Article

Ethics: When Hate Radio Attacks…

Last Wednesday, right-wing pundit and "hate radio" pioneer Rush Limbaugh declared that U.S. troops who support withdrawal from Iraq are "phony soldiers."

OCTOBER 3, 2007 by Faiz Shakir, Amanda Terkel, Satyam Khanna,
Matt Corley, Ali Frick, and Jeremy Richmond
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ETHICS

When Hate Radio Attacks…

Last Wednesday, right-wing pundit and “hate radio” pioneer Rush Limbaugh declared that U.S. troops who support withdrawal from Iraq are “phony soldiers.” Limbaugh made the off-handed comment on his daily radio show while engaging in conversation with a caller about Iraq. As Media Matters first noted, Limbaugh said, “[I]t’s not possible, intellectually, to follow these people” who call for a withdrawal. The caller replied, “No, it’s not, and what’s really funny is, they never talk to real soldiers. They like to pull these soldiers that come up out of the blue and talk to the media.” Limbaugh interjected, “The phony soldiers.” The caller agreed, replying, “The phony soldiers.” Limbaugh’s slap at “phony soldiers” appears to be a direct attack on seven members of the 82nd Airborne who wrote a New York Times op-ed in August, warning that Iraqis had been “robbed of their self-respect” as a result of the invasion and would “soon realize that the best way to regain dignity is to call us what we are — an army of occupation — and force our withdrawal.” A poll conducted last December found that, at the time (prior to the escalation), 37 percent of the military believed we should not have gone to Iraq, while one in five felt we should have fewer troops on the ground.

…THE LEFT FIGHTS BACK: Limbaugh’s smear has generated a fast and furious response from the left. Last Friday, the Democratic Senate leadership began circulating a letter on Capitol Hill that called on Clear Channel CEO Mark Mays, Limbaugh’s employer, to repudiate the “phony troops” remark. The letter, signed by Sens. Harry Reid (D-NV), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Charles Schumer (D-NY), and Patty Murray (D-WA), states that Limbaugh’s comments were “outrageous” and “unconscionable.” Mays has since responded, offering his “regret” for Limbaugh’s comments. On Monday, Reid took to the Senate floor and challenged those senators who recently criticized a MoveOn.org newspaper ad to condemn Limbaugh “with equal fervor.” Also last week, Rep. Mark Udall (D-CO) announced that he would be introducing a resolution in the House criticizing Limbaugh. Several lawmakers have made comments denouncing the smear. VoteVets.org, a pro-military organization founded by veterans of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, has released a series of ads, highlighting the faces of soldiers who oppose Bush’s failed policy in Iraq. Additionally, retired Gen. Wesley Clark has called on activists to demand Limbaugh be taken off Armed Forces Radio.

…LIMBAUGH IMPLODES: As a result of having been forcefully condemned for his smear, Limbaugh has responded with revisionist history, claiming he was taken out of context. Limbaugh argues his “phony soldiers” remark was actually in reference to one man — Jesse MacBeth — who pretended to be an injured Iraq war veteran. But in fact, Limbaugh did not make reference to MacBeth on that show until nearly two minutes after talking about “phony soldiers” who opposed the war. Also, he used the phrase “phony soldiers” in direct response to his caller’s complaint that we “never” hear from “real soldiers” who oppose the war, only troops who “spout” against the war “in the media.” Moreover, when attempting to clarify his remarks on Friday, Limbaugh severely undermined his case by identifying Rep. John Murtha (D-PA), who earned the bronze star and two purple hearts during 37 years of service, as an example of a “phony soldier.” Having been placed under the microscope for his smears against the troops, Limbaugh has begun lashing out, calling Reid a “nut.” Rather than offer an apology to defuse the situation, Limbaugh instead fueled it by claiming  to apologize on behalf of Media Matters for creating a “firestorm over something that did not happen.” And yesterday, Limbaugh took his defense to an even more insulting level, comparing an Iraq war veteran who criticized him to a suicide bomber.

…THE RIGHT WING CIRCLES THE WAGONS: Evidence of his powerful influence in conservative circles, Limbaugh has found no shortage of defenders on the right, including Fox News, Republican lawmakers, the Drudge Report, and right-wing blogs. While House Democrats were pushing a resolution to condemn the “unwarranted slur” made by Limbaugh, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) took exactly the opposite tact, offering a resolution to “commend” Limbaugh’s “commitment to American troops.” In the wake of the recent furor over a MoveOn ad against Gen. David Petraeus, 72 Senators stood to “strongly condemn any effort to attack the honor and integrity” of any member of the U.S. forces. But the Senate letter calling on Clear Channel to repudiate Limbaugh’s comments have garnered only 41 votes, lacking the support of a single Republican and 10 Democrats. Right-wing radio host Melanie Morgan offered a full-throated defense of Limbaugh that echoed his smear. She called soldiers involved with the VoteVets organization “anti-America” “fake” “posers.” Fox News has performed its obligatory spin on the incident, offering an unfair and unbalanced perspective that takes Limbaugh’s side while attacking his critics.

UNDER THE RADAR

HEALTH CARE — PRESIDENT BUSH ‘QUIETLY’ VETOES SCHIP WITHOUT ‘CEREMONY’: Both the Senate and the House have passed an expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) with strong bipartisan majorities, but the Bush administration has vetoed it. Asked yesterday if there would be a ceremony today when the President signs the veto, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino said, “I would not anticipate that there would be any ceremony.” She added, “The President will probably veto it quietly.” It’s not surprising that Bush is hoping no one notices his veto, which will deny health coverage to four million children. Over 70 percent of Americans support Congress’s proposed SCHIP increase. Bush has stated that he opposes funding the program with revenue from cigarette taxes, even though such taxes are tied to decreases in smoking. Furthermore, the public overwhelmingly supports raising tobacco taxes, by a margin of 67 percent to 28 percent. Bush knows his veto is unpopular. After all, he’s certainly not opposed to lavish ceremonies and using children for political photo-ops.

