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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Watch the Do-nut, not the hole...

It's interesting, first, that this even occurred in the second Republican candidates debate:

The most heated moment in the debate, which aired live on the conservative Fox News network, came when the former New York mayor and current GOP front-runner angrily refused to entertain a serious discussion about the role that actions taken by the United States prior to the September 11, 2OO1, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon may have played in inspiring or encouraging those attacks.

Giuliani led the crowd of contenders on attacking Texas Congressman Ron Paul (news, bio, voting record) after the anti-war Republican restated facts that are outlined in the report of the The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States.

Asked about his opposition to the invasion and occupation of Iraq, Paul repeated his oft-expressed concern that instead of making the U.S. safer, U.S. interventions in the Middle East over the years have stirred up anti-American sentiment. As he did in the previous Republican debate, the Texan suggested that former President Ronald Reagan's decisions to withdraw U.S. troops from the region in the 198Os were wiser than the moves by successive Republican and Democratic presidents to increase U.S. military involvement there.

Speaking of extremists who target the U.S, Paul said, "They attack us because we've been over there. We've been bombing Iraq for 10 years. We've been in the Middle East [for years]. I think (Ronald) Reagan was right. We don't understand the irrationality of Middle Eastern politics. Right now, we're building an embassy in Iraq that is bigger than the Vatican. We're building 14 permanent bases. What would we say here if China was doing this in our country or in the Gulf of Mexico? We would be objecting."

Paul argued that Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda are "delighted that we're over there" in Iraq, pointing out that, "They have already... killed 3,400 of our men and I don't think it was necessary."
Interesting because of how it is handled in the mainstream press. In the NYT, we learn:

Mr. Giuliani, trying to move his campaign past a week in which he has tried to convince conservatives that his positions on social issues should not disqualify him from winning the Republican nomination, repeatedly described the election as a referendum on Republican policies against terrorism, as he reminded an audience of what he had done in New York after Sept. 11. At one point, one of Mr. Giuliani’s lesser-known opponents, Representative Ron Paul of Texas, gave what turned out to be a big platform to Mr. Giuliani when he appeared to suggest that the United States invited the attacks of Sept. 11 by having originally invaded Iraq.

“May I comment on that?” Mr. Giuliani said, looking grim. “That’s really an extraordinary statement. That’s an extraordinary statement, as someone who lived through the attack of Sept. 11, that we invited the attack because we were attacking Iraq. I don’t think I’ve heard that before, and I’ve heard some pretty absurd explanations for Sept. 11.”
The New York Post, not surprisingly, calls Paul a "fringe candidate" and his comment "shocking." It doesn't bother to quote the whole statement, however, but everything Giuliani said, including his request for more time to respond, is reported. The Washington Post goes a bit further, nothing that:

Paul refused to give in, saying that terrorists react to the United States' actions in the world. "If we ignore that, we ignore that at our risk," Paul said.
NPR doesn't mention it at all.

Giuliani used that as an excuse to remind everyone he was the mayor of New York City on 9/11. Needless to say, Paul is not winning friends and influencing people in the GOP with that attitude; I doubt he'd win that many supporters in the nation as a whole with that position. Sadly, of course, it's the truth, as The Nation points out:

The 9-11 Commission report detailed how bin Laden had, in 1996, issued "his self-styled fatwa calling on Muslims to drive American soldiers out of Saudi Arabia" and identified that declaration and another in 1998 as part of "a long series" of statements objecting to U.S. military interventions in his native Saudi Arabia in particular and the Middle East in general. Statements from bin Laden and those associated with him prior to 9-11 consistently expressed anger with the U.S. military presence on the Arabian Peninsula, U.S. aggression against the Iraqi people and U.S. support of Israel.

The 9-11 Commission based its assessments on testimony from experts on terrorism and the Middle East. Asked about the motivations of the terrorists, FBI Special Agent James Fitzgerald told the commission: "I believe they feel a sense of outrage against the United States. They identify with the Palestinian problem, they identify with people who oppose repressive regimes, and I believe they tend to focus their anger on the United States."
And yes, it is all about the framing. To read the articles today, you'd think Giuliani trounced Paul's absurd "Blame America First" statement. But, again, as The Nation points out, that's not what Paul said:

It is true that reasonable people might disagree about the legitimacy of Muslim and Arab objections to U.S. military policies. And, certainly, the vast majority of Americans would object to any attempt to justify the attacks on this country, its citizen and its soldiers.

But that was not what Paul was doing. He was trying to make a case, based on what we know from past experience, for bringing U.S. troops home from Iraq.

Giuliani's reaction to Paul's comments, especially the suggestion that they should be withdrawn, marked him as the candidate peddling "absurd explanations."
And viewers on FoxNews agreed:

You Decide GOP Primary Poll Results

— 29% Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney

— 25% Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas

— 19% Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani

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