CNN spliced quote by Obama aide to remove part in which he said Sec. Def. Gates, like Obama, wants to meet with Iran

››› ››› KATHLEEN HENEHAN & TOM ALLISON

In two reports on CNN Newsroom, CNN aired comments by Robert Gibbs, Sen. Barack Obama's communications director, responding to President Bush's remarks that "[s]ome seem to believe we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals," reportedly in reference to Obama, but CNN spliced the audio clip to omit part of the statement in which Gibbs noted that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has reportedly advocated a position on engaging Iran that echoes Obama's. CNN had left intact Gibbs' reference to Gates in the audio clip of Gibbs' comments it aired earlier in the program.

In reports during the 10 and 11 a.m. ET hours of the May 15 edition of CNN Newsroom, CNN aired comments by Robert Gibbs, Sen. Barack Obama's communications director, responding to President Bush's remarks that "[s]ome seem to believe we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals," reportedly in reference to Obama, but CNN spliced the audio clip to omit part of the statement in which Gibbs noted that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, like Obama, has reportedly said that the United States needs to be willing to meet with Iran. CNN had left intact Gibbs' reference to Gates in the audio clip of Gibbs' comments it aired during the 9 a.m. hour of the program.

Gibbs was responding to comments Bush made at the Israeli parliament in which Bush said: "Some seem to believe we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: 'Lord, if only I could have talked to Hitler, all of this might have been avoided.' " Gibbs stated, "I assume he also is going to come home and fire his secretary of defense who was quoted in The Washington Post just yesterday saying we need to figure -- quote, 'We need to figure out a way to develop some leverage and then sit down and talk with them.' Them being Iran." During the 9 a.m. hour of the program, CNN aired Gibbs' assertion -- which came in the middle of his statement -- about Gates stating that the United States should "sit down and talk" with Iran. By contrast, during reports about Bush's comments on the 10 and 11 a.m. hours of the program, CNN spliced the audio to omit Gibbs' statement about Gates saying the United States should engage Iran.

During the 9 a.m. hour of CNN Newsroom, CNN aired Gibbs' full comment, including his reference to Gate's statements -- noted below in bold:

GIBBS: Obviously this is an unprecedented political attack on foreign soil. It's quite frankly sad and astonishing that the president of the United States would politicize the 60th anniversary of Israel with a false political attack. I assume he also is going to come home and fire his secretary of defense who was quoted in The Washington Post just yesterday saying we need to figure -- quote, "We need to figure out a way to develop some leverage and then sit down and talk with them." Them being Iran. Look, we have come to expect, and we've seen from this administration over the last eight years this type of cowboy diplomacy. Again, we've come to expect it. But over the past eight years it's made this country far less safe than we were. Ronald Reagan once asked Americans whether they were better off than they were four years ago. And I think people are going to ask themselves in this election are we safer than we were eight years ago under this president, and I think the answer is going to be a resounding "no."

Here's what CNN aired during the 10 and 11 a.m. hours:

GIBBS: [T]his is an unprecedented political attack on foreign soil. It's quite frankly sad and astonishing that the president of the United States would politicize the 60th anniversary of Israel with a false political attack. ... [W]e have come to expect, and we've seen from this administration over the last eight years this type of cowboy diplomacy. Again, we've come to expect it. But over the past eight years it's made this country far less safe than we were.

The reports during the 10 and 11 a.m. hours made no mention of Gates' comments about Iran. The Washington Post reported in a May 15 article that Gates said the United States should "construct a combination of incentives and pressure to engage Iran" and quoted Gates as saying: "We need to figure out a way to develop some leverage ... and then sit down and talk with them." The article also noted that "[o]thers, including Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), who is running for president, have said that talks with Iran on a range of issues might be useful."

From the May 15 Washington Post article, headlined "Gates: U.S. Should Engage Iran With Incentives, Pressure":

The United States should construct a combination of incentives and pressure to engage Iran, and may have missed earlier opportunities to begin a useful dialogue with Tehran, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said yesterday.

"We need to figure out a way to develop some leverage ... and then sit down and talk with them," Gates said. "If there is going to be a discussion, then they need something, too. We can't go to a discussion and be completely the demander, with them not feeling that they need anything from us."

