During last night’s CNN Las Vegas Republican presidential debate, Carly Fiornia continued on with her fearlessly mendacious approach. In my hot take, I wrote, “Lastly, big loser, Carly Fiorina. She’s not adding to debate except as obvious female attack dog. Too far removed from facts to be effective.”
To wit, Fiorina’s attempt to attack President Obama as a weak leader hated by generals, all of whom she claimed to know and implied she could get back to work lickity split, was rated “Mostly False” by Politifact.
Fiorina claimed she would defeat ISIL by being a tough commander in chief who waged war by making tough calls and bringing back the “warrior class” of generals who retired early because they told Obama things he didn’t want to hear.
“To wage war, we need a commander in chief who has made tough calls in tough times and stood up to be held accountable over and over, not first-term senators who’ve never made an executive decision in their life. One of the things I would immediately do, in addition to defeating them here at home, is bring back the warrior class — Petraeus, McChrystal, Mattis, Keane, Flynn. Every single one of these generals I know. Every one was retired early because they told President Obama things that he didn’t want to hear.”
Politifact noted that General Keane resigned in 2003. He never served under President Obama, so that’s awkward. It is hard to tell a President things he didn’t want to hear when you weren’t serving during his seven years. Not even for a minute.
General David Petraeus retired in 2011 because President Obama nominated him to head the CIA, and he left to take that position. Which is sort of like leaving due to telling Obama things he didn’t want to hear, but not at all. Petraeus was later busted for sharing classified information with a woman he was having an affair with, so he resigned in 2012. (Ironically, Republicans also kept suggesting with parsed words that didn’t actually accuse Hillary Clinton of doing this, but implied and led and suggested it. So bad when Clinton does it in their imagination, but totes Obama’s fault when General Petraeus does it whilst breaking his martial vows. Family values loving the troops!)
General Stanley McChrystal got a lot of what he recommended to the White House, even though many of President Obama’s national security team disagreed with his troop surge call. Politifact notes it was Vice President Biden who disagreed with the General. But as anyone who wasn’t living under a rock or Fox News stupor knows, McChrystal made the grievous error of letting a Rolling Stone reporter embed with him and not realizing that the things he and his staff said would be quoted. And he/they said really stupid things about Biden and other top administration leaders. He was insubordinate, a thing that most Republicans wouldn’t tolerate for a minute but suddenly were totally cool with so long as it was a Democratic administration being treated with public contempt.
President Obama didn’t find that behavior suitable (and seriously, if you’re ego is big enough to demonstrate insubordination of your boss to a reporter, repeatedly, you really can’t be trusted with the enemy) and thus he fired the General from his post.
Politfact partially gives Fiorina this in what can only be described as a stretch. They say Obama did mostly what McChrystal wanted, so that’s a no to Fiorina, but “We can’t know the complete inside story, but the immediate issue that cost McChrystal his job wasn’t that he spoke up, but that he spoke too publicly.”
I would have to disagree and say that he was clearly not fit for duty. His judgement was way off and marred by hubris and ego, and that is too dangerous for someone in his position. The resulting article was also alarming for other reasons, so it’s hard to see this as he said mean things about Biden and got canned. And Biden isn’t Obama.
Now to the two who might fit Fiorina’s claim:
1) General James Mattis:Politifact notes that they can’t know, but “it seems possible that Mattis was removed over policy differences.”
Possible isn’t proven. so it’s still a bit of a stretch as to be a fact, it should be proven. But this is the world of fact-checking Republicans, we have to give them any bone we can. So if it can’t be disproven, it goes into the might category.
2) Politifact says Lieutenant General Michael Flynn’s “management style and strategic plans put him at odds with his bosses, importantly, Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers.” So that’s like Obama, but not but okay, Fiorina is getting another bone, as they determine “Flynn’s story largely aligns with Fiorina’s message.”
It’s a stretch. There’s not a direct Obama link here and she didn’t say “Obama administration”.
Fiorina is on solid ground with only two of her examples, and also indicated an Obama involvement that is not proven. That’s shaky enough to rate this claim Mostly False.
This specific departure from facts goes in the Republican category of Imaginary Obama. This is the false construct Republicans have built up about President Obama and keep trying to hit him with, and failing. They fail because there isn’t any truth to it. They might not like Obama’s approach, but no one who is dealing with reality can claim that Obama, who got Osama, is weak. Or that Obama, who managed during his alleged “lame duck” seventh year in office, to procure historic deals on Iran and climate change, is so weak no one wants to deal with him.
Republicans have these ideas because they are clinging to what worked for them in the ’60s and beyond. For many years, Republicans have sailed on easy street as the only big daddies who could keep us safe, the grown ups, the tough guys. But that image started to unravel under George W. Bush’s feckless leadership and President Obama took that narrative and crushed it ever so genteelly but steely, as he is wont to do.
The only reason Fiorina is on the stage is so that she can attack Hillary Clinton with a “get out of sexism charges” free card, because Republicans foolishly show their own failure to get it by still operating under the failed belief that a woman can’t be a sexist, even when she’s advocating for sexist policies.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.