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“Problematic Unhinged Rhetoric”: John McCain; President Obama Is ‘Directly Responsible’ For Orlando

When Donald Trump said yesterday that President Obama was “directly responsible” for the deadliest mass-shooting in American history, it was the latest evidence of a candidate who’s abandoned any sense of propriety or decency.

Wait, did I say Donald Trump? I meant John McCain.

Republican Sen. John McCain on Thursday blamed President Barack Obama for the deadly shooting in Orlando that killed 49 club goers.

He said the president is “directly responsible for it because” of his “utter failures” in Iraq.

“Barack Obama is directly responsible for it because when he pulled everybody out of Iraq, al Qaeda went to Syria and became ISIS and ISIS is what it is today thanks to Barack Obama’s failures, utter failures by pulling everybody out of Iraq thinking that conflicts end just because we leave,” McCain told reporters on Capitol Hill, according to audio obtained by NBC News.

The senator added, “So the responsibility for it lies with President Barack Obama and his failed policies.”

It wasn’t long before McCain realized this kind of unhinged rhetoric might be problematic, so the senator soon after issued a follow-up statement saying he “misspoke.”

That’s probably not the right word. When someone says “Iraq” when they meant “Iran,” that’s misspeaking. When the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee delivers a 65-word rant blaming the president for a mass murder, that’s more than a slip of the tongue.

McCain added, by way of a “clarification,” that he was blaming the president’s “national security decisions” for the rise of ISIS, “not the president himself.”

How gracious of him.

The clumsy walk-back notwithstanding, what’s wrong with McCain’s argument? Everything.

Right off the bat, let’s not forget that the lunatic responsible for the Orlando massacre was not a member of ISIS. He may have been inspired in some way by the terrorists, and he may have pledged some kind of allegiance to them, but there’s no evidence at all that ISIS was somehow involved in planning and/or executing this attack.

It may be politically convenient to blame a foreign foe for an American buying guns in America and then killing Americans on American soil, but giving ISIS more credit than it deserves is a mistake.

Second, McCain’s broader point is hard to take seriously. Here’s the senator’s logic: Obama withdrew U.S. troops from Iraq in 2010, which eventually and indirectly led to the creation of ISIS, which eventually led lunatics to identify with ISIS, which eventually led to the Orlando mass-shooting.

Even putting aside the bizarre leaps of logic necessarily to adopt such a thesis, McCain is overlooking the fact that (a) he celebrated Obama’s troop withdrawal in 2010; (b) the troop withdrawal was the result of a U.S./Iraq Status of Forces Agreement negotiated by the Bush/Cheney administration; and (c) by the senator’s own reasoning, given his enthusiastic support for the war in Iraq, McCain would have to hold himself “directly responsible” for the Orlando slayings, too.

Look, I’m aware of the broader circumstances. McCain is facing a tough re-election fight in Arizona, including a competitive Republican primary. He has an incentive to say ridiculous and irresponsible things about the president, and perhaps even try to exploit a tragedy for partisan ends.

But if these are the final months of McCain’s lengthy congressional career, is this really how he wants to go out? Using the kind of rhetoric more closely associated with Trump than an ostensible Republican statesman?

Postscript: Earlier this month, a college in Pennsylvania awarded McCain a “civility” prize. Perhaps college administrators can ask for it back?

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, June 17, 2016

June 18, 2016 Posted by | Bush-Cheney Administration, Iraq War, John McCain, Orlando Shootings | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Trump’s Most Impressive Boast Is A Brazen Lie”: An Excellent Time To Re-Adjust The B.S. Detector

Every presidential candidate is going to boast about all of the many reasons he or she deserves voters’ support. It’s how the process works: White House hopefuls, without exception, are going to present themselves as the best possible person for one of the world’s most important jobs.

And with that in mind, Donald Trump, perhaps more than most, seems to take great pride in singing his own praises, celebrating his wealth, judgment, and professed wisdom in ways that have evidently won over much of the Republican Party’s base. Some of these boasts have even impressed a handful of political pundits.

Last week, for example, Patrick Smith, Salon’s foreign affairs columnist, argued that Trump’s views on foreign policy deserve to be taken seriously because the Republican frontrunner opposed the war in Iraq – unlike a certain Democratic candidate.

The New York Times’ Maureen Dowd devoted much of latest column, published yesterday, to a related point.

The prime example of commander-in-chief judgment Trump offers is the fact that, like [President Obama], he thought the invasion of Iraq was a stupid idea. […]

You can actually envision a foreign policy debate between Trump and [Hillary Clinton] that sounds oddly like the one Obama and Clinton had in 2008, with Trump playing Obama, preening about his good judgment on Iraq….

It’s easy to imagine Trump and his campaign team celebrating pieces like these. It’s equally easy to expect a series of related arguments in the coming months from Clinton detractors looking for an excuse to support the GOP’s nativist demagogue.

