Since the release of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, media have scandalized the administration's negotiations with the Taliban, conducted through a third-party, despite the fact that foreign policy experts and military leaders have long acknowledged the necessity of such negotiations.
From the June 3 edition of CNN's The Lead with Jake Tapper:
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CNN's Chris Cuomo missed a prime opportunity to challenge Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) on his inconsistency regarding support for a prisoner swap with the Taliban in exchange for the release of a captive American solider.
Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, an American captive held by the Taliban since 2009, was released on May 31, pursuant to an agreement between the White House, the government of Qatar (acting as an intermediary), and the Taliban that secured the release of five Taliban detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
On the June 3 edition of CNN's New Day, Sen. McCain railed against the exchange as "incomprehensible," arguing that it allows the Taliban "to pick the dream team" who will end up "back in the battlefield putting the lives of Americans in danger." Host Chris Cuomo noted that the exchange had "been in the works for years," prompting McCain to double-down on his argument that the exchange was inappropriate:
MCCAIN: The problem that I have, and many others have, is what we paid for that release, and that is, releasing five of the most hardened, anti-American killers, brutal killers, who are, by the way, are also wanted by the international criminal court for their incredible brutality, and the fact that within a very short time, if the past proves true, they'll be back in the battlefield putting the lives of Americans in danger in the future. And that's what most of us find incomprehensible, that the Taliban should be allowed to pick the 'dream team,' as my friend Lindsey Graham called it, and send them to Qatar, and obviously, they will be back in the fight. Thirty percent of those who have already been released from Guantanamo have reentered the fight, and this is the top. These are the people that have blood of thousands on their hands, at least in one case. And so you have to understand what was done in exchange for the release of Sergeant Bergdahl.
CUOMO: The issue of surprise and shock comes up here, Senator. This deal has been in the works for years. The president says he consulted with Congress about this potential trade. Were you consulted with?
MCCAIN: No, and I've talked to members of the intelligence committee, Congressman Rogers, Senator Chambliss. We were at the meeting where they were talking about releasing some Taliban as confidence measures to move negotiations forward, as long as two years ago. There was never discussion that any of us know about this straight-up and all of the aspects of this trade for Sergeant Bergdahl. And that's just a fact.
CUOMO: On whose side, Senator? Is the president hiding the ball of what types of Taliban guys were involved? Or is your side hiding the ball that you knew but you didn't know everything, so you're going to say that you knew nothing?
MCCAIN: Well, we were never told there would be an exchange here of Sergeant Bergdahl for five Taliban. We told they were considering, and we steadfastly, both Republican and Democrats, rejected the notion that they were going to release some of these Taliban in exchange for, "confidence building measures" so that negotiations could continue. What we were briefed on was an entirely different scenario from the one that took place. Look, I'm not one who believes that Congress should bind the hands of the president particularly as commander-in-chief. That's not my problem. My problem is, what we did in exchange, which could put the lives of American servicemen and women in grave danger in the future, unless you believe that this conflict is over and that the Taliban and Al Qaeda have stop wanting to destroy America and repeat of 9/11, then, fine. But they've not, and they're not, and they are growing, despite what the administration says.
Right-wing media greeted news of the release of the only U.S. soldier held captive in Afghanistan with claims that his freedom was timed to distract from the controversy plaguing the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
The Washington Post's Bob Woodward suggested that a "neutral" investigation of the Benghazi attacks could be appropriate to "see if there is new information," ignoring the neutral, nonpartisan Accountability Review Board investigation which has already issued twenty-nine foreign security recommendations that the State Department is continuing to implement.
The Daily Beast is dubbing the Environmental Protection Agency's new clean power plan "Obamacare for the Air" in part because it is "intensely polarizing." But the reason that the standards are "polarizing" is that, just like with Obamacare's individual mandate, Republicans have abandoned their previous support for addressing this pressing issue with market-based policies as they move further to the extreme right.
On June 2, the EPA proposed the first standards for carbon pollution from existing power plants, which would allow states flexibility on how to achieve the pollution cuts. States could, for instance, mandate installations of new clean power technology or join regional cap-and-trade programs that take a market-based approach to promoting clean power. The Daily Beast's Jason Mark labeled the standards "Obamacare for the Air" because both plans are "numbingly complex," "based on a market system," "likely to transform a key sector of the economy," and "guaranteed to be intensely polarizing." The Christian Science Monitor's David Unger similarly compared the standards to Obamacare in part because they are "controversial." The editor in chief of the Daily Beast, John Avalon adopted the analogy on CNN's New Day, calling it a "long-time liberal priority."
