CNN claimed "[c]ritics dismissed" Obama speech as "trying to build a foreign-policy résumé"; is John King one such "critic"?

››› ››› BRIAN LEVY

CNN's John King echoed what CNN anchor Don Lemon noted was an accusation "critics" used to "dismiss[]" a speech by Sen. Barack Obama as "obviously" given purely to establish Obama's "foreign-relations credentials," adding a baseless claim that no senators "would disagree" with anything Obama said in the speech. King also failed to note evidence supporting Florida Democratic congressional candidate Christine Jennings' assertion that voting machines in her district did not operate properly.

On the November 20 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, CNN chief national correspondent and guest host John King echoed what CNN anchor Don Lemon noted was an accusation "critics" used to "dismiss[]" a speech by Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) -- that Obama "obviously" gave a speech on the Iraq war purely to establish "foreign-relations credentials." King also baselessly claimed that no senators "would disagree" with anything Obama said in the speech, characterized Democratic calls for withdrawing troops from Iraq as "screaming," and failed to note evidence supporting Florida's 13th Congressional District candidate Christine Jennings' (D) assertion that voting machines in her district did not operate properly.

In an interview with Obama on the 3 p.m. ET hour of the November 20 edition of CNN Newsroom, Lemon asked whether the speech was Obama's "way of sort of bolstering your résumé on foreign policy." Obama responded by noting "I gave a similar speech last year in the exact same venue. So, and I've -- I've been giving speeches on foreign policy since I was on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee."

Yet during the 4 p.m. ET hour of CNN's The Situation Room, King said of Obama's speech: "He is obviously trying to build some foreign-affairs, foreign-relations credentials." After viewing a clip from the speech, King asked CNN political analyst and Democratic strategist Paul Begala if Obama were "auditioning" for a presidential campaign. Begala responded that Obama was "auditioning," but added: "[L]et's give the attention where it belongs. Let's take a look at this speech, at the ideas that he puts forward, and see if they have merit." Later, on the 7 p.m. hour of The Situation Room, Lemon noted that "[c]ritics dismissed Obama's speech, accusing him of trying to build a foreign-policy résumé."

King also baselessly asserted that all "hundred members of the United States Senate ... would [not] disagree with anything" in Obama's speech, despite Obama's call for "a phased redeployment of U.S. troops from Iraq on a timetable that would begin in four to six months," with which some Republican senators do, in fact, appear to disagree. For instance, as Media Matters for America noted, Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have called for an increase of troop levels in Iraq despite significant questions about the feasibility of such a plan. In his speech, Obama criticized the idea of adding troops or maintaining the troop level in Iraq: "It's not clear that these troop levels are sustainable for a significant period of time, and according to our commanders on the ground, adding American forces will only relieve the Iraqis from doing more on their own."

Earlier on The Situation Room, while asking Begala about a hypothetical conclusion that could be made by the Iraq Study Group, King described the Democratic response to the war as "screaming, 'Bring them home.' " In fact, while King's characterization suggests that the Democratic position of troop reduction is unreasonable, recent polling suggests more Americans want to "Bring [the troops] home" than have them stay in Iraq. For example, a Pew Research Center for the People and the Press poll conducted November 9-12 found that 48 percent of respondents thought "the U.S. should bring its troops home as soon as possible," compared with 46 percent who thought "the U.S. should keep military troops in Iraq until the situation has stabilized."

Then, while reporting on state certification of election results in Florida's 13th Congressional District in favor of Republican candidate Vern Buchanan, King stated that Democratic candidate Christine Jennings "is suing for a new election. She says thousands of voting machines in Sarasota County did not work properly."

But King failed to note the actual evidence Jennings has cited in claiming that the machines "did not work properly." Ballots filed on electronic machines in Sarasota County contained a much higher percentage of undervotes -- no recorded choice for congressional representative -- than did absentee ballots in Sarasota County or ballots in other counties. The Miami Herald reported on November 9 that the Sarasota undervote was "nearly 12 percent," "the undervote rate for absentee ballots, cast on paper for fill-in-the-blank Optiscan machines, was about 3 percent in Sarasota," and the surrounding counties had "an undervote rate of less than 3 percent." As the weblog TPM Muckraker noted, a review in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune concluded that "[i]f the missing votes had broken for Jennings by the same percentage as the counted votes in Sarasota County, the Democrat would have won the race by about 600 votes instead of losing by 368." As TPM Muckraker also noted, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported on November 14 that "[p]oll workers' experiences seem to support claims by hundreds of voters who said they did not intentionally skip the District 13 race to protest negative campaigning."

From the 3 p.m. ET hour of the November 20 edition of CNN Newsroom:

LEMON: Some folks say that this is your way of sort of bolstering your résumé on foreign policy and trying to seem strong. How do you respond to that?

OBAMA: Well, the -- first of all, I gave a similar speech last year in the exact same venue. So, and I've -- I've been giving speeches on foreign policy since I was on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. So, I think the timing has more to do with the fact that it's been almost precisely a year since I last called for us to change direction in Iraq. After the election, I think it's clear that the American people believe that we need to change course in a significant way.

From the November 20 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

KING: And if -- if there is a proposal on the table that is 80 percent of what the Democrats like, but it says, in the short term, more troops in to establish improved security first, then start bringing them home, Democrats sign on to that, or will they just keep screaming, "Bring them home?"

BEGALA: I -- I think they might be open to it. But the level of distrust that Democrats have for the president, the vice president, and the current secretary of defense, Donald Rumsfeld, is extraordinary. That's why the president did a very wise thing in removing Mr. Rumsfeld.

[...]

KING: I want you to listen to one other point. He is obviously trying to build some foreign-affairs, foreign-relations credentials. I want you to listen to one other snippet of the senator's speech.

OBAMA [video clip]: There have been too many excuses. There have been too many flag-draped coffins. And there have been too many heartbroken families. The time for waiting in Iraq is over. It is time to change our policy.

KING: A hundred members of the United States Senate, I don't think any of them would disagree with anything he said in that statement. Right before he said there have been too many excuses, he said there have been too many speeches. He also says he's not auditioning. He's auditioning, isn't he?

BEGALA: Sure he is. Of course he is. But, you know, I mean, that's part of it, too, is that -- I think what's hard is, he's getting the attention, because a lot of people think he might run for president.

KING: Risk -- risk in getting a lot of attention, isn't there?

BEGALA: But -- there is, but let's give the attention where it belongs. Let's take a look at this speech, at the ideas that he puts forward and see if they have merit.

[...]

KING: The never-ending election tops today's "Political Radar." Nearly two weeks after Election Day, and still no resolution in Florida's 13th District. State officials today certified Republican Vern Buchanan as the winner by fewer than 400 votes in the House race there -- this after a manual recount last week.

But Democrat Christine Jennings is suing for a new election. She says thousands of voting machines in Sarasota County didn't work properly. The seat is held by Republican Congresswoman Katherine Harris, who gave it up for a failed Senate run. Harris, of course, is no stranger to recounts. You might remember she was the secretary of state during the 2000 Florida presidential recount.

[...]

LEMON: Critics dismissed Obama's speech, accusing him of trying to build a foreign-policy résumé. The same critics say the American people would never entrust troops in harm's way to someone with Obama's lack of experience.

We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.