By: Cliff Kincaid
Accuracy in Media
Michele Bachmann is outraged that CBS News political director John Dickerson sought to limit the number of questions she was asked during the CBS News/National Journal debate. But that wasn’t the only trick that was played on the Republicans. Scott Pelley maneuvered two Republicans, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, into defending the Obama Administration on one of the most important and sensitive foreign policy issues—killing American citizens abroad.
Pelley first put the question to Romney: “…recently President Obama ordered the death of an American citizen who was suspected of terrorist activity overseas. Is it appropriate for the American president on the president’s say-so alone to order the death of an American citizen suspected of terrorism?” The American citizen was al-Qaeda terror leader and Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.
Romney replied, “Absolutely. In this case, this is an individual who had aligned himself with a—with a group that had declared war on the United States of America. And—and if there’s someone that’s gonna—join with a group like Al-Qaeda, that declares war on America, and we’re in a—in a—a war with that entity, then of course anyone who was bearing arms for that entity is fair game for the United States of America.”
There are conservatives who think that the Republicans shouldn’t be so quick to justify Obama’s actions. “The more Americans learn about the White House rationale for the targeted killing of an American citizen, the more ominous it sounds,” noted the conservative Washington Times editorial page. The paper referred to a secret Obama Administration memo that apparently justified the termination of Anwar al-Awlaki by indicating that there was no other way to eliminate him as a threat. The Times added, “There is no argument over the obvious fact that al-Awlaki posed a threat to this country, but the rationale for negating an American citizen’s constitutional due-process rights cannot be based on simple expediency. Imagine applying the same ‘we couldn’t catch him so we killed him’ rule to domestic law enforcement.”
Pelley next asked Newt Gingrich the same question: “…as President of the United States, would you sign that death warrant for an American citizen overseas who you believe is a terrorist suspect?”
A feisty Gingrich replied, “Well, he’s not a terrorist suspect. He’s a person who was found guilty under review of actively seeking the death of Americans.”
Pelley interjected, “Not—not found guilty by a court, sir.”
Gingrich: “He was found guilty by a panel that looked at it and reported to the President.”
There was more to this exchange, but the fact is that Gingrich offered more of a rationale for killing the terror leader than anything the President has said publicly. Gingrich and Romney provided a defense of Obama that even Obama refuses to offer.
As The New York Times noted in a story in October about the secret memo, “The Obama administration has refused to acknowledge or discuss its role in the drone strike that killed Mr. Awlaki last month and that technically remains a covert operation. The government has also resisted growing calls that it provide a detailed public explanation of why officials deemed it lawful to kill an American citizen, setting a precedent that scholars, rights activists and others say has raised concerns about the rule of law and civil liberties.”
Despite what Gingrich said, there is no evidence that a “review” took place that found him “guilty” in any meaningful constitutional or legal sense.
A better approach for Gingrich and Romney would have been to say that while it is good that al-Awlaki is dead, the Obama Administration’s role in the killing should be explained fully by the administration itself and examined by Congress.
Honest leftists such as Glenn Greenwald have taken other “progressives” to task, such as those at the Soros-funded Center for American Progress (CAP), for hailing the killing of al-Awlaki as a success of the Obama Administration. Interestingly, he notes that CAP justified the killing by citing a blog from the conservative Heritage Foundation!
Bill Quigley of the far-left Center for Constitutional Rights calls such killings illegal, immoral and unwise.
Obama had called the death “another significant milestone in the broader effort to defeat al Qaeda and its affiliates.” However, in a follow-up radio interview with Michael Smerconish, Obama declined to even say whether he gave the order to kill al-Awlaki.
Nevertheless, a series of Republicans, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and Rep. Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, all praised Obama.
It is mind-boggling that any Republican, or Democrat, would go to the defense of the Obama Administration under such circumstances, when even Obama is afraid to take public credit for the operation. Why don’t the Republicans insist on full disclosure in regard to the process that resulted in al-Awlaki’s death? Is this the kind of power that should be put into the hands of President Obama and not seriously questioned by the opposition party?
“Fluent in English and Arabic, Awlaki was a valuable asset in recruiting foreign fighters. His wide Internet following was attributed to his ability to capture the attention of impressionable audiences via the English-language magazine Inspire, YouTube videos, and the Internet forum ‘Islamic Awakening,’” said Morgan Roach of Heritage. “Awlaki’s death is a major loss to al-Qaeda, as there are few figures in the organization who are able to appeal to an international audience.”
James Phillips of Heritage added, “Terrorism experts believe that Awlaki will be difficult to replace due to his high-profile role as an ideological publicist and recruiter, particularly for English-speaking Muslims open to al-Qaeda’s violent ideology.”
Strangely, however, the Obama Administration has taken out one terrorist leader with an appeal to English-speaking Muslims while singing the praises of Al-Jazeera English, the channel that spreads the ideology of the pro-terrorist Muslim Brotherhood to English-speaking Muslims in the U.S. and around the world. This contradiction begs for an explanation. But we will never get one if Republican presidential candidates act like knee-jerk defenders of Obama so they can sound just as tough on terrorism.
Scott Pelley of CBS tricked the Republicans into defending Obama and they fell into the trap. An issue the Republicans could have used against Obama, in order to alienate the President from his left-wing political base and illustrate his power-hungry manner, was taken off the table.
Cliff Kincaid is the Director of the AIM Center for Investigative Journalism, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.