Both articles left out why the EPA standards are contentious among the political class: it's not because the proposals are "liberal," but rather because the Republican party has shifted so far to the right that it now attacks proposals that it once advocated for. Many prominent Republicans supported a cap-and-trade program before Barack Obama was elected president, just as they once supported the individual mandate in Obamacare. In fact, the greenhouse gas emissions cuts that Sen. John McCain proposed during the 2008 election were far more extensive than the EPA's current proposal. The video below by Media Matters Action Network shows how Republicans used to talk about climate change in ways that they never would today:
As the Republican Party shifted to the right, so too did the conservative media. The Wall Street Journal editorial board previously stated that "the Bush Administration should propose a domestic cap-and-trade program for carbon dioxide that could, of course, be easily expanded to Canada and Mexico. And then to Latin America. And then the world." Now the paper's editorials deride this conservative idea as "cap-and-tax." Yet mainstream reporters are often loathe to point out this profound shift, sticking instead to "both-sides-to-blame reporting."
Media criticism of the Obama administration for taking steps to secure the release of captured U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl ignores the fact that the military has committed to "use every practical means" to free prisoners of war.
Weekly Standard writer and Fox News contributor Stephen Hayes broke ranks from his fellow conservatives and colleagues at Fox by agreeing with Hillary Clinton's assessment that her critics have mischaracterized her congressional testimony on the Benghazi attacks.
On May 30 Politico published advance excerpts from Clinton's upcoming memoir, Hard Choices, in which she details her time at the State Department during the attacks in Benghazi and criticizes Republican efforts to exploit the tragedy. Writing on her congressional testimony on the attacks, Clinton argued that the controversy surrounding her response to a question from Sen. Ron Johnson is "yet another example of the terrible politicization of this tragedy." Clinton points out that her"what difference at this point does it make" statement did not "mean that I was somehow minimizing the tragedy of Benghazi" and that "many of those trying to make hay of it know that, but don't care."
In a May 30 post at The Weekly Standard, Hayes agreed that Clinton's critics have "badly mischaracterized the now infamous question." Hayes went on to correctly note that Clinton's response was simply "an attempt to redirect the questioning from its focus on the hours before the attacks to preventing similar attacks in the future":
Hillary Clinton is right about Benghazi -- or at least she's right about one thing.
According to a story by Maggie Haberman about the Benghazi chapter in Clinton's forthcoming book Hard Choices, the former secretary of state contends that some of her critics have badly mischaracterized the now infamous question she asked at a January 23, 2012, congressional hearing: "What difference, at this point, does it make?"
She's right, they have. The question, which came in the middle of a heated back-and-forth with U.S. senator Ron Johnson, was not so much a declaration of indifference as it was an attempt to redirect the questioning from its focus on the hours before the attacks to preventing similar attacks in the future.
Hayes has previously defended Clinton from attacks mischarcterizing her exchange. On the April 30 edition of Hannity, Hayes stood up for Clinton against those who labeled her attitude about the attack as indifferent and again corrected the record:
HAYES: Let me start by actually defending Hillary Clinton, which I don't do often in the context of Benghazi. You know, that sound bite has been, I think, misinterpreted by some to be a declaration of her indifference as to what had actually happened on the ground in Benghazi when she says, "What difference, at this point, does it make?" She wasn't saying, basically, I don't care, you know, we're beyond it, it doesn't matter. What she was saying is it doesn't matter how it happened.
Despite Hayes' correction to critics who willfully misinterpreted Clinton's words, conservatives continue to hold up her remarks as a false indication of indifference.
From the May 30 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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In addition to hyping calls for Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki's resignation, Fox News hosts have advocated for two of their own contributors to fill the position.
A preliminary report released by the VA Inspector General on May 28 substantiated allegations of VA officials falsifying records at the Phoenix, Arizona VA medical center, and found that at least 1,700 veterans waiting to see a doctor there were never scheduled for an appointment or placed on a waitlist. This review has prompted calls for Shinseki to step down, which right-wing media figures have enthusiastically promoted despite Speaker of the House John Boehner's refusal to demand the secretary's resignation.
But Fox was not content to simply call for Shinseki's resignation -- two prominent Fox hosts have replacements in mind for Shinseki, both of whom are the network's very own contributors.
During a May 28 interview on Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly advocated for Fox contributor Colonel Ralph Peters to replace Shinseki. When Peters -- who has repeatedly defended Shinseki -- skeptically asked O'Reilly who would replace Shinseki in the event of his resignation, O'Reilly was quick to respond, "You!" to Peters' chagrin:
Fox News host Sean Hannity smeared the Obama administration when he claimed that it wouldn't take immediate steps to provide medical care for veterans that were reportedly kept off an official waiting list in the Phoenix, Arizona Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system. In reality, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki ordered the 1,700 veterans to be immediately triaged for care after an Inspector General (IG) report found that they were not on an official waiting list for medical care, a fact that even FoxNews.com reported.
On May 28, the VA Office of Inspector General released a preliminary report on its investigation into allegations that veterans died due to the manipulation of appointments and wait lists. The report found that at least 1,700 veterans waiting to see a doctor were never scheduled for an appointment or placed on a waitlist at the Phoenix, Arizona VA medical center. It included the following recommendation:
We recommend the VA Secretary take immediate action to review and provide appropriate health care to the 1,700 veterans we identified as not being on any existing wait list.
