Wash. Post adds to its stable of former Republican staffers

››› ››› CHRISTINE SCHWEN, JUSTIN BERRIER, ERIC SCHROECK & KATE CONWAY

With the recently announced hire of former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen, The Washington Post now employs four national political columnists who have previously worked for Republican administrations, but only one who has worked for a Democratic administration. The addition of Thiessen, who originated the dubious claim that waterboarding Khalid Shaikh Mohammed "stopped an attack on the Library Tower in Los Angeles," continues to move the Post's editorial page to the right, filling it with prowar and pro-torture views.

Marc Thiessen

Thiessen served as chief speechwriter to President George W. Bush from December 2007 to January 2009. He also served as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld chief speechwriter before joining the White House. He became a weekly columnist for the Post on February 12.

Thiessen dubiously claimed that the use of harsh interrogation techniques on KSM thwarted attack in Los Angeles. Thiessen claimed on April 17, 2009, that the use of harsh interrogation techniques -- including waterboarding -- on Mohammed "stopped an attack on the Library Tower in Los Angeles." Thiessen repeated these claims in an April 21, 2009, Washington Post op-ed. But that claim conflicts with the chronology of events put forth on multiple occasions by the Bush administration, as Slate.com's Timothy Noah has noted. Indeed, the Bush administration said that the Library Tower attack was thwarted in February 2002 -- more than a year before Mohammed was captured in March 2003.

Bill Kristol

Kristol worked as a Republican political strategist and served as chief of staff for Vice President Dan Quayle and for President Ronald Reagan's education secretary, William Bennett. He also consulted for Bush on Bush's 2004 inauguration speech.

Kristol suggested airstrikes against North Korea. On May 31, 2009, Kristol said on Fox News Sunday that "it might be worth doing some targeted airstrikes to show the North Koreans -- instead of always talking about, 'Gee, there could be consequences,' to show that they can't simply keep down the -- keep going down this path."

Kristol: We should call OLC memos the "anti-torture memos." In an April 28, 2009, WeeklyStandard.com post discussing Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) memos that concluded the president has broad powers to authorize "rough" interrogation of terrorists, Kristol wrote that as someone in the "pro-reasonable-interrogation" camp, he wanted to remind Americans that the "OLC memos reminded their recipients that torture is illegal, and conscientiously advised their recipients how to carefully conduct enhanced interrogations without crossing the line to illegality. Excesses by interrogators would probably have been more likely, not less, if the memos had not been written." He added, "So surely we should call the memos the anti-torture memos." Many of the OLC memos were subsequently withdrawn by OLC before Bush left office. OLC stated that "certain propositions stated in several opinions issued by the Office of Legal Counsel in 2001-2003 respecting the allocation of authorities between the President and Congress in matters of war and national security do not reflect the current views of this Office."

Kristol asserted Obama's decision to close Guantánamo was "irresponsible." During the February 23, 2009, edition of Special Report, Kristol said: "It was irresponsible for the president to announce on his second day in office that he was going to close Guantánamo, and now they have a very difficult challenge in trying to preserve our -- make -- keep us safe."

Kristol on Abu Ghraib: U.S. is "obsessing" about "a small prisoner abuse scandal." On the May 16, 2004, edition of Fox News Sunday, Kristol said that the United States is "obsessing ... about a small prisoner abuse scandal." During Kristol's exchange with his fellow panelist, NPR's Juan Williams, Kristol added that Bush "will win the debate ... if the Democrats and the liberal media want to obsess about ... humiliation of Iraqi prisoners."

