On October 7, National Public Radio (NPR) Morning Edition interim host Renée Montagne asked Carnegie Endowment for International Peace senior associate Robert Kagan to provide "a little clarification" on Juan Williams's October 5 NPR report on Senator John Kerry's "global test" statement, which Kerry made during the first presidential debate on September 30.
As Media Matters for America noted, Williams -- who is an NPR senior correspondent and a FOX News Channel political contributor -- had echoed in an October 5 broadcast the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign's misrepresentation of Kerry's statement. Williams falsely reported that during the first presidential debate, Kerry "talked about getting global consent for America to take preemptive action." Montagne said NPR was doing the follow-up interview with Kagan as a response to listeners' concerns sparked by Williams's original report. But rather than clarify Williams's report, Kagan misrepresented both Williams's and President George W. Bush's distortions of Kerry's statement.
Here's what Kerry said during the September 30 presidential debate:
No president, through all of American history, has ever ceded, and nor would I, the right to preempt in any way necessary to protect the United States of America.
But if and when you do it, Jim [Lehrer, the debate moderator], you have to do it in a way that passes the test, that passes the global test where your countrymen, your people understand fully why you're doing what you're doing and you can prove to the world that you did it for legitimate reasons.
Here's what Kagan said on NPR's Morning Edition on October 7:
KAGAN: He [Kerry] means to be criticizing the president for having acted in defiance of much of world opinion, so he [Kerry] can't turn around and complain that Bush is now criticizing him for trying to make that point. ... He does seem to be saying that when the United States takes preemptive action, it should do so in a way that the rest of the world finds legitimate and convincing. I think Americans should be concerned as to whether the world finds American actions legitimate. But I don't think at the same time he can complain -- or anyone can complain -- that it's unfair for Bush to be coming back and saying, "We shouldn't have to get the world's approval."
Kagan mischaracterized Bush's attack on Kerry's statement when Kagan asserted that Bush is "coming back and saying, 'We shouldn't have to get the world's approval.'" What Bush has actually said, as he told the National Association of Home Builders on October 2, is that Kerry "would give foreign governments veto power over our national security decisions." But Kerry was neither advocating veto power (or "global consent," as Williams said), nor was he saying that the United States needs "the world's approval" to engage in preemptive action. So Kagan distorted Bush's statement, and, by implying that Kerry would require "the world's approval" to act preemptively, acquiesced in Bush's -- and Williams's -- distortions as well.
MMFA has addressed other media distortions of Kerry's statement here.