Echoing false claims made by other media figures, Curt Dale of Colorado Community Newspapers in his August 30 column misrepresented and distorted statements by Democratic U.S. senators and presidential candidates Hillary Rodham Clinton (NY) and Barack Obama (IL) and members of their family. Dale omitted key context and widespread reporting that countered his suggestions.
In his August 30 column for Colorado Community Newspapers, Curt Dale repeated a number of falsehoods about Democratic presidential candidates U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (IL) and U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (NY) -- including the misrepresentation that Obama's wife, Michelle, “dropped a great bomb on” Clinton when “she said of Hillary, 'If you can't run your own house, you certainly can't run the White House.' ” Dale added, “Whatever was she referring to? Do you suppose it could be matters of hubby Bill's infidelity and profaning the Oval Office?” In fact, as Colorado Media Matters has noted, after making the statement that Dale quoted, Michelle Obama immediately went on to discuss not marital fidelity or the Clintons but the efforts she and her husband were making to ensure that their children will continue to “come first.”
Later in the column, Dale cropped a quote from Clinton's August 20 address to the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) convention to falsely assert that she “said of the Iraq War surge, 'It's working. We're just years too late in changing our tactics.' ” In doing so, Dale omitted the context of Clinton's remarks, as well as her previous statements and her campaign's subsequent explanation that she was attributing successes in Al Anbar province to a change in tactics, not President Bush's “surge” strategy, as Media Matters for America has noted.
Additionally, Dale characterized Obama as “a man who hasn't the foggiest notion of what's going on in Afghanistan” and asserted that Obama uttered “a slam against the professionalism of our military” when he stated on August 13 that the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan “requires us to have enough troops that we are not just air raiding villages and killing civilians, which is causing enormous pressure over there.” Contrary to Dale's suggestion that Obama's observation amounts to ignorant slander, U.S. airstrikes in Afghanistan -- and accounts of resulting civilian casualties -- have been widely reported in the media and reportedly have provoked criticism from Afghan President Hamid Karzai and a British commander stationed there, as Media Matters has noted.
1. “Obama's wife ... dropped a great bomb on Hillary”
Echoing insinuations made by other media figures, Dale suggested that remarks Michelle Obama made at an August 16 campaign stop in Iowa referred to Bill Clinton's acknowledged infidelity to his wife while he was president.
From the August 30 Colorado Community Newspapers column “He's got his eye on the opposition,” by Curt Dale:
Well, having mentioned Elizabeth Edwards, I also must mention Obama's wife, Michelle. She dropped a great bomb on Hillary when she said of Hillary, “If you can't run your own house, you certainly can't run the White House.” Ouch! Whatever was she referring to? Do you suppose it could be matters of hubby Bill's infidelity and profaning the Oval Office?
Dale, however, did not provide the rest of Michelle Obama's quote. In fact, after making the statement that Dale quoted, she immediately went on to discuss her own family -- not other candidates -- and the efforts she and her husband were making to ensure that their children will continue to “come first,” as Media Matters has noted:
That one of the most important things that we need to know about the next President of the United States is, is he somebody that shares our values? Is he somebody that respects family? Is a good and decent person? So our view was that, if you can't run your own house, you certainly can't run the White House. So, so we've adjusted our schedules to make sure that our girls are first, so while he's [Barack Obama] traveling around, I do day trips. That means I get up in the morning, I get the girls ready, I get them off, I go and do trips, I'm home before bedtime. So the girls know that I was gone somewhere, but they don't care. They just know that I was at home to tuck them in at night, and it keeps them grounded, and, and children, the children in our country have to know that they come first. And our girls do and that's why we're doing this. We're in this race for not just our children, but all of our children. [emphasis added]
As The Atlantic associate editor Marc Ambinder wrote of Michelle Obama, one “recurring theme of her stump speech” is “the hard choices she and Sen. Obama have had to make about their work/family balance.” The Obama campaign has since denied that Michelle Obama was aiming her remarks at Clinton.
2. “Clinton said of the War surge, 'It's working.' ”
Dale also cropped a passage from Clinton's August 20 VFW convention address and omitted the context of her remarks to assert that she said Bush's “surge” of military forces in Iraq was “working” :
Clinton said of the Iraq War surge, “It's working. We're just years too late in changing our tactics. We can't ever let that happen again. We can't be fighting the last war. We have to keep preparing to fight the new war.
Some of us will disagree,” she added. “I think the best way of honoring their service is by beginning to bring them home.”
The full context of Clinton's remarks, as well as previous statements from Clinton and subsequent statements from her staff, indicate that, in a passage discussing the need for the United States to have “the world's strongest and smartest military force” in order to fight global terrorists, Clinton observed that it was the tactic of coordinating with tribal leaders in Al Anbar -- not the “surge” -- that had shown signs of “working” :
These are just some of the challenges we face in this increasingly complex world.
