize Obama for proposing to "slow the development of Future Combat Systems" without noting that the McCain campaign itself has said that the program "should be ended."

During the interview, Hannity claimed that Obama "said, very specifically, that he would cut tens of billions of dollars in defense spending, cut investments in missile defense, and slow the development of Future Combat Systems." Hannity then asked McCain, "This is your area of expertise, senator. Why would that not be a good plan?" McCain responded: "Well, again, I think that Senator Obama has had no experience with either national security nor the specifics of how we can best defend this nation and secure a better future for our children and grandchildren. And that, of course, means how we equip and how we train, and how we have an overall strategy. I don't think Senator Obama knows much about our defense system, simply because he's never had any background on it."

However, while inviting McCain to explain why Obama's proposal to "slow" the development of Future Combat Systems is not "a good plan," Hannity did not note that McCain's own July budget plan reportedly stated that the program "should be ended." As Wired blogger Noah Shachtman noted, Future Combat Systems is a specific Army program that the McCain campaign addressed in a budget plan that McCain senior economic adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin provided to The Washington Post editorial board, which the Post published on July 14:

Balance the budget requires slowing outlay growth to 2.4 percent. The roughly $470 billion dollars (by 2013) in slower spending growth come from reduced deployments abroad ($150 billion; consistent with success in Iraq/Afghanistan that permits deployments to be cut by half -- hopefully more), slower discretionary spending in non-defense and Pentagon procurements ($160 billion; there are lots of procurements -- airborne laser, Globemaster, Future Combat System -- that should be ended and the entire Pentagon budget should be scrubbed) and reductions in mandatory spending ($160 billion) from a mix of excessive agricultural and ethanol subsidies, slower health care cost growth, Medicaid savings from the expansion of private insurance, and other reforms.

Nor did Hannity ask McCain whether he no longer believes the Future Combat Systems program "should be ended," given that he recently criticized Obama for stating that the development of Future Combat Systems should be "slow[ed]." A September 15 Army Times article cited "wire reports" in reporting that, after telling a crowd in Missouri that Obama has proposed to "slow our development" of the program, McCain said "This is not a time to slow our development of Future Combat Systems." The Army Times then noted McCain's apparent reversal of position:

Has Sen. John McCain renounced his longtime antagonism toward the Army's Future Combat Systems?

On Sept. 8, the Republican presidential candidate told a rally crowd in Lee's Summit, Mo., about an Obama video message to a liberal advocacy group.

"He promised them he would, quote, 'slow our development of Future Combat Systems,'" McCain said, according to wire reports. "This is not a time to slow our development of Future Combat Systems."

Flashback to July, however, when his campaign furnished McCain's economic plan to The Washington Post, declaring that "there are lots of procurements -- Airborne Laser, [C-17] Globemaster, Future Combat System [sic] -- that should be ended and the entire Pentagon budget should be scrubbed."

In fact, McCain has long criticized the over-budget, behind-schedule FCS program. In 2005, he blasted the Army for allowing the program to balloon to $161 billion, and forced the service to rewrite the main FCS contract.

So where does McCain really stand? Some bloggers and analysts have suggested that he used the term "future combat systems" generically. Obama's campaign maintains their candidate was speaking specifically about FCS, in which case McCain may be twisting his rival's words.

Loren Thompson of the Lexington Institute called it deceitful.

"McCain's interpretation of Obama's position is typical of the way in which the Republicans have twisted Democratic views in order to undercut their opponents and at the same time obscure the past positions of the Republicans," Thompson said. "Future Combat Systems is the centerpiece of Army modernization. However, McCain has been more critical of it than anyone else in the chamber. Obama has been much more detailed and thoughtful in his comments about future military investment than McCain's very superficial statements."

Officials with the McCain campaign did not return phone calls and emails requesting clarification.

The New Republic's Jonathan Chait also noted McCain's apparent inconsistency on Future Combat Systems in an October 8 article.

Additionally, Hannity's claim that Obama "said, very specifically, that he would cut tens of billions of dollars in defense spending" is false. As Media Matters for America noted when Hannity previously asserted that Obama "could cut military spending, billions of dollars," Obama told the group Caucus4Priorities that he would cut "tens of billions of dollars in wasteful spending," not overall defense spending.

From the October 9 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes:

COLMES: Welcome to Hannity & Colmes. Getting right to our top story tonight, and it is more of Sean's exclusive interview with Senator McCain and Governor Palin. Take a look.

[begin video clip]

HANNITY: Let me go back to the issue of Barack Obama and national defense. Iran, Cuba, Venezuela are tiny countries and not a serious threat. And he also said, very specifically, that he would cut tens of billions of dollars in defense spending, cut investments in missile defense, and slow the development of Future Combat Systems. This is your area of expertise, senator. Why would that not be a good plan?

McCAIN: Well, again, I think that Senator Obama has had no experience with either national security nor the specifics of how we can best defend this nation and secure a better future for our children and grandchildren. And that, of course, means how we equip and how we train, and how we have an overall strategy.

I don't think Senator Obama knows much about our defense system, simply because he's never had any background on it. But more importantly, when he does not support the mission that General Petraeus outlined and that has succeeded -- and fails, absolute fails, to recognize that he was wrong when he opposed the surge -- said it wouldn't work, it would lead to increase in ethnic violence, et cetera, et cetera.

So, you have to start from an overall strategy and then equip the military with the tools necessary to implement that strategy. He does not understand the strategy, either there or in Afghanistan.

And to sit down with those three dictators you talked about, the Castro brothers, Hugo Chavez, or Ahmadinejad, without preconditions, obviously, is incredibly naive approach to these challenges.

Posted In
Elections
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Sean Hannity
Show/Publication
Hannity & Colmes
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