Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has become vocal among the Democratic presidential candidates in condemning the U.S. military strike that killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani. And some mainstream media commentators and right-wing voices are teaming up to twist around what she’s said.
Warren had initially tweeted a reaction to the military strike condemning Soleimani himself in moral terms while warning against the prospect of President Donald Trump pushing the country into a war with Iran:
The next day, she elaborated:
And on Sunday, Warren appeared on CNN’s State of the Union, discussing the significance of the Soleimani killing, and importantly, describing Soleimani’s status as a “government official” in the specific context of the legal definitions of “assassination”:
CNN analyst and Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin then lobbed an inflammatory accusation about Warren’s discussion of Soleimani:
CNN Editor-at-Large Chris Cillizza wrote a post Monday seeking to declare that Warren had somehow changed her positions on the Soleimani strike, notably seizing upon Warren’s questions about whether Trump had launched the attack to deflect from impeachment:
We went from “murderer" to “wag the dog" in the space of a few days.
Which is mind-bending. And confusing -- until you realize the "why" behind Warren's rapid change of heart on Soleimani. Which is this: because the liberal left didn't like her initial statement and she needs those voters to have a chance at winning the Democratic presidential nomination this year.
The possibility that Warren’s tweets and statements are not contradictory — that Soleimani being a “murderer” and Trump ordering the killing to distract from impeachment could both be true — didn’t seem to enter into Cillizza’s analysis at all.
But a number of right-wing media voices have also pounced on Warren's description of Soleimani as a government official, twisting Warren’s words to mean very different things. (In the interview itself, any personal characterization of Soleimani just didn’t come up, though Warren at one point said in general terms: “Now, Iran's not a good actor. There's no doubt about that. They're a bad actor.”)
Perhaps the single most flagrant example of a bait-and-switch came from Ben Domenech, publisher of The Federalist:
Ironically, Domenech’s rhetorical example of what a person “can say” is exactly what Warren is saying as evident from her comments on the Tuesday edition of ABC’s The View.
During the segment, co-host Meghan McCain first invoked Warren’s respect for the troops and then proceeded: “You issued a statement calling Soleimani a murderer. Later, you issued a second statement saying that he was, quote, ‘an assassination of a senior foreign military official.’ … I don't understand the flip-flop. I don't understand why it was so hard to call him a terrorist, and I would just like you to explain the change.” (McCain is married to Domenech, who was pushing a much more severe phrasing of the smear job.)
“This isn't a change. They're true,” Warren replied. “The question is what is the response that the president of the United States should make and what advances the interests of the United States of America? Think about Saddam Hussein. You want to talk about a bad guy, right? However, going to war in Iraq was not in the interests of the United States.”
And already, this appearance is being presented as some kind of flip-flop, too.