On the January 17 edition of America's News HQ, anchor Gregg Jarrett said that Massachusetts Attorney General and Democratic Senate candidate Martha Coakley might be "out of step when she says things like terrorists are no longer in Afghanistan, or in the debate saying, quote, 'We need to get taxes up.' " Both attacks are distortions: The context of Coakley's Afghanistan comments makes clear that she was referring to Al Qaeda's presence in Afghanistan -- echoing numerous military experts' statements regarding Al Qaeda's diminished presence in Afghanistan, and the context of Coakley's tax comments indicates that she was referring to increasing tax revenues by getting people back to work.
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From the January 17 edition of Fox News' America's News HQ:
JARRETT: Maybe it's -- Martha Coakley is out of step when she says things like terrorists are no longer in Afghanistan, or in the debate saying, quote, "We need to get taxes up." Or, you know, saying something that offended Boston Red Sox fans that Curt Shilling is a --
REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D-FL): Oh, she said nothing like that.
JARRETT: Yankees fan.
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: Come on.
JARRETT: No, the question is to [Rep. Ed] Royce [R-CA].
WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: She didn't say anything like that.
JARRETT: I think I've -- I want to be fair here.
JARRETT: Mr. Royce?
ROYCE: I'm here.
JARRETT: Yeah, is it maybe just that, that this is a candidate, Martha Coakley, who has said some things that don't resonate with people. It's not about health care, it's about some of the other things she's saying?
Coakley was referring to Al Qaeda's presence in Afghanistan
Coakley: "Let's focus our efforts on where Al Qaeda is." Coakley's comments were made during a January 11 debate at the University of Massachusetts. Moderator David Gergen asked Coakley, "[H]ow do you think we then succeed in Afghanistan?" Coakley replied: "I'm not sure there is a way to succeed. If the goal was -- and the mission in Afghanistan was to go in because we believed that the Taliban was giving harbor to terrorists. We supported that. I supported that goal. They're gone. They're not there anymore. They're in, apparently Yemen, they're in Pakistan. Let's focus our efforts on where Al Qaeda is." She added: "[T]he focus should be getting the appropriate information on individuals who are trained, who represent a threat to us, and use the force necessary to go after those individuals."
Military and security experts and officials agree that Al Qaeda presence in Afghanistan is "diminished"
Jim Jones: "The Al Qaeda presence is very diminished. ... No bases. No ability to launch attacks on either us or our allies." On October 4, 2009, CNN's John King asked national security adviser Jim Jones, "[D]oes the return of the Taliban in your view, sir, equal the return of a sanctuary for al Qaeda?" Jones responded: "Well, I think this is one of the central issues and, you know, it could. Obviously, the good news is that Americans should feel at least good about in Afghanistan is that the Al Qaeda presence is very diminished. The maximum estimate is less than 100 operating in the country. No bases. No ability to launch attacks on either us or our allies." [State of the Union, 10/4/09]
Wash. Post: Senior U.S. military intelligence official says Al Qaeda has "fewer than 100 members" in Afghanistan. Reporting on "the relative decline of al-Qaeda" in Afghanistan, The Washington Post wrote: "Although the war in Afghanistan began as a response to al-Qaeda terrorism, there are perhaps fewer than 100 members of the group left in the country, according to a senior U.S. military intelligence official in Kabul who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The official estimated that there are 300 al-Qaeda members in the tribal areas of Pakistan, where the group is based, compared with tens of thousands of Taliban insurgents on either side of the border." [The Washington Post, 11/11/09]
NY Times: Senior White House official stated that Al Qaeda has fewer than 100 fighters in Afghanistan. The New York Times reported that a senior Obama administration official stated that "Al Qaeda has fewer than 100 fighters in Afghanistan." [The New York Times, 10/7/09]
Petraeus: "Al Qaida, if you will -- is not based, per se, in Afghanistan." In a May 2009 interview, King said to Petraeus, "No Al Qaida at all in Afghanistan. Is that an exaggeration, General Petraeus, or is that true?" Petraeus responded:
PETRAEUS: No, I would agree with that assessment. Certainly, Al Qaida and its affiliates. Again, remember that this is, as I mentioned earlier, a syndicate of extremist organizations, some of which are truly transnational extremists. In other words, don't just conduct attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan and India, but even throughout the rest of the world, as we saw in the U.K. a couple of years ago. They do come in and out of Afghanistan, but the Al Qaida -- precise Al Qaida, if you will -- is not based, per se, in Afghanistan, although its elements and certainly its affiliates -- Baitullah Mehsud's group, commander Nazir Khaqani (ph) network and others, certainly do have enclaves and sanctuaries in certain parts of eastern Afghanistan. And then the Afghan Taliban, of course, has a number of districts in which it has its fighters and its shadow government, if you will, even.
