Grand Junction's Daily Sentinel misled on Democratic criticism of war in Iraq and warrantless wiretaps

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel misleadingly interpreted the Democratic primary defeat of Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman by Ned Lamont as an indicator of "what political party is serious about the existential threat Islamic terrorism poses to the West and what party is not," continuing a pattern of media conflating criticism of the war in Iraq with weakness in confronting terrorist threats.

In an August 13 editorial, The Daily Sentinel of Grand Junction interpreted the Democratic primary defeat of Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (CT) by businessman Ned Lamont as an indicator of "what political party is serious about the existential threat Islamic terrorism poses to the West and what party is not," thus continuing a pattern -- noted by Media Matters for America -- of media misleadingly conflating Democratic criticism of the war in Iraq with weakness in confronting terrorist threats. The editorial also suggested that "the Bush-hating press, the loopy left and a steadily growing number of congressional Democrats" opposed "the administration's eavesdropping on the communications into this country of suspected terrorists." In fact, congressional Democrats have not objected to "eavesdropping on the communications into this country of suspected terrorists" but, rather, to the fact that the Bush administration's eavesdropping on U.S. residents in the United States was conducted without obtaining warrants, which is an apparent violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

The Daily Sentinel's critique of Democrats' position on the warrantless wiretapping program authorized by Bush and conducted by the National Security Agency (NSA) echoes the recent claim by Republican National Committee (RNC) chairman Ken Mehlman -- as reported August 4 by the Associated Press's Martiga Lohn -- that, if in power, Democrats would "surrender" the U.S. government's ability to monitor the communications of suspected terrorists. In fact, as Media Matters noted, the Democratic leaders Mehlman singled out -- House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA) and Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean -- have explicitly acknowledged the need for U.S. intelligence agencies to spy on suspected terrorists but have said the government should conduct such surveillance in accordance with the law.

Moreover, as Media Matters noted in responding to uncritical media reports of a similar charge leveled in January by White House senior adviser Karl Rove, no prominent Democrat -- whether in Congress, among the governors, or in the Democratic National Committee -- has argued it is unnecessary for U.S. intelligence agencies to eavesdrop on the communications of suspected Al Qaeda operatives. Rather, Democrats -- and numerous Republicans and conservatives -- raised serious questions about Bush's decision to bypass FISA, which, except as otherwise specifically provided, requires the government to obtain a warrant to conduct domestic surveillance for foreign intelligence purposes.

The Daily Sentinel made its criticisms in the context of both the recent action on the part of British intelligence and law enforcement to disrupt a terrorist plot to bomb commercial airliners traveling from Great Britain to the United States and the August 8 victory of Lamont -- a critic of the Iraq war -- over Lieberman in the Connecticut Democratic primary. Referring to the thwarted terror plot, The Daily Sentinel stated:

Coming as it did on the heels of the loopy Democratic left giving the bum's rush to Sen. Joe Lieberman and anointing a full-throated, anti-war McGovernite as Connecticut's senatorial standard bearer, American voters were offered yet another crystalline reminder as to what political party is serious about the existential threat Islamic terrorism poses to the West and what party is not.

As Media Matters has noted, the White House quickly linked Lamont's opposition to the Iraq war with the fight against terrorism in order to attack both Lamont and Democrats in general. In an August 9 conference call with reporters, Vice President Dick Cheney suggested that the defeat of Lieberman by the anti-Iraq war candidate Lamont signaled that Democrats wished to "retreat behind our oceans" and concluded that "we have to be actively engaged not only in Afghanistan and Iraq, but on a global basis if we're going to succeed in prevailing in this long-term conflict" with "al Qaeda types."

Columnist Joe Klein explained the White House strategy -- facilitated by media outlets such as the Daily Sentinel -- in the August 21 edition of Time magazine:

In 2004 Bush and Karl Rove managed to flummox the Democrats by conflating the war in Iraq with the war against al-Qaeda and insisting that any Democratic reservations about Iraq were a sign of weakness. This was infuriating. It was Bush's disastrous decision to go to war -- and worse, to go to war with insufficient resources -- that transformed Iraq into a terrorist Valhalla. It is Bush's feckless prosecution of the war that has created the current morass, in which a U.S. military withdrawal could lead to a regional conflagration. Rove may avert another electoral embarrassment this November with the same old demagoguery, but his strategy has betrayed the nation's best interests. It has destroyed any chance of a unified U.S. response to a crisis overseas. Even the Wall Street Journal's quasi-wingnut editorial page cautioned, in the midst of a typical anti-Democratic harrumph, "[No] President can maintain a war for long without any support from the opposition party; sooner or later his own party will begin to crack as well."

From the editorial "Another rude awakening" in the August 13 edition of The Daily Sentinel of Grand Junction:

Lousy timing, that was.

We're speaking, of course, of the success of British police and intelligence services last week to foil yet another mass murder plot in which Islamic terrorists planned to blow up as many as 10 jetliners in trans-Atlantic flights between London and the United States. Had the plan been implemented, the death toll could very easily have rivaled that of 9/11.

Coming as it did on the heels of the loopy Democratic left giving the bum's rush to Sen. Joe Lieberman and anointing a full-throated, anti-war McGovernite as Connecticut's senatorial standard bearer, American voters were offered yet another crystalline reminder as to what political party is serious about the existential threat Islamic terrorism poses to the West and what party is not.

[...]

That Scotland Yard and other British intelligence agencies were able to crack the terrorist plot to murder thousands of innocent men, women and children leaving London's Heathrow Airport for the United States was due to the fact that "a large number of people," according to the British antiterrorism chief, had their "spending, travel and communications" monitored for many months.

Egad! Imagine the thunderous editorials of outrage coming from The New York Times and shrieks of "Impeach Bush!" coming from many in what was once the party of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy were it to be revealed that the Bush administration engages in similar counter-terrorist tactics.

Would that the foregoing paragraph reflected some measure of journalistic hyperbole in order to make a point. Sadly, it does not, such has been the reaction of the Bush-hating press, the loopy left and a steadily growing number of congressional Democrats to such critical anti-terror tools as the Patriot Act, the administration's eavesdropping on the communications into this country of suspected terrorists, you name it.

Here's to old Brittania for a job very well done last week. Great Britain, with hundreds of thousands of seething, native-born Islamists within its midst, gets it. What's it going to take before the Democratic Party in these United States gets it as well?

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