One area that I am particularly concerned about is the spread of global terrorism. As a senator from New York, I am too familiar with the horrors of the attack on our city and our country on 9/11.
I was there the day after with a small group of office holders, and I saw those firefighters coming out of that black curtain of smoke and debris. We couldn't even see them until they broke clear, having worked around the clock, dragging their fire axes.
And at that moment, I certainly made a commitment I have tried to follow through on, and that is not only to do everything I could for our first responders who, like our Gulf War veterans, suffered because of the work they did at Ground Zero, many of them not only getting sick, but now dying of the exposures that they breathed starting after the attack, but I also made a full commitment to martial American power, resources and values in the global fight against these terrorists.
That begins with ensuring that does have the world's strongest and smartest military force. We've begun to change tactics in Iraq, and in some areas, particularly in Al Anbar province, it's working.
We're just years too late changing our tactics. We can't ever let that happen again. We can't be fighting the last war. We have to be preparing to fight the new war.
And this new war requires different tactics and strategies. We've got to be prepared to maintain the best fighting force in the world.
I propose increasing the size of our Army by 80,000 soldiers, balancing the legacy systems with newer programs to help us keep our technological edge, re-evaluating the training and education programs that service members need in the 21st century. [emphasis added]
As The New York Times reported on August 21, “Aides to Mrs. Clinton said her remarks that military tactics in Iraq are 'working' referred specifically to reports of increased cooperation from Sunnis leading to greater success against insurgents in Al Anbar Province.” In fact, Media Matters repeatedly has noted that Clinton suggested months ago that U.S. forces were making progress in Iraq due to improved relations between tribal leaders and the U.S. military. The New York Daily News reported on August 23 that Clinton made similar comments about Al Anbar Province in March: “Camp Clinton insisted she was talking only about a limited improvement in Anbar, linked to better relations with tribal leaders -- a claim she made to the Daily News in March.” Indeed, in an interview published on March 16, Clinton told the Daily News' Michael McAuliff: “If we're getting good cooperation in Al Anbar proivince [sic] and we've got Al Qaeda pinned down, we can't walk away from that. And I don't know anybody who has looked at this from a military perspective who says that we would need a lot of troops to keep that up.” Moreover, a May 7 New York Observer article quoted Clinton as saying, “We are making some progress it turns out, in what is called Al Anbar province against al Qaeda, and the reason we are is that our military leaders have learned a lot in the last several years there and they have made common cause with some of the tribal leaders, who don't like Al Qaeda any more than we do because Al Qaeda is also going after them.”
3. Obama's observation about Afghan civilian casualties was “a slam against the professionalism of our military”
At an August 13 campaign appearance, Obama stated that the U.S. should commit additional military forces in Afghanistan to “get the job done there” without “just air-raiding villages and killing civilians.” In his column, Dale echoed Fox News Channel personality Sean Hannity (here, here, and here) in asserting that Obama's comments showed that he “hasn't the foggiest notion” about the war in Afghanistan and had uttered “a slam against the professionalism of our military” :
Then there's Obama's revelation of how little he understands about what's going in the war in Afghanistan. He said, “Now, you have narco-drug lords who are helping to finance the Taliban, so we've got to get the job done there, and that requires us to have enough troops that we are not just air raiding villages and killing civilians, which is causing enormous problems.”
Those are the words of a man who hasn't the foggiest notion of what's going on in Afghanistan. It's a slam against the professionalism of our military. It's akin to John Kerry's testimony before Congress, years ago, condemning the American GIs in of horrible atrocities. Our military doesn't just fly over and drop bombs helter-skelter on villages to kill civilians. Any air raid conducted is done so on the basis of the best intelligence, the best targeting available from eyes on the ground, and seeing the Taliban grouping or in hiding. For Obama to suggest otherwise is a horrible condemnation of the men and women carrying out our operations and of the commanders over them.
Contrary to Dale's representation, the Associated Press reported in a “Fact Check” responding to conservatives' attacks on Obama that “Western forces have been killing civilians at a faster rate than the insurgents have been killing civilians.” Further, in a July 7 article reporting that NATO and U.S. airstrikes killed more than 100 Afghan civilians that week, Reuters cited the assessment of military analysts that “a shortage of ground troops means commanders often turn to air power.” The Afghan ambassador to the United States, Said Tayeb Jawad, reportedly noted in advance of an August 4-5 Camp David summit between Bush and Karzai that U.S. and NATO forces operating in Afghanistan rely too much on “high altitude bombing, which is inaccurate and causes a high degree of civilian deaths.”
Likewise, the Times reported on August 9 that British commanders operating in Afghanistan “expressed concerns that the Americans' extensive use of air power was turning the people against the foreign presence as British forces were trying to solidify recent gains against the Taliban,” further noting that U.S. “Special Forces teams have often called in airstrikes in Helmand and other places where civilians have subsequently been found to have suffered casualties.”