Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates destroyed the right-wing narrative that his memoir attacks President Obama's approach to the war in Afghanistan, a narrative instigated by Bob Woodward and subsequently perpetuated by Fox News.
Gates' memoir, Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War, caused widespread controversy preceding its January 14 release because of how Gates characterized the Obama administration's handling of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In a January 13 interview on NBC's Today with co-host Matt Lauer, Gates explained that "what has been lost in the news media is that I actually agreed with virtually every decision President Obama made on Afghanistan." Gates opened the interview lamenting that the "book has sort of been hijacked by people along the political spectrum to serve their own purposes, taking quotes out of context and so on."
Following the release of excerpts from Gates' memoir, media figures seized on the selective quotes to attack President Obama. On January 7, The Washington Post's Bob Woodward, a vocal critic of the Obama administration, characterized Gates' memoir as a damning critique of Obamathat "unleashes harsh judgements about President Obama's leadership" in Afghanistan. But Woodward's own accounts of the book's contents -- he acknowledged later in the piece that Gates believed "Obama was right" on each of his decisions regarding Afghanistan -- undermined his article.
Fox News personalities quickly followed suit. In a January 8 op-ed on FoxNews.com, Fox national security analyst K.T. McFarland used Gates' memoir to claim that Obama committed troops to a strategy he didn't believe in, saying, "Obama had concluded early on that the surge was a lost cause, but he went ahead anyway," a fallacious conclusion in light of Gates' comments.
In a January 13 column on FoxNews.com, New York Post columnist Michael Goodwin echoed Woodward, claiming:
The former defense secretary offers the most devastating critique to come from an Obama insider. He paints the president as estranged from the very Afghan military surge he ordered and suspicious of and hostile toward top leaders of the armed forces.
On the January 13 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, Fox military analyst retired Gen. Jack Keane claimed Gates' memoir showed "President Bush wanted to win and President Obama, simply put, wanted to get out."
Fox News security analyst K.T. McFarland attacked President Obama as "egoistical but incompetent" and claimed that Russian President Vladimir Putin deserves a Nobel Peace Prize for throwing "Obama a lifeline" on Syria.
In a September 10 column on FoxNews.com, McFarland credited Putin with offering Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry "a way out of the mess they'd created" for the proposal to place Syria's chemical weapons under international control. MacFarland went on to say "the world knows that Vladimir Putin is the one who really deserves that Nobel Peace Prize" for saving "the world from near-certain disaster":
The fact is Obama seemed headed for an attack on Syria that no one wanted and few thought would succeed. Most thought it would only end in disaster, either with the U.S. drawn into an attack/retaliation cycle of escalation that could go on for years and spread into a regional war, or result in the overthrow of President Assad by an Al Qaeda affiliated rebels.
While the Russians may have toyed with the idea of letting American get bogged down in yet another losing Middle East war, they didn't want to risk a war that might pull them in, or lose control of the Assad government to radical Sunni jihadists.
So Putin stepped in and threw Obama a lifeline.
The Washington press corps will no doubt believe him, as usual, and lavish their usual praise.
But the world knows that Vladimir Putin is the one who really deserves that Nobel Peace Prize.
Fox News' KT McFarland claimed that building the Keystone XL pipeline would decrease dependence on oil from the Persian Gulf and alleviate the impact of future Middle East conflicts on the U.S. economy. In fact, studies show the pipeline will have little effect on foreign crude oil imports, and if the economy remains dependent on oil, events in the Middle East will have a significant impact on U.S. energy markets regardless of where the nation's oil imports originate.
On the March 4 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom, Fox News national security analyst KT McFarland said that building the Keystone XL pipeline would make us less vulnerable to conflicts in the Middle East, such as a potential nuclear Iran. She claimed that if "if we get our own oil" from the Keystone pipeline we won't need to rely on Middle East oil, which is responsible for pulling the U.S. "into every Middle East conflict." From the show:
A 2010 study conducted by the U.S. State Department found that building the Keystone pipeline would not significantly affect how much oil was imported from foreign countries including the Middle East. The study included a graphic which showed almost no change in foreign imports of oil with or without Keystone XL pipeline:
Right-wing media figures distorted Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta's congressional testimony to attack President Obama over the response to the terror attack on the Benghazi consulate. In fact, Panetta and Gen. Martin Dempsey explained that the attack occurred in two waves separated by large blocks of time, and White House officials were engaged with military throughout the incident.
