In a report on Today, David Gregory allowed former Sen. Bob Kerrey to suggest that John Edwards' recent speech questioning the use of the phrase "war on terror" had ignored the threat of terrorism or spoken against fighting terrorism. In fact, Edwards' speech identified several situations in which "force is justified."
On the May 24 edition of NBC's Today, NBC News chief White House correspondent David Gregory reported that in a May 23 speech, former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) "question[ed] whether there is a war on terror at all." Gregory aired a clip of Edwards saying during the speech, "The war on terror is a slogan designed only for politics. It is not a strategy to make America safe. It's a bumper sticker, not a plan." Gregory went on to report that former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-NE) "insists it is dangerous to allow the political fight over Iraq to undermine America's resolve in fighting global terrorism." A video clip then showed Kerrey saying of terrorist organizations, "They are real, they are out there, they're improving the quality of their tactics, and ... we're going to have to address the questions of what do we do about them." But contrary to Kerrey's false suggestion -- aired uncritically by Gregory -- that Edwards denied the threat of terrorism or spoke against fighting terrorism, Edwards did "address the questions of what do we do about" terrorism in the speech. Edwards spoke about "times when force is justified: to protect our vital national interests ... to respond to acts of aggression by other nations and non-state actors ... to protect treaty allies and alliance commitments ... to prevent terrorists from acquiring nuclear weapons ... and to prevent or stop genocide." [Ellipses in original.]
In contrast with Gregory's treatment of Edwards' speech, a May 23 Associated Press article reported that Edwards "outlined several steps he said he would pursue as president to strengthen the military, including using force only to pursue essential national security missions, improve civilian-military relations, and root out mismanagement at the Pentagon."
From the prepared text of Edwards' May 23 speech to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City:
The question is, what should replace the war on terror? Since the end of the Cold War, folks here at CFR and elsewhere have been engaged in an effort to be the next George Kennan and define the era. As all of you know, we need a new strategy for rebuilding a strong military for a new century.
Any new strategy must include new preventive measures to win the long-term struggle and fuel hope and opportunity. This includes strong and creative diplomacy, and also new efforts to lead the fight against global poverty. I've proposed a plan to lead an international effort to educate every child in the world. As president, I would increase foreign assistance by $5 billion a year to make millions of people safer, healthier, and more democratic, and by creating a cabinet-level post to lead this effort.
Any new strategy must improve how we gather intelligence. From my years on the Senate Intelligence Committee, I know how difficult this can be. We must always seek to protect our national security by aggressively gathering intelligence in accordance with proven methods.
Yet we cannot do so by abandoning human rights and the rule of law. As two former generals recently wrote in the Washington Post, "If we forfeit our values by signaling that they are negotiable ... we drive ... undecideds into the arms of the enemy." And we must avoid actions that will give terrorists or even other nations an excuse to abandon international law. As president, I will close Guantanamo Bay, restore habeas corpus, and ban torture. Measures like these will help America once again achieve its historic moral stature -- and lead the world toward democracy and peace.
And finally, a new strategy must have a clear idea of how to rebuild the U.S. military.
First, we must clarify the mission of a post-Bush, post-9/11, post-Iraq American military for the 21st century.
We must be clear about when it is appropriate for a commander-in-chief to use force. As president, I will only use offensive force after all other options including diplomacy have been exhausted, and after we have made efforts to bring as many countries as possible to our side. However, there are times when force is justified: to protect our vital national interests ... to respond to acts of aggression by other nations and non-state actors ... to protect treaty allies and alliance commitments ... to prevent terrorists from acquiring nuclear weapons ... and to prevent or stop genocide.
Yet we must remember the complementary relationship between military force and diplomacy. Too often during the past six years, this Administration's diplomatic efforts have left the U.S. with two unacceptable options: do nothing or use force. We must do better than that. We should always seek to solve problems peacefully, preferably working with others. Yet one of the oldest rules of statecraft is that diplomacy is most effective when backed by a strong military. That does not mean, however, that every problem needs a military answer; far from it.
From the May 24 edition of NBC's Today:
GREGORY: One contender for the White House now questions whether there is a war on terror at all.
EDWARDS: The war on terror is a slogan designed only for politics. It is not a strategy to make America safe. It's a bumper sticker, not a plan.
GREGORY: But former Senator Kerrey insists it is dangerous to allow the political fight over Iraq to undermine America's resolve in fighting global terrorism, even after Bush leaves office.
KERREY: We are the number one target of these terrorist organizations. They are real, they are out there, they're improving the quality of their tactics, and we're going to have to -- we're going to have to address the questions of what do we do about them.