Fox double standard: Obama needs to abide by military's requests, Bush does not


Fox News personalities have repeatedly attacked President Obama for purportedly not sending as many troops to Afghanistan as the military requested. However, when then-President Bush dismissed Gen. Shinseki's recommendation that "several hundred thousand troops" would be needed in Iraq, Fox virtually ignored the story and, when it did cover it, hosted a contributor to suggest that critics "shut up and let daddy drive."

Fox attacks Obama for supposedly sending fewer troops than recommended

Kilmeade: "It's unbelievable" and "wrong" that Obama disagreed with the generals Afghanistan. On the September 22 edition of Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade called Bob Woodard's claim that Obama wrote his own exit strategy for Afghanistan "unbelievable," adding that "the guys who fight the wars have a problem with your six page plan to win a war [in] which you never mention the word win." Kilmeade later added that "it's wrong" that Obama did not defer to the military, because "it's like having Fireman Ed design a game plan for the Jets to beat the Dolphins."

Carlson: "You have to defer to the military experts." Later during the program co-host Grethen Carlson stated that she credits the president for "spending that amount of time thinking about the war strategy and coming up with his own plan. The only problem is none of the military experts agreed with it. So in that case you have to defer to the military experts." She also questioned whether Obama was "making his decision for political reasons or for troops reasons and for safety of the country reasons."

Doocy: "It's a war - listen to the military guys." Following Carlson's statement, co-host Steve Doocy declared: "It's a war - listen to the military guys."

But Fox largely ignored Bush's dismissal of Shinseki's recommendation

Bush ignored Shinseki's recommendation on troop levels in Iraq. Gen. Eric Shinseki testified in a February 25, 2003, Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that "several hundred thousand soldiers" would be needed to successfully occupy Iraq. However, President Bush did not follow Shinseki's suggestion, and Bush's Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz called Shinseki's recommendation "wildly off the mark." Following the news that the Bush administration planned a surge of troops in 2007, several conservatives and military experts - including Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Gen. Abizaid - reportedly stated that "Shinseki was right" in his initial estimate, and President Bush stated "there were not enough Iraqi and American troops" to keep the peace in Iraq.

Fox largely ignored the story, and when it did cover it, hosted just one person who supported Shinseki. Many Fox News figures responded to Shinseki's recommendation by attacking the general, rather than Bush. For example, during the April 1, 2003, edition of Special Report with Brit Hume, Fox News contributor Mort Kondracke asserted during a discussion of the Iraq war that it was "variously reported that" Shinseki believed "there wasn't enough ground forces," but nonetheless said, "it's time for this to be over" and suggested that people should stop "backing and forthing about whether there was adequate force or not." He declared: "[E]verybody should shut up and let daddy drive." Similarly, in response to host Alan Colmes' question, "What's going on at the Pentagon? You have a General Shinseki saying that" several hundred thousand "troops will be needed in a post-war Iraq. Then [you] have Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz who says that's just not true, it's wildly off the mark. Why would there be a conflict between what a general at the Pentagon says and an undersecretary?," Richard Perle, a guest on the February 28, 2003, edition of Hannity & Colmes, responded in part by describing Shinseki's recommendation as "an absurd number." Only once did Fox host anyone who supported Shinseki's recommendation. [transcripts accessed via Nexis]

Generals: Obama filled Afghanistan troop requests that sat on Bush's desk

Petraeus: We didn't have the "resources that were necessary" in Afghanistan under Bush but now "we broadly have the inputs right." On the September 15 edition of NPR's Morning Edition, General David Petraeus told reporter Renee Montagne that "a number of us came out of Iraq in late 2008, the final weeks literally of the Bush administration, the early months of the Obama administration, and recognized that we did not have in place the organizations in some cases, the people, the plans, and above all the resources that were necessary" in Afghanistan, but that "not until just recently that we have approached the point at which we could say that we broadly have the inputs right."

Adm. Mullen in 2008: Not "enough troops" in Afghanistan because of Iraq. In a December 2008 interview, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said of the conflict in Afghanistan: "We don't have enough troops there. I've said that over many months. And in that regard, we need to flow troops there as soon as they're available." Mullen added that "until we get to a point where we reduce that commitment [in Iraq], we won't have significant additional troops to add to Afghanistan."

Mullen in 2009: "We couldn't meet" requests for more troops in Afghanistan "because they were pushed to Iraq" where Bush wanted them. In a December 2, 2009 hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) asked Mullen: "I wonder, Admiral, if -- are you aware of a request for reinforcements from 2001 to 2006 -- or 2008 that was not heeded? Can you tell the committee who made those requests? Can you tell the committee who in the chain of command denied those requests? Because I find the president's assertion, having been a part of a very strong bipartisan support for Afghanistan, really astonishing." Mullen responded: "Just in my tenure here, sir, that General McKiernan specifically had a fairly substantial request for upwards of 20,000 forces, which we couldn't meet because they just weren't there. They were in Iraq. I spoke out very early that Afghanistan had been underresourced and that, from my -- from where I lived, the heart of that was underresourced with military forces. We didn't have them, because they were pushed to Iraq. And we couldn't -- we really didn't have the flexibility to move them. That was a priority of a previous president. We do what the president says, and that's what we did." [Hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, 12/2/09 (accessed via Nexis)]

Politifact: Bush ignored Gen. McKiernan's request for more troops. A article called Gibbs' statement "true" "that (a request for) an increase in troops sat on desks in this White House, including the vice president's, for more than eight months, a resource request filled by President Obama in March." reported:

Gibbs is referring here to a request for additional troops made by the previous top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David McKiernan, during President George W. Bush's final year in office.

McKiernan made his requests public in a press conference in September 2008 in Afghanistan, saying he needed at least three more combat brigades, in addition to the one Bush had promised in January. He said more soldiers and resources were needed to stabilize insurgencies in Afghanistan.


McKiernan said then that the Pentagon validated his formal request for additional troops, and that his request dated back to when he replaced his predecessor four months prior.

In a news briefing at the Pentagon on Oct. 1, 2008, McKiernan reiterated his call for more troops -- "the level of effort needs to be increased" -- and said he was hoping to see a shift of assets from Iraq to Afghanistan.


The public doesn't have access to McKiernan's formal request for more troops. But we know that he was talking about it publicly in September 2008, at least 4 1/2 months before the end of Bush's term. And McKiernan told reporters his request went back nearly to the start of his taking over as the top U.S. commander four months before that. That would suggest Gibbs' claim is correct that it had been sitting on desks in the White House for eight months. And so we rule his statement True.

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