Kristol advocated invading Iraq where forces "will be greeted as liberators." In testimony delivered February 7, 2002, before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Kristol said: "[A]s in Kabul but also as in the Kurdish and Shi'ite regions of Iraq in 1991, American and alliance forces will be welcomed in Baghdad as liberators. Indeed, reconstructing Iraq may prove to be a less difficult task than the challenge of building a viable state in Afghanistan." Kristol continued: "The political, strategic and moral rewards would also be even greater. A friendly, free, and oil-producing Iraq would leave Iran isolated and Syria cowed; the Palestinians more willing to negotiate seriously with Israel; and Saudi Arabia with less leverage over policymakers here and in Europe. Removing Saddam Hussein and his henchmen from power presents a genuine opportunity -- one President Bush sees clearly -- to transform the political landscape of the Middle East."

Michael Gerson

Gerson served as a policy adviser and chief speechwriter for Bush from 2000 to 2006.

Gerson argued for simultaneous wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, calling it the "Necessary Three-Front War." In an April 2008 Post op-ed, Gerson wrote: "It is a central argument of the Bush administration that the outcome in Iraq is essential to the broader war on terrorism -- which is plainly true." Gerson argued that success in the war on terrorism relies on simultaneous military conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, and attacked critics of the war, calling it "an illegitimate argument" "that we need to abandon Iraq in order to win in Afghanistan. On the contrary, a loss in Iraq would make every front in the war on terror more difficult by providing terrorists a base of operations and boosting the morale and recruitment of every radical group on Earth."

Gerson advocated for troop surge in Afghanistan. In a November 2009 Post op-ed, Gerson argued for a surge in Afghanistan similar to the Iraq surge. He claimed, "America's best military minds have argued that rescuing the situation in Afghanistan requires a decisive shift in strategy and an increase in resources," and called the escalation "the virtuous cycle that succeeded in Iraq." Gerson concluded that "in Afghanistan and other distant places, America's sons and daughters are saving the liberty of the world."

Gerson claimed withdrawing from Iraq "would allow terrorists to carve out fiefdoms." In a June 2007 Post op-ed, Gerson criticized the Iraq war stance of Democratic presidential candidates, arguing that "they want to cut force levels too early and transfer responsibility to Iraqis before they are ready, and they offer no plan to deal with the chaos that would result six months down the road." He claimed that this "escalating contest of exit strategies" would lead to "the descent of Iraq into complete lawlessness" which "would allow terrorists to carve out fiefdoms." Gerson claimed an Iraq withdrawal "can create a momentum of irresponsibility that moves beyond control" by comparing it to America's actions concerning Cambodia's Khmer Rouge and concluded: "Sometimes peace for America can produce ghosts of its own."

Robert Kagan

Kagan served as principal speechwriter for Reagan's Secretary of State, George P. Schultz, as deputy for policy in the Bureau of Inter-American Affairs in the Reagan administration, and as a member of the Policy Planning Staff in the State Department. He also served as the foreign policy adviser to Rep. Jack Kemp (R-NY).

Kagan called on Bush to "courageously decide to destroy Saddam's regime." In a January 21, 2002, Weekly Standard op-ed, Kagan and Kristol called on Bush to "courageously decide to destroy Saddam's regime" and wrote that the "failure to remove Saddam could someday come back to haunt us." From the op-ed:

The problem today is not just that failure to remove Saddam could someday come back to haunt us. At a more fundamental level, the failure to remove Saddam would mean that, despite all that happened on September 11, we as a nation are still unwilling to shoulder the responsibilities of global leadership, even to protect ourselves. If we turn away from the Iraq challenge--because we fear the use of ground troops, because we don't want the job of putting Iraq back together afterwards, because we would prefer not to be deeply involved in a messy part of the world--then we will have made a momentous and fateful decision. We do not expect President Bush to make that choice. We expect the president will courageously decide to destroy Saddam's regime. No step would contribute more toward shaping a world order in which our people and our liberal civilization can survive and flourish.

By contrast, only one Post columnist worked for a Democratic political figure

Colbert King: Prior to joining The Washington Post, Colbert King served as deputy assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury Department under President Jimmy Carter. He also served as minority staff director of the Senate's District of Columbia Committee.

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