ADMINISTRATION — FORMER BUSH LAWYER CALLS SPY PROGRAM A ‘LEGAL MESS’: Jack Goldsmith, a former Bush administration attorney, told Congress yesterday that President Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program was “the biggest legal mess [he] had ever encountered” and after leading an internal review, he “could not find a legal basis for some aspects of the program.” Contradicting testimony by former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who said there were no “serious disagreements about the program” within the administration, Goldsmith stated, “There were enormous disagreements,” with the internal fight culminating “in a threat by Goldsmith, [former Deputy Attorney General James] Comey, and others to resign en masse if the program were allowed to continue without changes.” Goldsmith added that Vice President Cheney’s counsel David Addington had “told him that his position might mean failure to halt a new terrorist attack that would leave him with the blood of thousands on his hands.” Goldsmith’s testimony also emphasized the reluctance of the White House to allow any oversight of its wiretapping program.

ETHICS — BUSH THREATENS VETO ON INSPECTORS GENERAL REFORM BILL:  Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN) recently introduced a bill designed to “strengthen the independence of the government’s inspectors general,” which would “provide inspectors general with seven-year terms, let them submit budget requests directly to Congress and permit the White House to fire them only for cause.” “The White House has threatened to veto the legislation, saying it would improperly diminish presidential control over budgets and interfere with the president’s constitutional authority to remove inspectors general when warranted.” IG abuse is rampant within the Bush administration. Recently, House Oversight Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) noted that State Department IG Howard Krongard “repeatedly interfered with on-going investigations to protect the State Department and the White House from political embarrassment.” Waxman wrote that one “consistent allegation” is that Krongard believes his “foremost mission is to support the Bush Administration.” Despite President Bush’s opposition, the legislation “seemed likely to move forward with little controversy” since the bill has received bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) believes that the Bush’s threatened veto “will fail to translate into Republican votes against the bill.”

THINK FAST

Though Blackwater USA CEO Erik Prince told a congressional committee yesterday that the company’s guards opened fire on only 195 occasions in Iraq since 2005, “two former Blackwater security guards” stated they believe “employees fired more often than the company has disclosed. “The underreporting of shooting incidents was routine in Iraq,” said one guard.

The Bush administration has made “seemingly inconsistent decisions” when releasing prisoners they deem “among America’s most-hardened criminals” from Guantanamo Bay, according to Pentagon documents. “Human rights groups contend that the documents show” that the military panels are often “overridden by political expediency.”

The State Department launched its own blog last week, called “Dipnote.” People have already complained “that the white print on a black background makes it hard to read” Finally, “unbiased news directly from the federal government, a news source long noted for truthful, unbiased reporting,” the Washington Post’s Al Kamen mockingly writes. 

The Army has met its stated recruiting goal of 80,000 new active-duty soldiers for FY2007. But to achieve this goal, “the Army rushed enlistees into its ranks more quickly than usual, depleting the number in the pipeline for next year to less than 7,000 — the smallest in more than a decade.”

The Polish ambassador to Iraq was wounded and a civilian was killed in a car bomb that went off in downtown Baghdad today. Approximately 900 Polish troops are currently stationed south of Baghdad training Iraqi personnel.

And finally: Final score: Boxer 3, Inhofe 0. Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) has repeatedly challenged Sen. Barbara Boxer’s (D-CA) authority over the Senate environmental committee. During one hearing, she had to inform him, “You don’t make the rules anymore.” Yesterday, Boxer slammed down Inhofe’s assertion that she couldn’t invite sitting senators to the hearings, pointing out that in Sept. 2006, he invited Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN). “I don’t mind if we have disagreements, but…let’s get the facts right,” she admonished him. 

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GOOD NEWS

A new proposal from the Marines would mandate that commanders check dismissed soldiers for evidence of mental health problems from combat stress, encouraging “early treatment and screening.”

STATE WATCH

TEXAS: Several mayors along the Texas-Mexico border “have begun a quiet protest of the federal government’s plans to build a fence along the border.”

NEW YORK: Local police say federal agents acted like “cowboys” in a recent immigration raid, mistakenly aiming their weapons.

MICHIGAN: Powerful business interests threaten to “wreck” a recent budget solution.

BLOG WATCH

THINK PROGRESS: The Christian Coalition applauds McCain’s religious bigotry, claims it “might make him President.”

THINK PROGRESS: The Brookings Institution’s Michael O’Hanlon defends his old friend Gen. David Petraeus, says he’s “convinced” the Pentagon is wrong on Iraq stats.

ESCHATON: Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) makes “veiled threats” towards Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) on CSPAN’s Washington Journal.

TPM MUCKRAKER: Blackwater CEO Erik Prince connected to dirty tricks scheme in ’06 Pennsylvania Senate race.

DAILY GRILL

“This is such a blatant use of a valiant combat veteran, lying to him about what I said and then strapping those lies to his belt, sending him out via the media and a TV ad to walk into as many people as he can walk into.”
— Rush Limbaugh, 10/2/07, attacking Iraq war veteran Brian McGough for appearing in a Vote Vets ad

VERSUS

“I can assure you that I am no suicide bomber and that I can think for myself.”
— McGough, 10/2/07, who was injured by a “real-life suicide bomber” in Iraq