In the meantime, Gates told a meeting of the Academy of American Diplomacy, a group of retired diplomats, "my personal view would be we ought to look for ways outside of government to open up the channels and get more of a flow of people back and forth." Noting that "a fair number" of Iranians regularly visit the United States, he said, "We ought to increase the flow the other way ... of Americans" visiting Iran.

"I think that may be the one opening that creates some space," Gates said.

The Bush administration has said it will talk with Iran, and consider lifting economic and other sanctions, only if Iran ends a uranium enrichment program the administration maintains is intended to produce nuclear weapons, a charge Iran denies. Although the U.S. and Iranian ambassadors to Baghdad met three times last year for discussions on Iraq, Iran has refused to continue that dialogue.

Others, including Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), who is running for president, have said that talks with Iran on a range of issues might be useful.

Gates publicly favored engagement with Iran before taking his current job in late 2006. In 2004, he co-authored a Council on Foreign Relations report titled "Iran: Time for a New Approach." At the time, he explained yesterday, "we were looking at a different Iran in many respects" under then-President Mohammad Khatami. Tehran's role in Iraq was "fairly ambivalent," he said. "They were doing some things that were not helpful, but they were also doing some things that were helpful."

From the May 15 edition of CNN Newsroom:

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD (anchor): It's that word, "appeasement." Senator Obama had said in the past that he'd be willing to talk to Hamas, willing to talk to, quote-unquote, "enemies." What is the Obama campaign saying now in response to the president, Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: Well, Fred, you'll notice that President Bush did not mention Obama by name but my own colleague -- our own colleague Ed Henry, who is traveling with the president there, said that he spoke with White House aides who acknowledged that, yes, he was referring to Barack Obama when he made those comments. And it really is that whole idea, this policy of appeasement that has the Obama campaign quite surprised by all of this, the fact that the president is making these remarks in Israel, but also it is designed really to have that kind of impact, at that setting, in that particular moment, to talk about what is going to be a really hot political issue for the general election.

It is only -- not only about national security, but it is also about Middle East peace. President Bush trying to make a push in that direction, saying that he had hoped that he would bring that about before the end of his administration. The Barack Obama folks have reacted quite strongly this morning. We heard from Robert Gibbs. He is the communications director. Let's just take a quick listen at how he responded to President Bush.

GIBBS: Obviously this is an unprecedented political attack on foreign soil. It's quite frankly sad and astonishing that the president of the United States would politicize the 60th anniversary of Israel with a false political attack. I assume he also is going to come home and fire his secretary of defense who was quoted in The Washington Post just yesterday saying we need to figure -- quote, "We need to figure out a way to develop some leverage and then sit down and talk with them." Them being Iran. Look, we have come to expect, and we've seen from this administration over the last eight years this type of cowboy diplomacy. Again, we've come to expect it. But over the past eight years it's made this country far less safe than we were. Ronald Reagan once asked Americans whether they were better off than they were four years ago. And I think people are going to ask themselves in this election are we safer than we were eight years ago under this president, and I think the answer is going to be a resounding "no."

[...]

MALVEAUX: Now, we heard from Robert Gibbs, communication director of the Obama camp, lashing out, simply saying that this is more of the past rhetoric, that frustration from the Bush administration that has not moved the ball that much forward in the Middle East peace process. And also, a different philosophical approach to reaching out to other leaders. Take a listen.

GIBBS: [T]his is an unprecedented political attack on foreign soil. It's quite frankly sad and astonishing that the president of the United States would politicize the 60th anniversary of Israel with a false political attack. ... [W]e have come to expect, and we've seen from this administration over the last eight years this type of cowboy diplomacy. Again, we've come to expect it. But over the past eight years it's made this country far less safe than we were.

MALVEAUX: And, Tony [Harris, anchor], I know John McCain is getting set to speak. So we're going to make this real quick here. Obviously, it underscores this is going to be a very important issue come the general election.

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Elections, National Security & Foreign Policy
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CNN Newsroom
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Barack Obama, 2008 Elections
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