From the December 8 edition of SiriusXM's Media Matters Radio:
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Fox News is deep in an ethics quagmire following a Washington Post report that the network's CEO Roger Ailes used Fox News analyst K.T. McFarland to try to recruit Gen. David Petraeus to run for the president as a Republican. While Ailes and McFarland made their secret overtures, McFarland appeared on Fox's airwaves to praise Petraeus as "one of the greatest generals in American history."
According to The Washington Post's Bob Woodward, Ailes had McFarland advise Petraeus that he "should turn down an expected offer from President Obama to become CIA director" and instead hold out for the chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and to resign and run for president if he was not offered that post. In audio of the meeting obtained by Woodward, Petraeus also said to McFarland that he had been advised that Ailes might resign as Fox News chief and act as a Petraeus aide should the general run for president. He also said that Ailes might bankroll the campaign, although he added that maybe it was News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch who had made that offer.
Woodward also reported that Ailes has acknowledged that he did ask McFarland to make the pitch: "It was more of a joke, a wiseass way I have." Ailes also called McFarland "way out of line" in some of her comments.
This would be an ethical problem by itself: Ailes -- the chief of a supposedly objective news network -- was advising an active general who was commanding U.S. troops in the middle of a war to make demands of the president, and if those demands were not met, to run for president with Ailes acting as his aide.
But the ethics problem is much worse than that. McFarland appeared on Fox's airwaves soon after meeting with Petraeus to praise him as "one of the greatest generals in American history" who will save us from defeat in Afghanistan. While McFarland was putting Petraeus on at least the same level as Ulysses S. Grant, George Washington, Andrew Jackson, and Dwight Eisenhower, she provided no disclosure of her and Ailes' advice that Petraeus should consider running for president.
From the April 21, 2011, edition of Fox News' Happening Now:
McFARLAND: When I was there two years ago, Jenna, I looked around and I concluded this is hopeless. Now with General Petraeus, who is one of the greatest generals in American history, he has gone in and he has devised a plan that will work. And the question is not, will it work, but the question is, should we be doing this? Is this an objective, is this a mission that we want? And as you have pointed out, it's expensive. And are we at this point -- you know, where is America's priorities?
JENNA LEE (co-host): Are we in this kind of stalemate [in Afghanistan] like it seems some are describing in Libya -- of course we're not there with combat troops -- but where no side is really gaining any ground and nothing really changes?
McFARLAND: Well the plan that -- the Petraeus plan is to really spend this summer -- they've diminished and decimated the middle ranks of Al Qaeda at the same time they've built up the middle ranks, the mid-level management of the Afghans. So the plan is to continue to make inroads into the Al Qaeda -- not the Al Qaeda so much as the Taliban, and then have slowly but surely the Afghans take over. And it will take a number of years to do that.
McFARLAND: We're doing the military part right, but it's a three-legged stool. And the other parts of the stool, the other legs, are the Afghan government and the Pakistani government, which has safe havens for the Taliban.
During the Happening Now segment, Fox even aired a photo of McFarland's meeting with Petraeus without disclosing what they discussed about Petraeus' future:
Fox News' The Five argued that petitions created and signed by people calling for secession from the United States following President Obama's re-election were justified because conservative-leaning "red states" are more financially responsible than liberal-leaning "blue states." But data shows that secession would lead to what is being called a "Confederacy of Takers" because "red states" tend to receive more in federal benefits than they pay in taxes, while "blue states" typically receive less.
In 2011, Obama established a mechanism for people to create and sign petitions on the White House website, and if any petition receives 25,000 or more signatures within 30 days, White House officials will respond to the petition. In the days following Obama's re-election, people have filed secession petitions for several states, including Mississippi and Alabama.
