Libya: Do Conservatives Have a Double Standard for Military Intervention?

I’m of two minds on the subject of the United States’ current air strikes in Libya. On the one hand, I do not believe that humanitarian impulses are a sufficient justification for US military action, but on the other hand I am open to the argument that Muammar Qadhafi’s past support for anti-American terrorism and pursuit of weapons of mass destruction constitute a sufficient interest for American intervention.
Whatever the answer is, two things are clear—the nation is ill served by President Barack Obama’s inability to clearly explain our objectives, and the Right is ill served by foreign policy analysis informed more by the party affiliation of the current commander-in-chief than by coherent principles.
Watching Sean Hannity this week, I can’t help but fear the former is at work. On March 6, Hannity said:

It seems to me that it becomes a no-brainer. In other words, look, here we have a mass slaughter of people going on, and we have military jets bombing innocent civilians. The country is going down the tubes. And Qaddafi obviously has to go. And the U.S. doesn’t have the moral authority to lead and it is hesitant and it’s slow to react? I’m having a hard time understanding why?

Compare that with his words on March 21:

The president said in Rio, you know, we are going to make the world safe from tyrants. Are we going to Sudan? Are we going after Mugabe? Are we going to go in Bahrain, Yemen? Are we going to insert ourselves in Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia? Are we going to insert ourselves in Saudi Arabia? I mean, what is — how do we define success here? What is our mission here? And what is the new Obama standard here?

When — I don’t know what to make of this. Is this now the Obama doctrine? That if there is a potential humanitarian crisis about to take place and the international community is onboard, that we can’t standby with empty words, we have to take some action. Does that apply to Mugabe, Sudan, taking him out? Does that apply to, you know, Syria, Lebanon? You know, where do we take this? Is it Bahrain? Saudi Arabia? What does that mean?

So when Libyans were getting killed while Obama seemed distracted by basketball, it was a “no-brainer” that the US had to take action to stop the carnage, and Hannity had “a hard time understanding why” the White House was “hesitant” and “slow to react.” But now that Obama has taken action to stop the carnage, Hannity doesn’t “know what to make of this,” and fears that doing what he wanted done on March 6 (and what President George W. Bush set forth as one of the guiding principles of his foreign policy) might mean biting off far more than we can chew.
If that fear sounds familiar, that’s because it was one of the prominent arguments against the Iraq War, which Hannity supported. Now, I supported (and still support) the Iraq War too, because it was clearly justified on national security grounds, but recall that Hannity’s chief rebuttal to that conflict’s critics was strictly humanitarian:

If you guys had your way, the torture chambers and mass graves would continue […] Your way would appease evil.

Yes, but as 2011 Hannity inadvertently explains to 2005 Hannity, the same could be said of any number of regimes, and if the standard for force is simply the subjugation of a despot’s citizens, then the United States has a lot of catching up to do. This doesn’t make either Hannity wrong (nor does it make Obama right), but it does call into question the reliability of his analysis.
Former House Speaker and possible presidential contender Newt Gingrich’s reversal is even more blatant:
March 7: The United States doesn’t need anybody’s permission. We don’t need to have NATO, who frankly, won’t bring much to the fight. We don’t need to have the United Nations. All we have to say is that we think that slaughtering your own citizens is unacceptable and that we’re intervening. And we don’t have to send troops. All we have to do is suppress his air force, which we could do in minutes.
March 23: I would not have intervened. I think there were a lot of other ways to affect Qaddafi. I think there are a lot of other allies in the region we could have worked with. I would not have used American and European forces.
The good news is that other conservatives are taking a less knee-jerk approach, instead assessing the conflict based on values, not partisanship:

[T]he relative lack of Tea Party angst over the no-fly zone has been surprising. There is no discussion of Libya happening at Ginni Thomas’ Liberty Central, no statement from Tea Party Patriots or the Tea Party Express.

Quite a few liberal Democrats have come out and criticized the president. There were more Democrats who criticized President George W. Bush during the run-up to Iraq, but there have been enough to generate real heat for the White House. It was Kucinich, rather than a Republican, who first floated the idea that the strikes on Libya might be grounds for impeachment; Newt Gingrich, who mused that Obama could be impeached for failing to defend the Defense of Marriage Act, hasn’t gone that far. Half a dozen Republicans who identify with the Tea Party have criticized the Obama administration’s shoot-first-ask-Congress-later approach, but most Republicans haven’t […]

There could be more Tea Party criticism of the Libya strategy if the conflict drags on. On Monday, Jenny Beth Martin of Tea Party Patriots told me that the group may poll members to determine whether they should take a stance. If CNN’s poll on Libya is right, TPP might find itself taking the pro-Obama, anti-Ron Paul line on Libya. The poll, conducted from March 18 to March 20, found 70 percent of all voters favoring a no-fly zone. Among “Tea Party supporters,” it was 73 percent. Fifty-four percent of all voters favored attacks “directly targeted at Gaddafi’s troops who are fighting the opposition forces in Libya.” That number rose to 58 percent among Tea Partiers.