When Sean Hannity mentioned this report on his Fox News show Wednesday night, he was quick to suggest that the administration would not take action to get these veterans needed medical care:
HANNITY: Why isn't there more urgency if these guys need health care that we promised them after serving the country, where is the 1-800 number that they can call and get immediate assistance so that more people don't die? Where is the group of doctors that would assess the -- on a need basis, who prioritize, who gets taken care of first? That's what I think I would do if I were president, which would never happen. But that seems to be the common sense answer. The president said he's going to investigate.
In light of the Obama administration's mistake in releasing to the press the name of the CIA station chief in Afghanistan, right-wing media have rushed to create a false equivalence to the Bush administration's deliberate exposure of then-covert CIA agent Valerie Plame.
A Fox News correspondent maligned Hillary Clinton for the State Department's alleged refusal to identify Boko Haram as a terrorist organization. In reality, during Mrs. Clinton's tenure as Secretary of State, the State Department identified three of the group's leaders as foreign terrorists and noted that they were connected to al Qaeda.
On Wednesday, the United States deployed 80 members of its armed forces to Chad to aid in the search for the Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram. Fox national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin jumped off this new development on the May 22 edition of Special Report, falsely claiming that the State Department "resisted" listing Boko Haram as "an Al Qaeda linked group" until November 2013 and implied that this characterization could have prevented the kidnapping:
After airing House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi's remarks about appointing Democrats to the Republican-led House select committee on Benghazi, Fox News immediately misled viewers about what she said, claiming that Pelosi conceded the committee is a "serious effort" when she did not.
On May 21, Fox News' The Real Story aired live Pelosi's statement on the selection of Democratic members to the Benghazi select committee. Pelosi prefaced the announcement by making clear her objection to the formation of the committee, outlining the numerous prior investigations and blasting the Republican mismanagement of the investigations. Pelosi labeled this latest select committee "an unnecessary partisan exercise." She went on to explain Democratic participation in the committee as a way to "fight for a fair hearing and process" (emphasis added):
PELOSI: Unfortunately, the Republican obsession with Benghazi has not been about the victims or their families or our country. We had hoped the house Republican leaders would not go down the path forming a select committee. We've already been there. Eight reviews have been conducted in the House and Senate, 25,000 documents released, millions of taxpayer dollars spent. It was not necessary to put the families or our country through this partisan exercise once again. Over the past two weeks, we have engaged in good-faith discussions with Speaker Boehner on the shape and standards of the select committee. We had hoped for a level of fairness and transparency and balance, especially considering the subject matter. We were not able to reach any agreement.
Regrettably, the Republican approach does not prevent the unacceptable and the repeated abuses committed by Chairman Issa in any meaningful way. That is all the more reason for Democrats to participate in the committee, to be there to fight for a fair hearing and process, to try to bring some openness and transparency to what's going on. What is the purpose of this investigation? What is the timetable? What are the milestones? What are they hoping to achieve? I could have argued this either way. Why give any validity to this effort? But I do think it is important for the American people to have the pursuit of these questions done in a fair and open and balanced way as possible. That simply would not be possible leaving it to theRepublicans. That's why I'm appointing my distinguished colleagues here today to serve on the select committee.
Shortly after Pelosi made her statement, host Gretchen Carlson cut away from the press conference to discuss the issue with Fox chief intelligence correspondent Catherine Herridge. Despite Pelosi's clear dismissal of Republicans' handling of the investigation, Herridge baselessly characterized Pelosi's announcement as "a real recognition that this is going to be a serious-minded investigation" while ignoring Pelosi's criticism of the committee as "an unnecessary partisan exercise":
HERRIDGE: I think what we heard is a recognition by the Democrats that they must now engage in a very serious way with the Republican-led select committee. This is a reflection of the fact that the members of this Republican select committee are very serious in nature and are communicating that this will be a broad and vast investigation where they already believe that there are gaps that need to be filled in between the various committees that have already looked at it. So this is a recognition by the Democrats that they must seriously engage and that it would be a political mistake not to be engaged and to leave some of these issues unanswered, especially leading up to the midterm elections.
Looking at the composition of this committee, what strikes me is almost everyone has relevant experience on the requisite oversight committees that looked into Benghazi. What is also striking to me is -- I think you can make the argument that several of the committee members are true partisans and have been on the attack on Benghazi from the get-go. So they seem to have been picked by the speaker as a way to answer these Republican allegations that the administration in effect dropped the ball on Benghazi, they misled the American people and, even more specifically, that there was real negligence at the state department that was led by Mrs. Clinton.
The bottom line for the folks at home is that the Democrats recognize it's going to be a serious effort and it would be a political mistake not to engage in the fullest possible way.
While Herridge portrayed the Democratic members of the committee as "true partisans," she did not attribute partisan motive to the Republican members, asserting that have "the requisite oversight background, also a legal background" and will "move through this in a very methodical way."
From the May 20 edition of Fox News' The Five:
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