NY Post's Galen misrepresented Clinton, Obama debate responses on terrorism

››› ››› SARAH PAVLUS

In an April 27 New York Post article on the previous day's Democratic presidential candidates debate, Republican strategist Rich Galen, who served as communications director for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA), falsely suggested that, in contrast with Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM), Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and Barack Obama (D-IL) did not mention using military force when asked "how [each would] change the U.S. military stance overseas" in the event of an Al Qaeda attack in the United States.

Galen wrote:

The clear winner between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama was Bill Richardson.

He won me over by giving by far the strongest answer on confronting terrorism - he would use military force.

Bravo!

In fact, in response to the question -- "[I]f, God forbid a thousand times, while we were gathered here tonight, we learned that two American cities had been hit simultaneously by terrorists, and we further learned, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that it had been the work of Al Qaeda, how would you change the U.S. military stance overseas as a result?" -- Clinton, Obama, and Richardson all expressed support for the use of military force.

NBC News anchor Brian Williams, one of the moderators of the debate, asked the question directly to Obama, former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC), and Clinton, respectively. Williams did not directly ask that question of Richardson, but Richardson addressed the issue of a terrorist attack later in the debate.

Obama, whose initial response to Williams' question focused on the need for "an effective emergency response" and "good intelligence," later added, after responding to a different question: "[W]e have genuine enemies out there that have to be hunted down." Obama continued:

OBAMA: Networks have to be dismantled. There is no contradiction between us intelligently using our military and, in some cases, lethal force to take out terrorists and, at the same time, building the sort of alliances and trust around the world that has been so lacking over the last six years.

Clinton answered the terrorism question by saying: "I think a president must move as swiftly as is prudent to retaliate," later adding, "[L]et's focus on those who have attacked us and do everything we can do destroy them." Clinton said:

CLINTON: I think a president must move as swiftly as is prudent to retaliate. If we are attacked, and we can determine who was behind that attack, and if there were nations that supported, or gave material aid, to those who attacked us, I believe we should quickly respond.

Now that doesn't mean we go looking for other fights. You know, I supported President Bush when he went after Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. And then when he decided to divert attention to Iraq, it was not a decision that I would have made had I been president, because we still haven't found [Osama] bin Laden, so let's focus on those who have attacked us and do everything we can do destroy them.

After being asked how he felt about "normalizing relations with [Fidel] Castro's Cuba," Richardson addressed William's earlier question about terrorism, stating that he "would respond militarily, aggressively." Richardson said:

RICHARDSON: I have to answer a fundamental question that requires a presidential answer, and that is, I think you said, if two of our cities were attacked, what would I do?

WILLIAMS: Yes.

RICHARDSON: I would respond militarily, aggressively. I'll build international support for our goals. I'd improve our intelligence, but that would be a direct threat on the United States, and I would make it clear that that would be an important, decisive, military response. Surgical strike, whatever it takes.

In his response, Edwards said: "[T]he first thing I would do is be certain I knew who was responsible, and I would act swiftly and strongly to hold them responsible for that." He later added:

EDWARDS: I think there are dangerous people and dangerous leaders in the world that America must deal with and deal with strongly.

But, we have more tools available to us than bombs, and America needs to use the tools that are available to them, so that these people who are sitting on the fence, who terrorists are trying to recruit -- the next generation -- get pushed to our side, not to the other side.

From MSNBC's April 26 Democratic presidential debate:

WILLIAMS: Senator Obama, if, God forbid a thousand times, while we were gathered here tonight, we learned that two American cities had been hit simultaneously by terrorists, and we further learned, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that it had been the work of Al Qaeda, how would you change the U.S. military stance overseas as a result?

OBAMA: Well, the first thing we would have to do is make sure that we've got an effective emergency response -- something that this administration failed to do when we had a hurricane in New Orleans -- and I think that we have to review how we operate in the event of, not only a natural disaster, but also a terrorist attack.

The second thing is to make sure that we've got good intelligence: a) to find out that we don't have other threats and attacks potentially out there; and b) to find out that we have any intelligence on who might have carried it out so that we can take potentially some action to dismantle that network. But what we can't do is then alienate the world community based on faulty intelligence, based on bluster and bombast.

Instead, the next thing we would have to do, in addition to talking to the American people, is making sure that we are talking to the international community, because as already been stated, we're not going to defeat terrorists on our own. We've got to strengthen our intelligence relationship with them, and they've got to feel a stake in our security, by recognizing that we have mutual security interests at stake.

WILLIAMS: Senator, thank you. Senator Edwards, same question: God forbid, two simultaneous attacks tonight; we knew it was Al Qaeda. What would you change about U.S. military stance overseas?

EDWARDS: Well, the first thing I would do is be certain I knew who was responsible, and I would act swiftly and strongly to hold them responsible for that. The second thing I would do -- and some of these have been mentioned already -- is find out how that this happened without our intelligence operations finding out that it was in a planning stage.

How did they get through what we all recognize is a fairly porous homeland security system that we have in this country that has not been built the way it needed to be built? You know, did the weapons that created these two simultaneous strikes come through our ports? Were they in one of the containers that have not been checked? How did these weapons get here? And how do we stop it from happening again?

I believe -- and this goes to the question you asked earlier, just a few minutes ago, global war on terror. I think there are dangerous people and dangerous leaders in the world that America must deal with and deal with strongly.

But, we have more tools available to us than bombs, and America needs to use the tools that are available to them, so that these people who are sitting on the fence, who terrorists are trying to recruit -- the next generation -- get pushed to our side, not to the other side. We've had no long-term strategy, and we need one, and I will provide one as president.

WILLIAMS: Senator, we're out of time, thank you. Senator Clinton, same question.

CLINTON: Well, again, having been a senator during 9-11, I understand very well the extraordinary horror of that kind of an attack, and the impact that it has, far beyond those who are directly affected. I think a president must move as swiftly as is prudent to retaliate. If we are attacked, and we can determine who was behind that attack, and if there were nations that supported, or gave material aid, to those who attacked us, I believe we should quickly respond.

Now that doesn't mean we go looking for other fights. You know, I supported President Bush when he went after Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. And then when he decided to divert attention to Iraq, it was not a decision that I would have made had I been president, because we still haven't found bin Laden, so let's focus on those who have attacked us and do everything we can do destroy them.

[...]

WILLIAMS: Governor Richardson, Fidel Castro is still alive. How do you feel about normalizing relations with Castro's Cuba?

RICHARDSON: I have to answer a fundamental question that requires a presidential answer, and that is, I think you said, if two of our cities were attacked, what would I do?

WILLIAMS: Yes.

RICHARDSON: I would respond militarily, aggressively. I'll build international support for our goals. I'd improve our intelligence, but that would be a direct threat on the United States, and I would make it clear that that would be an important, decisive, military response. Surgical strike, whatever it takes.

WILLIAMS: All right, grant you a few more for the answer on Castro.

[...]

OBAMA: One thing that I do have to go back on, on this issue of terrorism, we have genuine enemies out there that have to be hunted down. Networks have to be dismantled. There is no contradiction between us intelligently using our military and, in some cases, lethal force to take out terrorists and, at the same time, building the sort of alliances and trust around the world that has been so lacking over the last six years. And that, I think, is going to be one of the most important issues that the next president is going to have to do -- is to repair the kinds of challenges that we face.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, Terrorism
Network/Outlet
New York Post
Person
Rich Galen
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, 2008 Elections
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