There are individual Tea Party leaders, like Williams or Rand Paul, who wince at a military intervention undertaken like this. The Tea Party is libertarian in plenty of ways. But if it has one defining characteristic, it’s that it’s nationalist. If there’s a way to remove Qaddafi decades after he aided the Lockerbie bombers, then that’s more important than a debate over the deep thoughts of the founders. In a Saturday interview with Fox News, Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., one of the most popular politicians to win the support of the Tea Party, explained that his problem with the intervention was about grit, not the Constitution.

“Back two or three weeks ago,” said West, “we could have taken care of this situation if we had done the exact same thing that Ronald Reagan did back in the early ’80s to Muammar Gaddafi, when he dropped the bomb in his back yard. Muammar Gaddafi didn’t say a word for the next 30 years.”

(See here and here for more on Tea Partiers’ view of Libya.) 
In all areas, conservatism demands an allegiance to principle regardless of our affection or disdain for the people and parties involved, and nowhere is that consistency more vital than in matters of war and peace. Heaven knows there’s much to criticize in the way Obama has handled this conflict even beyond his lack of clarity, but conservative critiques won’t do much good without clarity in our own motives.
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New on NewsReal – Hannity Calls Out "Partisan Hack" Weiner for Bush-Bashing Defense of Obamanomics

My latest NewsRealBlog post:

You want a surefire way to cause a cable news stir? Just pit old foes like Sean Hannity and Rep. Anthony Weiner against each other, throw in Rep. Michele Bachmann for good measure, and voila! The battle gets picked up by everyone from Mediaite and The Blaze to News Hounds and the Huffington Post.

Last night’s topic of debate was the United States’ current financial mess:

HANNITY: All right, Congressman, here’s why we are in this position. This is just a fact. You had both Houses of Congress last year — run by the Democrats. You had White House. You guys didn’t pass a budget. It is your responsibility. You should have passed the budget. You didn’t pass a budget. Now we find ourselves at this impasse.

All the Democrats are offering — it’s $4.5 billion in cuts. We have a $1.65 trillion deficit this year, after nearly three trillion of Obama debt in his first two years. And we also have, you know, $3.7 trillion budget.

You can’t find more than $4.5 billion to cut?

WEINER: Well, frankly, let’s get the history right. The Bush administration drove the economy into a cliff and we’ve been digging out ever since.

HANNITY: Blah, blah, blah.

(CROSSTALK)

WEINER: Well, let me answer the question. It’s true we also did add a trillion dollars of additional debt and deficit by giving tax cuts to millionaires and billionaires — something many of us opposed. But the fact is, if you look at the president’s budget –

Once again, Bush Derangement Syndrome rears its ugly head. We’re in Barack Obama’s third year as president; it’s remarkable that Democrats still don’t feel embarrassed to lay the blame for all of America’s woes, including the Obama job losses, at the feet of his predecessor. If you still think Obama has little to do with all the red ink we’re drowning in, check out this post at Maggie’s Notebook, which highlights a couple unnerving analyses of Obama’s fiscal policies. They point out that Obama’s gotten credit for the repayment of TARP loans that should go to Bush, and that “the latest Obama budget is his third straight budget calling for over a $1 trillion in spending – which no other president has ever done, and in fact no president has even asked for half that. And get this: Anderson says Obama’s three year spending binge is 37% higher than G.W.’s ENTIRE 8-YEAR PRESIDENCY.” (I’ve tackled Obama’s drunken-sailor ways before here.)

Read the rest at NewsRealBlog. 

New on NewsReal – Shock: Media Matters Catches Political Talker Talking Politics

My latest NewsRealBlog post:

Discussing perceived political angles to tragedies, especially as they’re happening, is always touchy. Even if there is a valid policy observation to be made, you’re opening yourself up to ready-made accusations of insensitivity, partisanship, and opportunism. So it should come as little surprise that the leftist smear merchants at Media Matters are raking Sean Hannity over the coals for a “five-minute Obama-bashing session” during his coverage of the disaster in Japan:

HANNITY: Apparently, the president was groggy when he answered that call, because on Saturday, hours after the quake struck, he went golfing. And later that evening he attended a dinner with members of the mainstream Obama-mania media. And today, the president spent his afternoon filling out his NCAA brackets for ESPN […]

DANA PERINO, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He probably feels like if he would succumb to all the pressure, to comment on everything, he wouldn’t have time even to go to the bathroom. But what surprises me is –

HANNITY: You mean he wouldn’t have time to shoot hoops?