Fox's The Five gave credence to the states calling for secession, suggesting that some of the red states that filed the petitions have an economic argument. Co-host Greg Gutfeld proposed pitting "red states" featured in the secession petitions -- such as Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas -- against "blue states" and seeing who succeeds financially. Guest co-host and Fox regular KT McFarland suggested it was the "richer states," particularly the Southern states, that will have to bail out "bankrupt" states like California. Co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle was similarly frustrated at states "sponging off the states that are making money."
However, according to 2010 data compiled by Talking Points Memo from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis and the Internal Revenue Service, "red states" generally are receiving more from the federal government in benefits than they pay in taxes when compared to "blue states." Indeed, a chart made by TPM shows that several of the states calling for secession (and defended by Fox News) pay on average less in taxes than they receive in federal benefits:
Fox News hosts and contributors repeatedly suggested that the Obama administration made a "political decision" to allow Americans to be killed in the September 11 Benghazi, Libya, attack on an American compound. But U.S. agents and the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli rushed to the aid of the compound during the attack, and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has said that the attack was over before the U.S. military had sufficient information on which to act.
Fox's K.T. McFarland claimed that no additional forces were sent to help Americans at the diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, while it was attacked and claimed that this was "probably a political decision." But before McFarland made her claims on Fox, State Department officials had already said that when agents in the compound requested aid during the attack, additional forces from both Benghazi and Tripoli responded.
Conservative media today lauded Mitt Romney for a speech on foreign policy that has been widely panned by experts as big on ideology but short on specifics. In one critique, Council on Foreign Relations senior vice president James Lindsay stated that the speech offered "absolutely nothing," adding that if "Romney has a foreign policy strategy, he still has not told us what it is."
Lindsay added: "The governor is very fond of saying hope is not a strategy, but that cuts both ways. He didn't answer two key questions: what he would do differently and why we should expect what he would to work."
On Fox News' Your World, however, Fox national security analyst KT McFarland said she had "been waiting over 20 years for this speech." She repeatedly praised the speech as Reagan-esque and claimed it contained not just "pretty words" but had "policies to back it up."
In fact, experts disagree that Romney's speech had anything in the way of actual policies or showed a sharp contrast with President Obama's policies.
From the September 14 edition of Fox News' Hannity:
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Fox is attacking President Obama's response to the death of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and unrest in Egypt, Libya, and elsewhere by suggesting he should have acted more like Ronald Reagan during the Iranian hostage crisis. In fact, Reagan said the U.S. should agree to most of Iran's demands, and experts say he had little to do with the release of the American hostages in Iran.
Since President Obama's election, right-wing media have tried to find wrongdoing by top Obama administration officials. The pseudo-scandal they have contrived have resulted in investigations, congressional hearings, and right-wing media bluster, but they have not resulted in any evidence of wrongdoing by top Obama administration officials.
Fox News figures have routinely invoked Ronald Reagan while discussing Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his running mate, Congressman Paul Ryan. Most recently, Fox compared Ryan to the former president by splicing together their quotes and saying that Ryan and Reagan are physically and ideologically similar.
Right-wing media have claimed that Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is "the ideological heir" to Ronald Reagan, while ignoring a big part of what makes this statement true: Reagan and Ryan both supported policies that vastly increased the federal deficit.
Fox News digital politics editor Chris Stirewalt claimed Ryan was the "ideological heir to Reagan's movement." Fox News contributor KT MacFarland said: "With a Romney-Ryan ticket, it's like Reagan again." And Fox host Andrea Tantaros claimed Ryan "sounds very Reaganesque."
But none of them mentioned one of the most important similarities between Ryan and Reagan: the fact that, while they talked about reining in deficits, they both supported policies that vastly increased the deficit.
According to the Office of Management and Budget's historical data, during his presidency, Reagan saw federal spending increase by 22 percent. Additionally, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the federal deficit nearly doubled under Reagan, going from about $790 billion to $1.55 trillion.
Reagan also signed debt ceiling increases 18 times during his presidency.
Similarly, Ryan's most recent budget would explode the deficit over the next decade.