On his radio show, Mark Levin falsely asserted that Sen. Barack Obama "lied to" the American Israel Public Affairs Committee when he "told them today that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards should be designated a terrorist group after voting against a bill designating them a terrorist group a year ago." Similarly, Fox News' Martha MacCallum asserted that Obama "seems to be changing his tune on the significant issue." In fact, Obama has consistently supported designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization, having co-sponsored a bill in 2007 to do that.
During the June 4 edition of his nationally syndicated radio show, Mark Levin falsely asserted that Sen. Barack Obama "lied to" the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) when he "told them today that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards should be designated a terrorist group after voting against a bill designating them a terrorist group a year ago." Similarly, on the June 5 edition of Fox News' The Live Desk, anchor Martha MacCallum, referring to "whether or not the Guard should be considered -- on the world stage -- a terrorist organization," asserted that Obama "seems to be changing his tune on the significant issue." In fact, Obama has consistently supported designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization, having co-sponsored a bill in 2007 to do that. Obama said he would have voted against the bill Levin referenced -- the Kyl-Lieberman resolution -- because it "states that our military presence in Iraq should be used to counter Iran," not because the resolution expressed the sense of the Senate that "the United States should designate Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps as a foreign terrorist organization."
Following MacCallum's assertion on Live Desk that Obama "seems to be changing his tune," Fox News blogger and correspondent Griff Jenkins noted that Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor pointed out that Obama "co-sponsored a bill that would designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization." Indeed, as The New York Times, FactCheck.org, and Obama's website all noted, Obama did co-sponsor a bill that expressed the sense of the Congress that "[t]he Secretary of State should designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guards as a Foreign Terrorist Organization."
Moreover, Obama has not said that he would have voted against the Kyl-Lieberman resolution because of its designation of the Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization. Rather, he has repeatedly criticized the resolution for including a passage asserting "that the manner in which the United States transitions and structures its military presence in Iraq will have critical long-term consequences for the future of the Persian Gulf and the Middle East, in particular with regard to the capability of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran to pose a threat to the security of the region, the prospects for democracy for the people of the region, and the health of the global economy."
Indeed, shortly after the Kyl-Lieberman resolution passed on September 26, 2007, Obama's office released a statement indicating why he "would have opposed the Kyl-Lieberman amendment had he been able to vote today." The statement did not mention the resolution's provision declaring the Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization:
Senator Obama clearly recognizes the serious threat posed by Iran. However, he does not agree with the President that the best way to counter that threat is to keep large numbers of troops in Iraq, and he does not think that now is the time for saber-rattling towards Iran. In fact, he thinks that our large troop presence in Iraq has served to strengthen Iran -- not weaken it. He believes that diplomacy and economic pressure, such as the divestment bill that he has proposed, is the right way to pressure the Iranian regime. Accordingly, he would have opposed the Kyl-Lieberman amendment had he been able to vote today.
On November 1, 2007, Obama introduced a resolution "[c]larifying that the use of force against Iran is not authorized by the Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Iraq, any resolution previously adopted, or any other provision of law." The next day, Obama's Senate office released a statement that the resolution would "undo damage caused by Senate's passage of [the] Kyl-Lieberman amendment." Neither the statement nor the resolution itself mentioned the Kyl-Lieberman resolution's designation of the Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization. Rather, in the statement, Obama asserted that the Kyl-Lieberman amendment "states that our military presence in Iraq should be used to counter Iran" and that along with the Iraq war authorization, it "opened the door to an attack on Iran":
Yesterday evening, U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) introduced Senate Joint Resolution 23, a legislative proposal specifying that the use of force against Iran is not authorized by any previous action of Congress. This would include the authorization of the use of force against Iraq; the recently passed Kyl-Lieberman amendment, which states that our military presence in Iraq should be used to counter Iran; and any resolution previously adopted by Congress.
"There is absolutely no reason to trust that this Administration will not use existing congressional authorization to justify military action against Iran," said Senator Obama. "The Iraq War authorization and the recently passed Kyl-Lieberman amendment have opened the door to an attack on Iran, and Congress must now shut that door. We need aggressive diplomacy and economic pressure, which is why I support sanctions on Iran. Those efforts must not be linked to the use of our military presence in Iraq and the region, because we have seen what this Administration does when you trust them to do the right thing but give them an opening to do the wrong thing."
Given concerns about the Bush Administration's expansive view of executive authority, and the likelihood that any attack on Iran would come from our military presence already in Iraq and the region, this resolution is necessary to remove any suggestion that Kyl-Lieberman or any other existing provision of law or resolution authorizes the President to attack Iran. Instead, the President will have to get specific statutory authorization from the Congress to use force against Iran.
In a December 4, 2007, Democratic presidential debate, Obama similarly said of the Kyl-Lieberman amendment:
OBAMA: There was another problem with the resolution that we haven't spoken about, and that was that it suggested that we should structure in some way our forces in Iraq with the goal of blunting Iranian influence in Iraq.
