As Russian president Vladimir Putin flexes his military muscles by invading Ukraine in violation of multiple international treaties, right-wing pundits are fawning over the "macho" leader's strength while complaining that President Obama wears "mom jeans" and is weak on foreign policy.
In the wake of Russia's apparent invasion of the Crimean Peninsula -- an area within the sovereign territory of Ukraine -- right-wing media have renewed their crush on the Russian leader, praising his strength and equestrian skills after TIME's Michael Crowley tweeted a photo of Obama on a bicycle and Putin on a horse, saying the juxtaposition "does kind of capture the moment."
Fox Nation made the photo its "Pic of the Day" and published a "highlight reel of Putin doing macho things" like "performing karate," riding a horse and a motorcycle (though disappointingly not at the same time), and tranquilizing a tiger.
Fox host Bill O'Reilly discussed the photo on his primetime show March 3rd, saying the photo depicted the "contrasting styles" of Putin and Obama. "Putin sees himself as a macho man who's going to do pretty much what he wants," O'Reilly said. "The president sees himself as a renaissance man who wants to accommodate."
On the March 3 edition of Fox News' Hannity, contributor Sarah Palin questioned the "potency" of President Obama saying, "People are looking at Putin as one who wrestles bears and drills for oil. They look at our president as one who wears mom jeans and equivocates and bloviates."
Other Fox pundits have followed the same theme. Foreign policy expert KT McFarland tweeted, "Putin seizes countries, Obama threatens maybe to kick Russia out of the G-8 club. Bet Putin's sorry now! Winners write history, not whiners". Frequent Fox guest Rudy Giuliani lavished Putin with praise, saying that in contrast with Obama, Putin is "what you call a leader."
Of course, no one praising Putin's leadership mentions his penchant for repressing dissent and stymieing the freedoms of his people. But at least he can fend off a wild animal without his shirt on.
From the March 3 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:
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From the October 30 of Fox News' The Kelly File:
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In a Fox News interview, Rudy Giuliani repeated long-debunked myths about the deployment of military assistance and President Obama's location during the September 2012 Benghazi attacks.
The attacks against a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans and took place one year ago today have spawned countless myths and falsehoods throughout the conservative media. Fox News operated as a driving force behind many of these claims.
On the September 11 edition of Fox & Friends, Giuliani pushed two of these myths when he said, "I have significant questions about the action of the United States government that night, including our president -- I still don't know where he was that night. And why we didn't immediately deploy as much force as possible to the area."
These falsehoods aren't new to Fox's airwaves. Fox contributor Charles Krauthammer and Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade have also expressed ignorance of President Obama's whereabouts the night of September 11, 2012, despite the fact that, since October 11, 2012, the White House Flickr page has displayed this photo of Obama discussing the situation in Benghazi that night in the White House:
Additionally, then-Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta testified before Congress in February that he and Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were in a meeting with Obama when they received word of the attacks in Benghazi. Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also testified in January that she was in contact with Obama throughout that night.
In his congressional testimony, Panetta also said that President Obama ordered him and Dempsey to "[d]o whatever you need to do to be able to protect our people there" that night. Following their discussion, Panetta ordered two anti-terrorism security teams stationed in Spain to deploy to Libya and another special operations team to deploy to the region. But those forces, along with other military forces that conservatives have insisted could have helped out, could not arrive in time.
Fox News is misrepresenting President Obama's position on surveillance and the threat of international terrorism to falsely accuse him of hypocrisy and fecklessness.
According to reports, the National Security Administration continues to collect metadata, including phone numbers and the duration of phone calls, from telephone providers, and works with Internet companies to mine data on user activity. The continuation of these programs, which were in place before President Obama took office, raises significant questions about the scope of surveillance powers established under the Patriot Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
But rather than focus on legitimate questions, Fox's guests are misstating Obama's past positions in order to accuse him both of hypocrisy and of downplaying the continued threat of international terrorism. During an appearance on the June 7 edition of America's Newsroom, Rudy Giuliani offered this take:
The other problem you have here, Bill, this is, Obama is -- this is totally hypocritical for Obama. If Bush was doing this, if Mitt Romney following George Bush was doing this, it would be one thing.
