USA Today's Page repeated McCain's false assertion that Obama "suggested bombing our ally, Pakistan"

››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

In a USA Today article reporting on Sen. John McCain's "critique" of Sen. Barack Obama, Susan Page wrote that McCain was "ridiculing comments Obama has made" and quoted without challenge McCain's false assertion that Obama "once suggested bombing our ally, Pakistan." In fact, in an August 2007 speech, Obama stated: "If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and [Pakistani] President [Pervez] Musharraf won't act, we will."

In a February 21 USA Today article reporting on Sen. John McCain's "critique" of Sen. Barack Obama, Washington bureau chief Susan Page wrote that McCain was "ridiculing comments Obama has made" and quoted without challenge McCain's false assertion that Obama "once suggested bombing our ally, Pakistan." In fact, in an August 1, 2007, foreign policy speech, Obama stated: "If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and [Pakistani] President [Pervez] Musharraf won't act, we will." Contrary to McCain's assertion, Obama did not say he would take action against Pakistan -- a fact missing from Page's article. Obama made any action against "high-value terrorist targets" inside Pakistan conditional. Nor did he specify what action he would take in that event. He did not mention "bombing" in general nor "bombing our ally, Pakistan." He said only that he would take action against "high-value terrorist targets" -- not "Pakistan" or its government -- if there were "actionable intelligence" and "Musharraf won't act."

Page also did not mention reports, including one in The Washington Post on February 19, that the United States recently used a CIA Predator aircraft to launch missile strikes inside Pakistan and that "the U.S. spy agency did not seek approval" from the Pakistani government. In a February 19 post on the blog Talking Points Memo, managing editor David Kurtz noted McCain's mischaracterization of Obama's position on Pakistan and wrote that "[i]ronically enough, the Washington Post is reporting today on just such a U.S. military strike into Pakistan." Post staff writers Joby Warrick and Robin Wright reported that on January 29, "relying on information secretly passed to the CIA by local informants," the agency used the Predator to fire missiles that killed "Abu Laith al-Libi, a senior al-Qaeda commander." According to the Post, "Having requested the Pakistani government's official permission for such strikes on previous occasions, only to be put off or turned down, this time the U.S. spy agency did not seek approval. The government of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf was notified only as the operation was underway, according to the officials, who insisted on anonymity because of diplomatic sensitivities." The article then stated that the "incident was a model of how Washington often scores its rare victories these days in the fight against al-Qaeda inside Pakistan's national borders: It acts with assistance from well-paid sympathizers inside the country, but without getting the government's formal permission beforehand."

According to a February 21 Post article, when asked about the Post's February 19 report about U.S. strikes against Al Qaeda targets inside Pakistan, McCain "declined to comment."

From the February 21 USA Today article:

McCain's critique of Obama:

•It's not age, it's experience. The 71-year-old Arizona senator sought to turn around criticism that his age could give voters pause, particularly in contrast to the 46-year-old Obama. "My friends, I'm not the youngest candidate, but I am the most experienced," McCain said. That's given him knowledge about how to deal with Congress, what to demand from the U.S. military and "how the world works."

•Obama is "naive" on national security issues. McCain mentioned challenges brewing with Pakistan, Cuba and Venezuela that could carry serious consequences for the United States. Without mentioning Obama's name, he unmistakably targeted him, ridiculing comments Obama has made.

"Will we risk the confused leadership of an inexperienced candidate who once suggested bombing our ally, Pakistan, and suggested sitting down without preconditions or clear purpose with enemies who support terrorists and are intent on destabilizing the world by acquiring nuclear weapons?" he asked.

He also disparaged Obama's soaring rhetoric, warning against "an eloquent but empty call for change that promises no more than a holiday from history."

A few minutes later, Obama was using that rhetoric to electrify an overflow crowd of 12,000 in Houston, and to take on McCain. He began with the sort of praise -- "I revere and honor John McCain's service to this country" -- that might be heaped on a longtime employee being given a gold watch and retirement papers. Then came his own critical appraisal.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, Terrorism
Network/Outlet
USA Today
Person
Susan Page
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, John McCain, 2008 Elections
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