There is, however, a rather important problem with the entire argument: it’s based on a fairly obvious lie.

Trump’s claim is that he, relying solely on his extraordinary instincts and unrivaled prognostication skills, recognized that the war in Iraq would be a disaster from the outset. The political establishment at the time lacked Trump’s vision, but if insiders had only listened to him, a catastrophic mistake could have been avoided.

Last fall, Trump went so far as to say, in multiple interviews, that he was so outspoken in his condemnations of the U.S. invasion plans in 2003 that officials from the Bush/Cheney White House actually reached out to him, urging him to tone down his criticism before he started turning Americans against the coming conflict.

These are all important assertions in the 2016 race, which may impress Clinton’s critics, but which aren’t even remotely true. Not to put too fine a point on this, but Trump is brazenly, shamelessly lying. There is literally no evidence to substantiate any of his claims, and extensive evidence that proves the opposite.

On Sept. 11, 2002, for example, Howard Stern asked Trump, “Are you for invading Iraq?” Trump replied, “Yeah, I guess so.”

One can certainly characterize this as lukewarm support for the disastrous war, but it’s hardly a position that can fairly be described as opposition. And for a New York Times columnist to tell readers that Trump “thought the invasion of Iraq was a stupid idea” is both wrong and bizarre. (As of this morning, Dowd’s error has not yet generated a correction.)

In fairness, Trump eventually criticized the war in Iraq, but only well after the Bush/Cheney policy took a devastating turn for the worse and it became painfully obvious to everyone that the U.S. invasion had been a terrible mistake. But by the time Trump acknowledged this, he was only repeating observations that had already dawned on much of the country.

The larger dynamic to keep in mind is that some in the political world have not yet come to terms with Trump’s unique style of campaigning: (1) manufacture self-aggrandizing boast; (2) repeat said boast regularly; (3) wait for unsuspecting media professionals to accept boast at face value; (4) repeat.

It’s a shame some haven’t noticed the pattern sooner, failing to recognize the importance of scrutinizing Trump’s demonstrably ridiculous claims, but it’s not too late. The likely Republican nominee will continue to make outrageous boasts with no basis in fact, counting on journalists to simply give him the benefit of the doubt, between now and Election Day. For those who’ve been fooled by Trump’s falsehoods, now would be an excellent time to re-adjust their b.s. detectors accordingly.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 2, 2016

May 3, 2016 Posted by | Bush-Cheney Administration, Donald Trump, Iraq War | , , , , , | 2 Comments

“I Have A Very Good Brain”: Trump’s Foreign Policy Sage Is Himself, Of Course

Hot off winning every state but Ohio last night, Donald Trump has taken his campaign of self-aggrandizement to the realm of international politics. According to Trump, there’s no one better suited to provide foreign policy insight than… himself.

Trump appeared on MSNBC’s Morning Joe earlier today. When asked who his foreign policy advisors were, Trump responded, “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things.”

What any of that means to anyone is unclear. But does Trump have “a very good brain” when it comes to foreign policy? Does he have the wisdom necessary to make decisions whose consequences may take years to unfold? History says no: just look at Trump’s vacillation over the 2003 Iraq invasion.

One of the greatest foreign policy blunders ever committed by this country, the power vacuum left behind in Iraq — after George W. Bush dismantled the Iraqi army — aided in the rise of ISIS years later. Trump, who presents himself as a tough guy who would bring back torture to keep America safe, started off by claiming that he was against the invasion of Iraq. In a 2002 Howard Stern interview, he was asked directly if he supported the invasion. “Yeah, I guess so,” Trump responded. “I wish the first time it was done correctly.”

This was not a one-off case of supporting interventionist foreign policy. In his book The America We Deserve, he wrote, “We still don’t know what Iraq is up to or whether it has the material to build nuclear weapons. I’m no warmonger,” Trump wrote. “But the fact is, if we decide a strike against Iraq is necessary, it is madness not to carry the mission to its conclusion. When we don’t, we have the worst of all worlds: Iraq remains a threat, and now has more incentive than ever to attack us.”

In fact, in parroting the provocations of the Bush administration, Trump very much was a war-monger.

Fast forward to 2016, and Trump, in an effort to display his solid foreign policy insights, said during a Republican debate in Vermont, “I’m the only one up here, when the war of Iraq — in Iraq, I was the one that said, ‘Don’t go, don’t do it, you’re going to destabilize the Middle East.’” It was not the first time he claimed to be opposed to military intervention.

Even then, his commitment to non-intervention is political opportunism at best, given only 32 percent of registered voters still think the invasion was a good idea. He returned to espousing militaristic rhetoric during a campaign rally in which he promised to bomb ISIS — and the millions of civilians living under their rule — out of existence. “I would bomb the shit out of them,” said Trump during a rally in November. “I would just bomb those suckers, and that’s right, I’d blow up the pipes, I’d blow up the refineries, I’d blow up ever single inch, there would be nothing left.”