Now, this is a problem on a whole bunch of fronts, but number one, the reason that Iran has been strengthened was because of this misguided war in Iraq. We installed -- helped to elect a government in Iraq that we knew had connections with Iran. And so the notion somehow that they're not going to have influence and that we may be using yet another justification for a continuing mission in Iraq I think is an extreme problem and one of the reasons why this was a bad idea.
Levin and MacCallum's assertions echoed Sen. John McCain's reported accusation during a June 4 blogger conference call that Obama "switched" his position on the issue. The call was transcribed by National Review Online blogger Jim Geraghty:
Jen Rubin [Commentary magazine blogger and humanevents.com columnist]: What did you think of Obama saying he felt the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps should be designated a terrorist organization, after voting against a bill to do that a few months ago?
McCain: Well, he's switched on several issues, but this one is remarkable. One he was categorical in his statement when he opposed that legislation. Then he goes before AIPAC and supports it. I know he's changing on the surge, he's trying to change on his pledge to negotiate with dictators without preconditions. ... The American people will not buy this. ... He doesn't have the experience or the knowledge to make the judgments that are necessary.
From the June 4 edition of ABC Radio Networks' The Mark Levin Show:
LEVIN: I think one of the things that bothers me the most about Barack Obama is he's a liar. We've talked about this before -- excuse me -- he lies about his past. He lies about his relationships. He lies about his true intentions. And he was in front of the American Israel Political -- or excuse me -- Public Affairs Council [sic], AIPAC, and he lied to those people and got a standing ovation.
He told them today that the Iranian Revolutionary Guards should be designated a terrorist group after voting against a bill designating them a terrorist group a year ago. And that vote passed 76-22, one of the 22 senators to vote against it was Barack Obama. The Republicans voted 47-2 for it. Democrats 29-20 for it. Even [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid [D-NV] voted for it. Barack Obama is a radical extremist and he's a liar.
So to go in front of all these Jews at this organization in Washington and say that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard should be legally designated as a terrorist organization when he voted against it a few months ago is a disgrace. Now, will anyone in the lib media pick up on this? No, they won't. And not only will I tell you why they won't, you're going to hear why they won't.
From the June 5 edition of Fox News' The Live Desk:
MacCALLUM: All right, well, now that the general election is indeed upon us we will hear more about the specific issues and the differences between the two candidates. One they have been far apart on is whether the Iranian Revolutionary Guard -- and Iran very much a central foreign policy issue to consider for everybody here -- whether or not the Guard should be considered -- on the world stage -- a terrorist organization. Now that classification brings with it a lot of connotations. So now, interestingly, for the very first time, Barack Obama seems to be changing his tune on the significant issue. So listen to this.
OBAMA [video clip]: We should work with Europe, Japan, and the Gulf states to find every avenue outside the United Nations to isolate the Iranian regime, from cutting off loan guarantees and expanding financial sanctions to banning the export of refined petroleum to Iran, to boycotting firms associated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, who Quds Forces have rightly been labeled a terrorist organization.
MacCALLUM: "Rightly been labeled a terrorist organization." Griff Jenkins is a blogger and Fox News correspondent. He was on that McCain -- John McCain conference call, which we're going to play for you in just a minute. But, Griff, this was -- this was a moment that made a lot of people sit up and say, "What did he say?"
JENKINS: Well, look, Martha, let the general election beatings begin. Here's what's on the blogs about this. There's several writing about it today, mostly on the right, and they're saying this is what happens in a general election when a candidate has been very far to the left in his position -- or right, but left in this case -- and he has to work his way back to the center to get more appeal. Jennifer Rubin, as you pointed out on our conference call yesterday, was whacking away about this with Senator McCain. And now a lot of people have picked it up today. One blogger actually wrote -- Phil Kline over at the americanspectator.org -- was writing that Obama has, quote, "a Mitt Romney problem," meaning that he has to struggle to explain sort of evolving positions.
MacCALLUM: Very interesting. And real quick, Griff, he did sort of qualify. He said the Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guard should be considered a terrorist organization. Is that a distinction that he's making?
JENKINS: Well, look, here's what the Obama camp is telling me. They're telling me, look, this is absolutely not true that he's changed his position at all. They say they've considered the Iranian National [sic] Guard a terrorist organization, and put forth their own legislation standing up to Iran, and, in fact, Martha, if I could call for a statement today I got from Tommy Vietor from the Obama campaign. Here's what they tell me. That -- well, let me just give it --
MacCALLUM: Hang on one second. I think we got it coming. Yeah, here's Tommy Vietor's --
JENKINS: There we are.
MacCALLUM: Go ahead.
JENKINS: "Barack Obama co-sponsored a bill that would designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization, so John McCain's stubborn repetition of outright falsehoods just adds to his troubling pattern of making misleading, partisan attacks without knowing the facts." So, you know, I think it's going to be continued to be debated --
JENKINS -- with digging and digging and everything that Senator Obama has said about this.
MacCALLUM: And no doubt in these town halls and these debates, this is going to be a major issue that we're going to keep a very close eye on.