PERINO: Well — shoot hoops, play golf — but the other thing is, remember, from the communication standpoint what they’ve done. Today, he did three interviews, with regional news outlets in key battle ground states for 2012. I mean, they are starting very, very early. He still has yet I believe to do an interview with NHK which is the main news outlet for Japan. How reassuring it would be for the Japanese to hear from the president right now.

Another communications points, Steve, is in January, when Representative Gabrielle Giffords was shot, that morning President Obama put out a photograph from him in the White House situation room, even after we knew it was lone gunman, I mean, the situation room?

And then Saturday, their only communications was a radio address on the Paycheck Fairness Act, which had obviously been taped days before and they’re not going to change it, and his video of him playing golf.

On the one hand, I don’t want to see conservatives taking this line of attack too far. As we’ve discussed before, presidents are never really off-duty. And while it certainly doesn’t speak well of Obama’s PR team that nobody thought the president’s current schedule of sports, photo ops, and vacations would look improper when juxtaposed against foreign deaths and devastation, the fact is that there’s just not much for the President of the United States’ to do about overseas natural disasters.

Read the rest on NewsRealBlog.

New on NewsReal – Astro-Turfed Talk Radio? Hannity, Limbaugh & Beck Accused of Faking Callers

My latest NewsRealBlog post:

Not content to belittle conservative talk show hosts as merely greedy or hateful, leftists have seized upon a recent report in Tablet Magazine to cast them as liars who are scamming their own audiences, as well. The piece reveals a service offered by radio syndicate Premiere Radio, which offers to supply hosts with fake callers, the insinuation being that the next time you hear an enthusiastic fan sing Glenn Beck’s praises, or an idiotic liberal effortlessly dispatched by Sean Hannity, the whole thing might be artificial:

“Premiere On Call is our new custom caller service,” read the service’s website, which disappeared as this story was being reported (for a cached version of the site click here). “We supply voice talent to take/make your on-air calls, improvise your scenes or deliver your scripts. Using our simple online booking tool, specify the kind of voice you need, and we’ll get your the right person fast. Unless you request it, you won’t hear that same voice again for at least two months, ensuring the authenticity of your programming for avid listeners.”

Gustav Wynn at the left-wing OpEdNews.com reports that the Big Three—Rush Limbaugh, Hannity, and Beck—have all unequivocally denied that they’ve ever had actors call their shows, but he’s pretty sure that something fishy is afoot anyway:

Limbaugh sharply rebuked the suggestion, decrying media coverage of the article and denying he had ever used actors on his show as he tried to dissociate himself from the service and any possibility that he staged calls. One could even witness his brain switch gears as he begins to ask his own call screener if he was in on it. This demonstrates how quickly Rush would attempt to insulate himself should it be uncovered someone else was assigning actors to call his show, perhaps in “common purpose”.


So merely by defending himself, Limbaugh implies he’s got something to hide. Why? He just does. After all, he’s Rush Limbaugh.

Next, about 2:06 into the clip he says “over the years” people have “come to him with ideas” to “get in the act” but he “shot it down”. Okay, is this shades of Governor Walker? Who in Rush’s circle of prospective collaborators came to him with these ideas? We don’t know. He didn’t say, protecting their identities from the very listeners he was trying to assuage.

Cheap shot at the Scott Walker-Koch brothers non-story aside, let me remind Mr. Wynn that we don’t subpoena people every time we get a whiff that somebody may have approached them with a bad idea in private.  If we did, we’d never have time to go after real impropriety.

Read the rest on NewsRealBlog.

New on NewsReal – Shepard Smith Goes Nuclear on GOP "Grinches" Over 9/11 Health Bill

My latest NewsRealBlog post:

Many outlets, including the Huffington Post, Mediaite, and the Examiner, are increasingly taking notice of Fox News anchor (and longtime left-wing drama queen) Shepard Smith for his alleged courage and principle in distancing himself from the rest of the channel’s right-wing propagandizing. He’s currently being lauded for having taken up the cause of a controversial bill to provide medical care for 9/11 first responders, angrily unloading on Republican Grinches who would dare steal Christmas from American heroes:

We’re able to put a 52 story building so far down there at Ground Zero, we’re able to pay for tax cuts for billionaires who don’t need them and it’s not going to stimulate the economy. But we can’t give health care to Ground Zero first responders who ran right into the fire? Went down there to save people? Do people know what this city was like that day? People were walking over bridges, they were covered in ash, they were running for their lives, they were crying, their family members were dead. And these people ran to Ground Zero to save people’s lives. And we’re not going to even give them medicine for the illnesses they got down there? It’s disgusting, it’s a national disgrace, it’s a shame and everybody who voted against should have to stand up and account for himself or herself.