Obama ran against all of this. He also ended war on terror couple weeks ago last time I checked. War on terror is over. So the war on terror is over. Right? If we don't have much of a threat anymore and we are going to up our surveillance of American citizens the incompetence of this administration is really impossible to catalog and describe.
Jamie Weinstein of the Daily Caller echoed Giuliani on Fox later that day, saying that the existence of surveillance programs "contradicts what [Obama] said on the campaign trail," adding, "and recently he said Al Qaeda is receding."
The reality is that Obama's position on surveillance is in line with the position he took during the 2008 general election. At the time, Obama cast a controversial vote in favor of a bill expanding the 1978 FISA law. Then-Sen. Obama explained his decision to do so by explicitly citing the need to continue surveillance programs:
In a dangerous world, government must have the authority to collect the intelligence we need to protect the American people. But in a free society, that authority cannot be unlimited. As I've said many times, an independent monitor must watch the watchers to prevent abuses and to protect the civil liberties of the American people. This compromise law assures that the FISA court has that responsibility.
The ability to monitor and track individuals who want to attack the United States is a vital counter-terrorism tool, and I'm persuaded that it is necessary to keep the American people safe -- particularly since certain electronic surveillance orders will begin to expire later this summer. Given the choice between voting for an improved yet imperfect bill, and losing important surveillance tools, I've chosen to support the current compromise.
Obama faced criticism from civil liberties groups and progressive organizations for backing the bill, which The New York Times reported was "a major expansion of the government's surveillance powers." That vote was a shift from the position he took during the primary that year, as Obama had said he opposed controversial policies that the bill enshrined into law. In 2012, when Congress reauthorized the FISA Amendments, Obama announced that he "strongly supports" the bill that reauthorized the government's surveillance powers, which at the time were expiring. Obama also signed a 2011 extension of the Patriot Act, calling the law "an important tool for us to continue dealing with an ongoing terrorist threat."
On Fox News, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani suggested that the Obama administration has refused to recognize extremist Muslim ideology as a unifying theme in terrorist attacks on the U.S. even though the day before President Obama expressly identified radical Islam as "a common ideology" in terrorist attacks.
On the May 24 edition of Fox's America's Newsroom, Giuliani attacked a speech that Obama delivered the day before at the National Defense University, claiming the president does not understand the role of extremist Islamic ideology in fueling terrorism and comparing him to "a police chief that refuses to recognize" a connection between many serial killings:
In fact, President Obama discussed the role that radical Islam plays in terror attacks in his speech, stressing the need to understand that terrorist threats "don't arise in a vacuum":
Lethal yet less capable al Qaeda affiliates. Threats to diplomatic facilities and businesses abroad. Homegrown extremists. This is the future of terrorism. We must take these threats seriously, and do all that we can to confront them. But as we shape our response, we have to recognize that the scale of this threat closely resembles the types of attacks we faced before 9/11. In the 1980s, we lost Americans to terrorism at our Embassy in Beirut; at our Marine Barracks in Lebanon; on a cruise ship at sea; at a disco in Berlin; and on Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie. In the 1990s, we lost Americans to terrorism at the World Trade Center; at our military facilities in Saudi Arabia; and at our Embassy in Kenya. These attacks were all deadly, and we learned that left unchecked, these threats can grow. But if dealt with smartly and proportionally, these threats need not rise to the level that we saw on the eve of 9/11.
Moreover, we must recognize that these threats don't arise in a vacuum. Most, though not all, of the terrorism we face is fueled by a common ideology - a belief by some extremists that Islam is in conflict with the United States and the West, and that violence against Western targets, including civilians, is justified in pursuit of a larger cause. Of course, this ideology is based on a lie, for the United States is not at war with Islam; and this ideology is rejected by the vast majority of Muslims, who are the most frequent victims of terrorist acts.
