Hannity and Bennett excoriated Obama over views shared by prominent Republicans

››› ››› MATTHEW BIEDLINGMAIER

Sean Hannity falsely asserted that President-elect Barack Obama "talked about in the campaign cutting tens of millions of dollars in defense spending" when, in fact, Obama said he would cut "tens of billions of dollars in wasteful spending." Hannity also asserted that Obama said "[h]e's not gonna weaponize space, slow development of Future Combat Systems" and that he would "set a goal of a world without nuclear weapons" without noting that former Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain and other prominent GOP figures have advocated similar positions.

During a discussion with CNN contributor and author Bill Bennett on the December 7 edition of Fox News' Hannity's America, host Sean Hannity falsely asserted that President-elect Barack Obama "talked about in the campaign cutting tens of millions of dollars in defense spending" when, in fact, Obama said he would cut "tens of billions of dollars in wasteful spending." Hannity also asserted that Obama said "[h]e's not gonna weaponize space, slow development of Future Combat Systems" and asserted that Obama said, "I'll set a goal of a world without nuclear weapons." Hannity then stated that if Obama "follows through on that, we've learned nothing about the nature of evil in the human experience, and he's almost capitulating America's place in the world." But neither Hannity nor Bennett noted that former Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain and other prominent GOP figures have advocated many of these same positions.

Bennett responded to Hannity's assertion by saying, "I would agree. I would agree. I don't think he'll do it. He also, by the way, in many of those positions that you've just described -- articulated -- is in stark disagreement with his secretary of defense." When Hannity replied, "and secretary of state," Bennett said, "Right." In fact, Sen. Hillary Clinton, whom Obama intends to nominate for secretary of state, has stated her support for "reassert[ing] our nonproliferation leadership" and has pledged to "seek to negotiate an accord that substantially and verifiably reduces the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals."

Defense spending

Hannity's assertion that Obama "talked about in the campaign cutting tens of millions of dollars in defense spending" is false. As Media Matters for America repeatedly noted when Hannity made similar claims, Obama told the group Caucus4Priorities that he would cut "tens of billions of dollars in wasteful spending," not overall defense spending in general. During the presidential campaign, McCain also pledged to "cut wasteful spending in defense and non-defense programs."

Nuclear weapons

In asserting that Obama said he would "set a goal of a world without nuclear weapons" and that he "won't develop any nuclear weapons," Hannity and Bennett did not note that Obama explicitly embraced a statement signed by former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, former Defense Secretary William J. Perry, and former Sen. Sam Nunn (D-GA), which noted that "Ronald Reagan called for the abolishment of 'all nuclear weapons,' which he considered to be 'totally irrational, totally inhumane, good for nothing but killing, possibly destructive of life on earth and civilization.' " Further, they wrote:

Reassertion of the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons and practical measures toward achieving that goal would be, and would be perceived as, a bold initiative consistent with America's moral heritage. The effort could have a profoundly positive impact on the security of future generations. Without the bold vision, the actions will not be perceived as fair or urgent. Without the actions, the vision will not be perceived as realistic or possible.

Obama highlighted the proposal by Shultz, Perry, Kissinger, and Nunn in a January 17 press release, in which he asserted:

I welcome the renewed call by Sam Nunn, George Shultz, Henry Kissinger, and William Perry to urge the United States to support a world free of nuclear weapons. These four Americans have shown leadership on this issue for many months, and I have embraced this goal throughout my campaign. As I said in a speech on October 2 [2007]: "Here's what I'll say as President: America seeks a world in which there are no nuclear weapons."

Hannity's later suggestion that Clinton and Obama disagree over the use of nuclear weapons is also false. As Media Matters noted, in a November/December 2007 Foreign Affairs essay, Clinton wrote:

Former Secretaries of State George Shultz and Henry Kissinger, former Defense Secretary William Perry, and former Senator Sam Nunn have called on the United States to "rekindle the vision," shared by every president from Dwight Eisenhower to Bill Clinton, of reducing reliance on nuclear weapons. To reassert our nonproliferation leadership, I will seek to negotiate an accord that substantially and verifiably reduces the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals.

Future Combat Systems

Hannity also asserted that Obama would "slow development of Future Combat Systems." In fact, as Media Matters noted in response to an earlier, similar claim by Hannity, Wired blogger Noah Shachtman noted that Future Combat Systems is a specific Army program that the McCain campaign said "should be ended." The McCain campaign budget plan that McCain senior economic adviser Douglas Holtz-Eakin provided to The Washington Post editorial board, published July 14, stated:

Balance the budget requires slowing outlay growth to 2.4 percent. The roughly $470 billion dollars (by 2013) in slower spending growth come from reduced deployments abroad ($150 billion; consistent with success in Iraq/Afghanistan that permits deployments to be cut by half -- hopefully more), slower discretionary spending in non-defense and Pentagon procurements ($160 billion; there are lots of procurements -- airborne laser, Globemaster, Future Combat System -- that should be ended and the entire Pentagon budget should be scrubbed) and reductions in mandatory spending ($160 billion) from a mix of excessive agricultural and ethanol subsidies, slower health care cost growth, Medicaid savings from the expansion of private insurance, and other reforms.

From the December 7 edition of Fox News' Hannity's America:

HANNITY: All right, last question, and then I want to move onto this phenomenal book. And I mean this -- I love your books.

BENNETT: Thanks, yeah, thank you.

HANNITY: He talked about in the campaign cutting tens of millions of dollars in defense spending --

BENNETT: Right.

HANNITY: -- investments in missile defense systems. He's not gonna weaponize space, slow development of Future Combat Systems -- these are his words. He said, "I'll set a goal of a world without nuclear weapons. I'll negotiate with Russia. I won't develop any new nuclear weapons." If he follows through on that, we've learned nothing about the nature of evil in the human experience, and he's almost capitulating America's place in the world.

BENNETT: I would agree. I would agree. I don't think he'll do it. He also, by the way, in many of those positions that you've just described -- articulated -- is in stark disagreement with his secretary of defense.

HANNITY: And secretary of state.

BENNETT: Right.

HANNITY: So, who's playing the wings?

BENNETT: That's right. So, we'll see. And the other thing is, let's go back to the ambition. Even if ambition is the secondary motive -- say the first motive is he really wants to lead this country to greatness, but ambition is the secondary motive -- he'd be crazy to cut defense. Supposing we are caught somewhere --

HANNITY: Yeah.

BENNETT: -- without the capability to respond in the way we should because of a defense cut.

HANNITY: Sure.

BENNETT: He's finished, he's done. That's it.

Posted In
National Security & Foreign Policy, Defense Funding
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Sean Hannity, Bill Bennett
Show/Publication
Hannity's America
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, 2008 Elections
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