Saturday, October 25th, 2014

PunditFact fact-checks the Aug. 31 news shows

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., right, appeared on CBS' "Face the Nation" on Aug. 31, 2014.
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., right, appeared on CBS' "Face the Nation" on Aug. 31, 2014.

President Barack Obama’s lack of a clear strategy to confront the Islamic State set off resounding frustration among Republicans Sunday.

U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., lamented Obama’s reluctance compared to tough talk from British Prime Minister David Cameron, who raised his country’s terrorism threat level to "severe" and announced new plans to seize jihadists’ passports.

"What is President Obama waiting for?" King said on CBS’ Face the Nation. "It was a year ago this all started. I remember being in the White House with (White House Chief of Staff) Denis McDonough talking about the importance of air attacks in Syria, and we had allies lined up and then the president pulled the rug out. And those allies are going to be very hard now to get back into a coalition."

We wondered if King’s modern history lesson was right: Did the United States have "allies lined up" to carry out airstrikes in Syria last year before Obama pulled the rug out?

King’s statement rates Half True.

About a year ago, the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria attacked a rebel-held area outside Damascus with chemical weapons, spurring the Obama administration to weigh a response to the crossed "red line." Leaders in France and Great Britain initially supported the idea of targeted air strikes against Syrian weapon depots and military command posts.

But the idea did not go far. Cameron lost momentum when leaders of Parliament, controlled by Cameron’s party, narrowly voted to defeat a motion to support military intervention in Syria.

Support among the other European states was equally hard to find. Italy said it would only go along if the U.N. Security Council approved the use of force (which, with veto threats from China and Russia, didn’t happen). Germany, seen as a pivotal player, was clearly against military action.

Within NATO, Turkey was a major proponent of intervention. In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia was the most eager to see an attack on Syria, a long-time political foe. Qatar and the United Arab Emirates were also on board. However, the Arab League, which includes Qatar, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, never approved a military strike.

In the end, the most significant show of unity with allies was a Sept. 6 joint statement between the United States and Australia, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom calling for "a strong international response to this grave violation of the world’s rules and conscience that will send a clear message that this kind of atrocity can never be repeated. Those who perpetrated these crimes must be held accountable."

However, a "strong international response" was never defined, and eventually even France said it wanted to wait for a final report from U.N. chemical weapons inspectors before possible airstrikes.

In the end, talk of air strikes dissipated after Russia helped broker a deal in which Syria agreed to give up its chemical weapons.

The shows carved time for other topics, too. CNN State of the Union host Candy Crowley discussed the indictment of Texas Gov. Rick Perry with another Texas Republican who’s been in a similar position: Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

DeLay, who resigned from the House in 2006, argued with Crowley about the political ties of the special prosecutor in Perry’s case, Michael McCrum. DeLay dismissed the charges against Perry as a political witch hunt.

"I guess the point is the prosecutor who brought the indictment is not a Democrat in any way anybody can see, and in fact has ties to Republicans," Crowley said.

"That’s not true. Candy, that’s not true. He has ties to Obama. He has ties to the Democrats,"Delay said.

We wanted to look into the special prosecutor’s political connections, since Crowley and DeLay seemed to be on different pages.

DeLay’s claim that McCrum has ties to Obama and Democrats is Mostly False. The fact is McCrum has loose ties to both Democrats and Republicans. Overall, he seems largely apolitical.

Judge Bert Richardson, a Republican appointee of President George W. Bush, tapped McCrum to investigate a case against Perry.

Solomon Wisenberg, a former Texas prosecutor who worked with McCrum and considers him an "old friend," called the political allegation against McCrum "pathetic on its face."

Texas news organizations that have looked into McCrum’s background have reported that McCrum does not appear to vote in primaries and has donated a few hundred dollars to a handful of Republican and Democratic campaigns. In 2007, he contributed $300 to a Republican 4th Court of Appeals candidate, $500 to a former Democratic congressman, and $500 to Richardson’s unsuccessful re-election bid as state district judge.

Obama nominated McCrum to be the U.S. attorney in San Antonio in 2009, and his nomination was called a "consensus choice" by justice trade publication Main Justice. Republican Sens. John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison as well as House Democrats supported McCrum for the job.

But McCrum withdrew his name in 2010, as the prolonged nomination process stalled his law practice.

Linda Qiu and Jon Greenberg contributed to this report. Read the full fact-checks at PunditFact.com.