From the February 22 edition of Fox News' On the Record with Greta Van Susteren:
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Fox is criticizing the Obama administration's Hurricane Sandy relief efforts by comparing them to the Bush administration's response to Hurricane Katrina. In fact, there are few similarities between the responses, and the Obama administration's response to Sandy has been widely praised by members of both parties.
From the October 22 edition of CNN's Starting Point:
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Joining others in right-wing media, Fox News is using the GOP convention as an opportunity to push preferred candidates for Mitt Romney's cabinet. For example, on the August 29 edition of Fox & Friends, Gretchen Carlson promoted the prospect of Rudolph Giuliani serving as Attorney General in a Romney administration. However, in their endorsement of Giuliani for the position of the nation's chief law enforcement officer and legal advisor, the Fox News hosts did not mention Giuliani's patronage of convicted former Department of Homeland Security nominee Bernard Kerik, or Giuliani's questionable record on the protection of civil rights and liberties as Mayor of New York City.
From the August 2 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Sean Hannity Show:
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Conservative media are pushing for Israel or the United States to launch a military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities, claiming that inaction will cause great harm to Israel. In doing so, however, they are ignoring questions about whether Iran is planning to build nuclear weapons at all and minimizing the dangers of war with Iran.
In a February 6 Townhall.com piece, Ken Blackwell and Bob Morrison, senior fellows with the Family Research Council (FRC), argued that Israel should "strike [Iran] now" as its "very survival is on the line," adding, "As worrisome as an Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear facilities might be, Iran with a nuclear weapon is infinitely more." They concluded:
Today, surrounded by mortal enemies, with their backs to the wall, Israelis are told to take more "risks for peace" by a US. administration that is outraged by the sight of too many Jews in Jerusalem.
If we wait until the Iranians have sunk their nuclear weapons deep into hardened bunkers it will be too late. The Obama administration will not act in time. Later, will be too late.
Israel: Don't wait; hit the Iranian nuclear facilities now. The world will thank you for it.
During the February 7 edition of his Fox News show, Sean Hannity said that "[t]here is a rise of Islamic extremism that is happening under [Obama's] watch, and he's not doing a thing," adding, "[h]e ought to be dropping bunker buster bombs on Iran's nuclear sites."
On February 8, The Wall Street Journal's Bret Stephens appeared on Fox News' Happening Now to discuss his recent piece on whether Israel should bomb Iran. During the segment, Stephens said that "Israel should bomb Iran if it's going to strike decisively," adding: "If it's going to have a surgical attack that will set the Iranians back by six months or one year then the question becomes, What's the point of that? But if it's going to use a strike as a first stage in a broader program of regime change joined by the United States, then that's worthwhile." Stephens concluded the segment by saying:
As the Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak put it, Iran is now entering what he calls a zone of immunity. They will have too much material too deeply buried to be susceptible to an Israeli strike. And that window is closing for them. Unless they take advantage of this opportunity they will have to live with a nuclear Iran, which will be devastating for Israel's interest.
And on the February 12 edition of Fox News' America's News Headquarters, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani said that "if we don't become very serious and convince the Iranians that we will use significant military force to stop them they're going to just keep moving straight ahead," adding, "I think we're going to have to be prepared to use military force." He concluded:
I want this administration to get realistic and get tough about Iran. Stop this nonsense about talking to them, which goes back to when he was debating Hillary Clinton and Hillary Clinton told him to his face that he's naïve. Stop it. Cut it out, Mr. President. They don't want to talk to you. You know what they want to hear from you? That you're tough. That you are capable of attacking them if that is necessary and that you're not going to sit there and labor over it. That you are willing to do it if that is necessary to stop them from becoming a nuclear power. And he should say to them, in the toughest language he can come up with, there's no way on earth I'm going to let you become a nuclear power. It's just too darn dangerous.
There are several things wrong here.
On yesterday's edition of The Five, Eric Bolling gave a decidedly skewed version of history when he said, "America was certainly safe between 2000 and 2008. I don't remember any terrorist attacks on American soil during that period of time."
Media conservatives have done this before.
From the June 9 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
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From the March 31 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends:
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