On Hannity & Colmes, author and journalist Richard Miniter falsely claimed that when the Democrats were in power, the Republicans did not criticize the majority party's foreign policy, asserting that "there used to be a tradition in this country that politics stopped at the water's edge." In fact, during Bill Clinton's presidency, a number of Republicans criticized his conduct of foreign policy.
Loading the player leg...
During the March 14 broadcast of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, author and journalist Richard Miniter falsely claimed that when the Democrats were in power, Republicans did not criticize the majority party's foreign policy, asserting that "there used to be a tradition in this country that politics stopped at the water's edge." Co-host Sean Hannity apparently concurred, replying, "Not anymore." Miniter also criticized former President Bill Clinton, as well as former President Jimmy Carter and former Vice President Al Gore, for taking issue with the current Bush administration's foreign policy. Miniter said: "[I]t's not the time for former presidents like Carter and Clinton, or vice presidents like Al Gore, to be undermining the nation's unity at a time when we're at war."
Discussing Clinton's national security initiatives and Republicans' responses to those initiatives, Miniter, author of the book Disinformation: 22 Media Myths that Undermine the War on Terror (Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2005), claimed that "when the Democrats are in power, the Republicans certainly don't criticize their conduct of foreign policy." In fact, during Clinton's tenure, a number of Republicans criticized Clinton's retaliatory military attacks on Osama bin Laden's purported Afghanistan compound and reported sites of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq by repeatedly accusing the Democratic president of "Wag the Dog" tactics -- using military action to divert attention away from the Monica Lewinsky controversy.
On August 10, 1998, Clinton authorized a bombing campaign on alleged terrorist targets in Sudan and Afghanistan -- including a suspected terrorist training compound in Afghanistan where bin Laden was believed to have taken refuge at the time -- in response to the August 7, 1998, twin bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. While there was strong bipartisan support for the attacks, the bombings occurred during the Lewinsky controversy, on the same day Lewinsky was set to testify before the grand jury investigating the case. This prompted congressional Republicans to accuse Clinton of launching the attacks to divert attention away from the controversy. As an August 21, 1998, Washington Post report noted, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) said that "[t]here's an obvious issue that will be raised internationally as to whether there is any diversionary motivation;" then-Sen. John D. Ashcroft (R-MO) declared that "there is a cloud over this presidency;" and then-Sen. Dan Coats (R-IN) asserted:
The president has been consumed with matters regarding his personal life. It raises questions about whether or not he had the time to devote to this issue, or give the kind of judgment that needed to be given to this issue to call for military action."
Additionally, on December 16, 1998, Clinton authorized a military strike against Iraq, which he said targeted "Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs and its military capacity to threaten its neighbors" in retaliation for Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's refusal to "cooperate with the United Nations weapons inspectors." Again, the timing of the bombing -- which occurred the day before the House was set to vote on Clinton's impeachment -- prompted an even greater outcry among Republicans who again accused Clinton of authorizing the bombings for political purposes. As a December 17, 1998, Los Angeles Times article reported:
In an extraordinary escalation of the conflict between Clinton and congressional Republicans, [Sen. Trent] Lott (R-MS) took the all but unprecedented step of refusing to back a military action initiated by the president and challenging his motives.
"While I have been assured by administration officials that there is no connection with the impeachment process in the House of Representatives, I cannot support this military action in the Persian Gulf at this time," Lott said. "Both the timing and the policy are subject to question."
And, as reported by the Boston Herald on December 17, 1998, "in extraordinary rebukes when American forces are in harm's way" several other congressional Republicans leveled charges similar to Lott's. From the Boston Herald:
"Never underestimate a desperate president," said House Rules chairman Gerald Solomon (R-N.Y.). "This time he means business. What option is left for getting impeachment off the front page and maybe even postponed?"
Judiciary panel member U.S. Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.), a fierce Clinton critic, branded Clinton's Iraq attacks "highly suspicious to say the least."
Said House Republican Leader Dick Armey: "I would like to think that no American president would even consider using the military to help him remain in office. But the fact that Americans are expressing these doubts shows that the president is losing his ability to lead."
Moreover, as Media Matters for America has noted (here and here), Clinton's Republican predecessor George H.W. Bush repeatedly criticized the Clinton administration's foreign policies while Clinton was in office. In an appearance at a San Antonio grade school on October 13, 1993, Bush expressed concern that the humanitarian mission to Somalia he had launched nearly a year earlier was being "messed up" by the Clinton administration. Several news reports noted that Bush's comments appeared to violate his earlier pledge not to publicly criticize Clinton during Clinton's first year in office. Further, in an interview published in the February 1994 issue of Washingtonian magazine, Bush criticized the Clinton administration's purported lack of a "general strategy" in the foreign policy arena and the "start-and-stop" failures it had exhibited, citing Clinton's handling of the volatile situation in Haiti as a prime example.
From the March 14 broadcast of Hannity & Colmes:
MINITER: Look, Sean, there used to be a tradition in this country that politics stops at the water's edge.
HANNITY: Not anymore.
MINITER: So, when the Democrats are in power, the Republicans certainly don't criticize their conduct of foreign policy. Now the country is at war. We have 150,000 troops in Iraq, another 20,000-odd in Afghanistan, and it's not the time for former presidents like Carter and Clinton, or vice presidents like Al Gore, to be undermining the nation's unity at a time when we're at war.