Conservatives continue to ignore GOP Sen. Specter while attacking Dems for visiting Syria

››› ››› BEN ARMBRUSTER

On December 14, Media Matters for America noted that Fox News chief White House correspondent Bret Baier had falsely suggested that only Democrats were planning trips to meet with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad over the Bush administration's objections, ignoring Sen. Arlen Specter's (R-PA) expected visit to Syria and planned meeting with Assad. Since Baier's report, conservative television hosts have either attacked Democrats or held segments bashing Democrats for holding or wanting to hold talks with Syria or North Korea, while continuing to ignore Specter's expected visit to Syria.

While Specter is planning to visit Syria, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) met with Assad on December 13, Sens. John F. Kerry (D-MA) and Christopher Dodd (D-CT) will meet with him on December 20 and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D) recently met with North Korean diplomats about that country's nuclear program. Despite Specter's plan to meet with Assad, many conservative media figures have only focused on Democrats.

For example, on the December 15 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, guest host Laura Ingraham devoted the "Talking Points Memo" segment to attacking Kerry, Nelson, and Richardson for "engaging in some renegade foreign policy to push their own agendas." Ingraham asked: "[W]hy are these Democrats acting as if they were secretaries of state? Well, it's simple. For partisan political reasons." Ingraham did not mention that Specter has reportedly said that he would visit Syria as well.

On the December 15 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto, host Neil Cavuto interviewed "gold star mom" Debra Argel Bastian, who bashed Kerry for expressing interest in holding talks with Assad. Cavuto said to Bastian, "Senator Kerry, just like Senator Nelson of Florida, who met with Syria's Assad, has been saying that, you know, maybe we could stop future deaths of soldiers if we talked to people we've, up to now, refused to talk to." Bastian said that "Kerry should not be conducting business the way he did in the Vietnam War" and that Kerry "should have been tried for treason." On the same edition of Your World, Cavuto interviewed former Secretary of State Alexander Haig and asked: "What do you think of Senator Kerry and, before him, Senator Nelson meeting and wanting to meet with the leaders of Syria, leaders of Iran?" Haig replied that "[t]o go abroad and speak against [the president's] policy leaves me absolutely dumbfounded." Haig added that he was "appalled that these men would do that." During both segments, Cavuto referred to only Kerry's and Nelson's visits to Syria, not Specter's.

Finally, on the December 15 edition of MSNBC's Tucker, host Tucker Carlson asked: "Am I being uptight when I say it makes me uncomfortable that Bill Nelson has declared himself, you know, secretary of state of Florida and is, you know, off in Syria? This one-man diplomatic mission?" A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of The Hill, replied that "there's several ones following behind him. Dodd, Kerry, and others are going to do this." Stoddard added that "the only thing worse" than Bush talking to Iran and Syria would be "all these Democratic senators in the months to come going off and doing it themselves." Carlson later claimed that if a Democrat is elected president in 2008, it would be "the equivalent of [former Sen.] Jesse Helms [R-NC] pop[ping] up and go[ing] to whatever country and start[ing to] undercut[] him." Carlson added that if that happens, "I will defend the Democratic president. I will. I promise." Neither Carlson nor any of his guests made any mention of Specter's reported upcoming visit to Syria.

From the December 15 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

INGRAHAM: A few top Democrats are suddenly engaging in some renegade foreign policy to push their own agendas. And that's the subject of tonight's "Talking Points Memo." Senator John Kerry is on a Mideast fact-finding mission, and that includes stops in Egypt and Syria. And by the way, he also says he's willing to go to Iran. And Senator Bill Nelson of Florida met this week with the Syrian president, Assad, in Damascus. And just today, Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico talked to North Korean diplomats who traveled to his home state.

The administration is not amused and White House spokesman Tony Snow called these trips "inappropriate" because they send mixed signals to countries like Syria. The White House has resisted calls for direct talks with either Syria or Iran given the recent track record of both. Both Iran and Syria support terrorist groups like Hezbollah and are committed to the destruction of Israel. When it's not hosting Holocaust deniers, Iran funds the Shiite jihadists in Iraq who kill American troops and innocent Iraqis. And North Korea is a sworn enemy of the U.S. run by a brutal dictator who starves his own people as he feeds his nuclear programs.

So why are these Democrats acting as if they were secretaries of state? Well, it is simple. For partisan political reasons. While overseas, Kerry called the president's position "a mistake" and said it was the kind of policy that "got us into trouble." So if we were only nicer to Iran, nicer to Syria, if we were more inclusive, they would be nicer to us. Brilliant. Our founding fathers wrote the Constitution so that the U.S. would speak with one voice -- the president's -- on matters of foreign policy. Senators who ignore this put our security at risk. And that's the "Memo."

From the December 15 edition of Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto:

CAVUTO: In the meantime, the second slap in the face to the White House this week, another Democratic Senator holding direct talks with Syria. This time it is John Kerry, who also says that he wants to meet with Iran's president. Well, my next guest is not at all thrilled about this Middle East trip by this particular senator. She lost her son in Iraq and says that troops should snub Kerry when he visits there. With us now is gold star mom Debra Argel Bastian. So, Debra, you're not pleased. Why not?