While Trump may think that he is the best at everything, from his relationship with “the blacks” to world-altering foreign policy calculations, his comfort with taking seemingly opposing positions should worry his supporters. But who are we kidding — it probably won’t.

 

By: Saif Alnuweiri, The National Memo, March 16, 2016

March 17, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Foreign Policy, Iraq War | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Never As Consistently Anti-Intervention As Advertised”: Vetting Bernie: He Never Voted For Intervention In Iraq — Except Twice

The only topic that preoccupies Bernie Sanders more than income inequality is his vote against authorization of war in Iraq, which he mentions at every debate and whenever anyone questions his foreign policy credentials. Fair enough: Sanders turned out to be right on that vote and Hillary Clinton has admitted that she was wrong to trust George W. Bush.

But the socialist Vermont senator is under fresh scrutiny today on the (further) left, where his support for intervention in Bosnia and Afghanistan has raised sharp questions. In Counter-Punch, the online magazine founded by the late Alexander Cockburn, his longtime collaborator Jeffrey St. Clair complains that even on Iraq, Sanders is a “hypocrite” who was never as consistently anti-intervention as advertised:

In 1998 Sanders voted in favor of the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998, which said: “It should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq and to promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime.”

Later that same year, Sanders also backed a resolution that stated: “Congress reaffirms that it should be the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq and to promote the emergence of a democratic  government to replace that regime.”

According to St. Clair, Sanders has dismissed those votes as “almost unanimous,” but that implies an absurdly elastic definition of the term. Looking up the actual vote, St. Clair found that 38 members of varying ideology and party affiliation voted no. To him, this means Sanders should be held responsible for the bombing campaign that followed, as well as the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children who allegedly perished as a result of US sanctions (which seems to absolve the late dictator of any culpability for the sanctions regime, but never mind).

Certainly it is fair to ask Sanders — who strives to distance himself from his rival on foreign and security policy – why he cast those fateful votes to support Bill Clinton’s Iraq policy in 1998.

 

By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Editor’s Blog, The National Memo, February 17, 2016

February 18, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Foreign Policy, Iraq War | , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

“Michael Gerson Is An Idiot”: Former Bush Speechwriter Attacks Obama As Vicious Peacemonger

Last week, at a press conference in Turkey, a reporter asked President Obama to respond to the charge that “your reluctance to enter another Middle East war, and your preference of diplomacy over using the military makes the United States weaker and emboldens our enemies.” Obama began with a specific defense of his policies, and eventually added a general defense of his reluctance to send in large numbers of ground troops. “But what we do not do, what I do not do is to take actions either because it is going to work politically or it is going to somehow, in the abstract, make America look tough, or make me look tough,” insisted Obama, “And maybe part of the reason is because every few months I go to Walter Reed, and I see a 25-year-old kid who’s paralyzed or has lost his limbs, and some of those are people I’ve ordered into battle. And so I can’t afford to play some of the political games that others may.”

Washington Post columnist and former Bush administration speechwriter Michael Gerson is scandalized at the president’s rhetoric. “It is almost beyond belief: A commander in chief, in a time of national testing, deploying limbless soldiers as a rhetorical trump card against his political opponents … ” he complained. “The United States has a president whose wartime leadership is apparently inspired not by Winston Churchill or Franklin Roosevelt but by Rachel Maddow. His military strategy in Iraq and Syria may be questionable, but Obama is the Eisenhower of political polarization, the Napoleon of the partisan low blow.”

For the sake of argument, let us grant Gerson’s implicit premise that the president’s rhetoric, rather than his policies, is the primary subject — a premise that no doubt appeals to the wordsmith who wrote eloquent justification on behalf of the most disastrous foreign-policy regime in American history. Focus on Gerson’s premise that there is something especially — indeed, world-historically — gross about Obama citing injured soldiers as an argument against committing soldiers to battle. What are we to make of arguments like this one, by George W. Bush, in favor of war with Iraq?

Some worry that a change of leadership in Iraq could create instability and make the situation worse. The situation could hardly get worse, for world security, and for the people of Iraq. …

On Saddam Hussein’s orders, opponents have been decapitated, wives and mothers of political opponents have been systematically raped as a method of intimidation, and political prisoners have been forced to watch their own children being tortured.

Again, set aside the fact that Bush was utterly wrong in his case that neither human rights nor regional security could possibly get worse in the case of an invasion. What he believed (no doubt in earnest) was that his opponent’s policies would allow the continuation of the genuine horrors of Saddam-era Iraq. It’s beyond the pale to invoke the specter of a wheelchair-bound soldier to make the case against a ground invasion, but completely fair to saddle your opponents with decapitation, mass rape, and child torture?

 

By: Jonathan Chait, The Daily Intelligencer, November 20, 2015

November 30, 2015 Posted by | Iraq War, Michael Gerson, Middle East | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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