But I think, no, I think that's an accurate assessment, and that the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan -- that very, very mountainous, rugged terrain just east of the Afghan border and in the western part of Pakistan -- is the locus of the leadership of these organizations, although they do, again, go into Afghanistan, certainly, and conduct operations against our troops, and have tried, certainly, to threaten all the way to Kabul at various times. [State of the Union, 5/10/09]
AP: McChrystal stated, "I do not see indications of a large al-Qaida presence in Afghanistan now." The Associated Press reported, "The top commander of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan said Friday he sees no signs of a major al-Qaida presence in the country, but says the terror group still maintains close links to insurgents," and quoted Gen. Stanley McChrystal at the Dutch Defense Ministry commenting, "I do not see indications of a large al-Qaida presence in Afghanistan now." [AP, 9/11/09]
"Out of context": Coakley was referring to increasing tax revenues by getting people back to work, not increasing taxes
Coakley: "We need to get people back to work. We need to get taxes up, and we'll start to chip away at that deficit." Jarrett referred to remarks Coakley made during a November 30, 2009, Democratic primary debate, in which Coakley discussed the "need to get out of this recession" by "get[ting] people back to work." Coakley stated: "We need to get people back to work. We need to get taxes up, and we'll start to chip away at that deficit, because individuals and the country, my colleague in California Jerry Brown said, we've all been spending too much money we don't have on stuff we don't need." Coakley went on to say: "[H]ow do we get you back to work, and how do we bring that deficit down? Ultimately by being more careful on how we're spending our money as a country and as individuals. We can do it. We've done it before." From the November 30, 2009, primary debate (around 22:55):
COAKLEY: But we do need to get out of this recession also, and that requires, I think, looking at a couple of things. There's no magic bullet to this. We need to get people back to work. We need to get taxes up, and we'll start to chip away at that deficit because individuals and the country, my colleague in California Jerry Brown said, we've all been spending too much money we don't have on stuff we don't need. And so we need to focus on what do we need individually and as a country.
We need to get people back to work. We need to look at the regions of Massachusetts, where are the needs for that, what kind of job training, particularly with new workers coming into the sector, what skill sets do you have and where can we put them to work in Massachusetts? I've been doing that here in Massachusetts. I want to do that as your new U.S. senator, working with your electeds and your private sector folks to figure out where should we be growing jobs? And how do we get you back to work, and how do we bring that deficit down? Ultimately by being more careful on how we're spending our money as a country and as individuals. We can do it. We've done it before.
Coakley spokesman reportedly clarified that she was "referring to the need to increase tax revenue by getting unemployed people back to work." The New York Times reported January 8 that "a spokesman for Ms. Coakley said the comment, made during a primary election debate, was referring to the need to increase tax revenue by getting unemployed people back to work." The Times added: " 'It's a completely misleading ad,' said the spokesman, Corey Welford. 'Martha was referencing the need to get people back to work and tax revenues that would come with increased employment.' "
Boston Globe: Line has been "taken out of context." In a January 8 article, The Boston Globe reported that a conservative group has been running ads using Coakley's tax line and wrote that the line "appears to have been taken out of context from a primary debate, during which Coakley seemed to suggest that the economy needed to improve so that tax collections would rise."