BASTIAN: Not at all, Neil. Number one, I don't think that senators, especially John Kerry, should be over conducting business the way he did in the Vietnam War. And I think he needs to keep in mind that there are 3,000 -- approximately 3,000 troops that he can't apologize to because they're gone. And I'm asking this Christmas -- to our troops and to their commanders -- just one Christmas gift on behalf of their brothers and sisters that have fallen in the line of duty. Please don't pose with this man, and please don't be forced to pose with this man the way they were forced to, some of them, to pose with [Sen.] Hillary Clinton [D-NY] when she went over for Thanksgiving. One soldier posed with her and gave us a signal back home like this [fingers crossed]. It is a photo opportunity for Senator Kerry, and he has degraded our troops. There is nothing he can apologize for, in my book. He -- his ill-fated apology when he said, "You know that I didn't mean it," or "I didn't get to complete my joke," what kind of a joke is that? I will put my son's Air Force Academy education or any other academy education up against his education, wherever he went to school to --

CAVUTO: Let me ask you --

BASTIAN: -- because their motto, their motto Neil is I will not lie, cheat or steal or tolerate anyone among us who does.

CAVUTO: All right, Debra. Now, you obviously felt a particular pain here, the loss of a son who died bravely in combat, I think, back in 2005. Senator Kerry, just like Senator Nelson of Florida, who met with Syria's Assad, has been saying that, you know, maybe we could stop future deaths of soldiers if we talked to people we've, up to now, refused to talk to. What do you make of that?

BASTIAN: I think there's only one commander in chief, and that is President Bush. And I think that the commanders on the ground and President Bush's Cabinet know more about this than individual senators going over and acting on their own. The troops have absolutely no respect for John Kerry. I'll tell you who has respect for John Kerry, and that's the insurgents. And I'm just here to say that to make one gold star mother's wish to true, they not pose with him. I'm the director of military outreach for Move America Forward; I just got back from Iraq. We did not go over on government dollars. We went over due to the kind donations of your viewers and listeners on the radio and so forth. We did not put troops in harm's way. We had private security, and we went over there with a sole mission to support the troops and just ship them five tons of coffee and cookies for Christmas. There wasn't a donation from Senator Kerry among any of it. And to say that at this point that he can apologize for anything and then blame it on the White House is ridiculous. And, Neil, I want to tell you, I've had only one negative feedback from this. It was an email, and it said, "Dear Debbie, How dare you insult a hero like John Kerry? Did you know that he lost a fingernail in Vietnam and was forced to eat pâté de foie gras at 85 degrees?"

CAVUTO: Well, let me ask you this, Debra. When you step back from this and obviously what you've gone through, the war has become increasingly controversial and increasingly less popular since your brave son died. I'm wondering whether the troop morale has been affected. When you visited with the troops, and they obviously are getting wind of this division back home, what's their mood? What's their morale?

BASTIAN: Their morale, when I visited with them, was very high. And they're focused on completing their mission and doing their job. The military family -- you know, I'm the daughter of a Marine, a career Marine and a Navy nurse. You cannot destroy the military morale. But you also shouldn't rub salt in the wound by having those among us that feel that John Kerry still should have been tried for treason go over. He could make his apology from here. But he's definitely going over for photo opportunities, and that's just not right to do to our soldiers. And I hope to all commanders out there that they're not forced to pose with him. Because they don't care for him, they don't like him. And their morale over there at Christmastime, they're already missing their families and so forth. What we need to do is offer them love and support, send them packages. If they want to send something, they can go to Move America Forward and help us out with that. But not to go over at holiday time and spew their political agenda to these soldiers that are working so hard and protecting our lives.

CAVUTO: Debra, always very good having you. Thank you for stopping by. I hope you can try to have a merry Christmas this year. Debra, thank you so much.

BASTIAN: Thank you, Neil, and thanks to our troops.

CAVUTO: Thank you, indeed. Meanwhile, John Kerry's latest Mideast trip riling my next guest, as well. Former Secretary of State Al Haig on why mixed messages could be putting our troops in danger. Secretary, you probably heard what that lady had to say. What did you think?

HAIG: Well, God bless her. Isn't she a wonderful patriot? And aren't we blessed to have mothers and sons like she had, and that we have in great numbers?

Our problem is, we owe them more than we're delivering for them. And we've got to get this war under control. Send the people over there that can win it. Don't tell me a nation of over 300 million people can't take care of a little outfit of 25 million people supported by a bunch of bandits from across the border, especially in Iran.

CAVUTO: What do you think of Senator Kerry and, before him, Senator Nelson, meeting and wanting to meet with the leaders of Syria, leaders of Iran, saying that, look, it's better than not talking?

HAIG: Well, you know, in time of war -- and we are in war -- and there is a national policy established by the president. To go abroad and speak against that policy leaves me absolutely dumbfounded.

Time was where people like that could be tried, because our rules are that the president handles foreign policy. The legislature provides the means for him to carry it out. That's their power.

Their power is not the bully pulpit abroad, speaking to people with mixed views about us in the first place against our president in time of war. And I am appalled that these men would do that. And I have great respect for Senator Nelson, who I know, in my own state of Florida.

From the December 15 edition of MSNBC's Tucker:

CARLSON: Am I being uptight when I say it makes me uncomfortable that Bill Nelson has declared himself, you know, secretary of state of Florida and is, you know, off in Syria? This one-man diplomatic mission? I mean, is that weird?

STODDARD: Apparently, he's not the chief freelancer because there's several ones following behind him. Dodd, Kerry, and others are going to do this. And I think for George Bush, who is adamantly opposed to Jim Baker's recommendation that he engage Syria and Iran, the only thing worse than doing so might be, I think, all these Democratic senators in the months to come going off and doing it themselves.

[...]

CARLSON: I think you're blaming the victim. And I think when the next Democrat is elected president, which will probably be in two years, and, you know, it's the equivalent of Jesse Helms pops up and goes to whatever country and starts undercutting him, I will defend the Democratic president. I will. I promise. Thank you all very much.

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