The Examiner’s Elliot Levin compares Smith to several of his Fox News colleagues, including Sean Hannity, who has endorsed the bill’s purpose but expressed reservations about the particulars, such as concern for potential abuse by illegal immigrants, suspicion about the Democrats’ refusal to pass it via simple majority in the House when they had the chance, and scorn for Rep. Anthony Weiner’s unwillingness to allow that reading a bill might be an important prerequisite for supporting it. Levin says:

While Fox’s primtime lineup of Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, and to a lesser degree, Greta Van Susstren, are all card-carrying Republicans and openly use their shows to press a conservative agenda, Smith, who anchors the 3pm and 7pm shows, is well-known and liked throughout the TV news world for his passionate and apolitical perspectives.

He has also broken away from the typical conservative line in the past on issues such as torture.
Smith is at his best when it comes to hard news stories, such as car chases, wars, and natural disasters, but when he steps into politics he epitomizes the Fox News slogan of ‘fair and balanced,’ speaking his mind regardless of what his fellow anchors may be saying or believing.

Smith’s caterwauling certainly makes good on the “balance” part of the Fox promise, but “fair” is questionable.

Read the rest at NewsRealBlog.

New at NewsReal – Media Matters Grasps at Straws Trying to Pit Hannity Against Bush

My latest NewsRealBlog post:

Attempting to paint one political opponent as undermining another is an especially tempting line of political attack, sometimes so tempting that a propagandist will settle for the most contorted, threadbare argument to that effect. Such is the case with Media Matters’ latest attack on Sean Hannity. Seizing upon Hannity’s latest interview with GOP Congressman Steve King about Congress’ current tax bickering, Media Matters claims to have caught Hannity admitting that the Bush tax cuts were “madness”:

Speaking with Rep. Steve King about the estate tax, Hannity made the following complaint:

HANNITY: If you died last year it was 45 percent, if you die this year it’s zero percent, if you die next year, it could be 55 percent: Only Washington could think of this madness. 

That’s so true. Only in Washington could such a crazy plan be hatched. Only in the Bush White House, to be specific. Bush, and a Republican led Congress chose to have the Bush tax cuts “sunset” on the last day of 2010, largely because Republicans neglected to propose any way to pay for the hugely expensive cuts, and letting them expire after nine years mitigated the enormous price-tag that accompanied these cuts (because price estimates are calculated over a 10-year period). 

First, our leftist friends apparently hope none of their readers will stop to think about what a sunset provision is. Sunset provisions set a date by which a measure will expire, unless it’s reauthorized. Note well the last part: politicians know when something is going to happen well in advance, and have to act to decide whether or not to do anything about it.

Read the rest at NewsRealBlog.

New on NewsReal – NewsHounds’ Spitballs Couldn’t Hit the Broad Side of Sean Hannity’s Mansion

My latest NewsRealBlog post:
Remember NewsHounds? These Fox-hating peddlers of arguments that are really, really lame even by lefty standards (the most spectacular of which was falsely accusing Johnny Dollar’s Place of supporting plagiarism using one of my own quotes) never seem to run out of spitballs to shoot at Sean Hannity. In the blog’s latest petty attack, Ellen pulls Hannity over for a TWR—Talking While Rich:

In his Great American Panel segment Friday night (12/3/10), one of many discussions in which Hannity whined about the unfair tax burden on the rich, Hannity asked, “So does the issue of class warfare… does this work, is this a winner for the Democrats?”

Frank Donatelli, GOPAC chairman, said no, but that it would “mobilize the liberal base… It just drives them crazy… They’re demanding tax increases on the most productive citizens.”


Of course, Hannity did not consider THAT class warfare.

Er, no. Talking about class warfare is not engaging in class warfare. Leftists are so pathetically desperate to paint conservatives as hypocrites that they’ll settle for anything, no matter how little sense it makes. Ellen might throw around “class warfare” to describe simply bringing up the subject of wealth in the context of one’s political opponents, but the term actually means something: pitting one economic class against another, urging one to hate and resent the other simply for having more. To demonstrate, I give you…Ellen’s own words.

Read the rest at NewsRealBlog.