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December 4, 2008
Notes from the Pentagon

Rush on withdrawal
Radio talk-show host and conservative political commentator Rush Limbaugh predicted in a speech last week that Democrats will back down from their pledge to rapidly withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq. Mr. Limbaugh was in town to give the annual Winston Churchill lecture at a dinner hosted by Hillsdale College.

Mr. Limbaugh said he is confident Democrats and President-elect Barack Obama will reverse course on campaign promises of an immediate troop withdrawal from Iraq because they do not want to be politically saddled with a military defeat.

In recent comments, Mr. Obama and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates have backed away from saying there will be a rapid troop pullout from Iraq, noting that military commanders must be consulted.

Mr. Limbaugh also said that, for him, the "jury is still out" on Mr. Obama's coming presidency, but noted that, so far, the new administration is shaping up as "Clinton administration three."

Numerous officials from the Clinton administration -- including Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, and former Deputy Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. -- have been named to key slots or are part of the Obama transition team.

On the election, the influential radio host criticized Sen. John McCain and his presidential campaign for saying the wrong things. "We could have beaten the guy," Mr. Limbaugh said of Mr. Obama.

He also fired off criticism of the Republican Party, which he said had become "elitist" and has lost its way from the pro-freedom, pro-individual-liberty agenda of President Reagan.

Mr. Limbaugh recalled during his remarks how one of the highlights of last summer's Republican National Convention was the rousing speech early in the convention by former Sen. Fred Thompson, Tennessee Republican, who criticized Washington bureaucrats.

Mr. Limbaugh said that while he normally does not intervene directly in Republican Party politics, during the convention he e-mailed Republican adviser Mary Matalin. He said he asked her to please urge Mr. McCain not to brag to the conventioneers during his acceptance speech about "working with Democrats."

The advice was ignored. Mr. McCain boasted to the convention of his record of working closely with Democrats in the Senate.

"[House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi never talks about how she can work with Republicans," Mr. Limbaugh said.

Speaking at a dinner at the Mayflower Hotel, the conservative talk-show host, whose public appearances are rare, said the solution for conservatives is to revert to their Reagan roots.

FCC probe
Retired military officers who go on television to explain the war on terror are fighting back against a federal-government investigation prompted by complaints from two senior House Democrats.

The Federal Communications Commission probe began in November when the agency sent letters to 19 talking heads. It told them they may have violated the law by not disclosing their defense-industry employment as they explained -- and sometimes promoted -- the war on terror.

Special correspondent Rowan Scarborough obtained the indignant response to the FCC from one former officer -- retired Army Col. C. Kenneth Allard, who went on MSNBC to talk about the war. He now teaches at the University of Texas, San Antonio.

"Your investigation appears to have been organized and conducted in ways that directly contravene the First Amendment," Col. Allard wrote to the FCC. "It is hard to imagine a 'chilling effect' more pernicious than the use of your regulatory powers to threaten both networks and individuals, particularly when the basis for suspicion arises from a single and highly questionable journalistic source."

He was referring to a New York Times article that told of how the Pentagon under former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld gave special briefings to on-air analysts. Col. Allard wrote a book on the system -- "Warheads: Cable News and the Fog of War" -- and says he spoke to the Times reporter for the story.

Two House Democrats, Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro of Connecticut and Rep. John Dingell of Michigan, wrote the FCC demanding an investigation after the New York Times story appeared.

Col. Allard said he thinks the letter is just a prelude to what Democrats really want: the FCC reactivation of the 1949 Fairness Doctrine, which empowers the federal government to monitor radio and TV broadcasts. FCC monitors can force broadcasters to add certain points of view. The Reagan administration ended the policy.

Conservatives say the Democrats' goal is not fairness, but a mechanism for regulating talk radio, which is overwhelmingly conservative.

Mr. Dingell and Miss DeLauro say the issue is that on-air commentators need to follow the law. They want the FCC to determine if any of them received payments from defense contractors in return for advocating the war or a type of weapon. If they did, under federal rules, they should have disclosed their business ties to the station, and the station should have disclosed it to viewers.

FCC spokesman Clyde Enslin declined to comment to Inside on Ring on the probe's status, except to say, "This is a matter that is open and is pending before the commission. I don't know if I can be any more specific than that."

The Pentagon inspector general also is reviewing the briefing program that was halted by Defense Secretary Robert. M. Gates.

Iranian missiles
The Pentagon this week declined to confirm reports that Iran has tripled the number of medium-range ballistic missiles, but continues to warn that the Iranian missile threat to Israel and Europe is growing.

A defense-intelligence official would not confirm reports about the missile buildup.

Israel's Channel 10 and the Jerusalem Post reported Dec. 8 that the number of Iranian missiles has tripled in recent months. In early 2008, Iran had deployed some 30 Shahab-3 missiles and currently claims to have over 100 missiles capable of hitting Israel.

In response to questions on Iran's missiles, a defense official noted that the Defense Intelligence Agency director, Lt. Gen. Michael D. Maples, said earlier this year that "Iran continues to develop and acquire ballistic missiles that can hit Israel and central Europe, including Iranian claims of an extended-range variant of the Shahab-3 and a new 2,000-km medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) called the Ashura."

The deadliness of Iranian missiles also is increasing with "accuracy improvements and new submunition payloads," Gen. Maples said.

Reports of the Iranian missile buildup come amid growing concerns that Israel is contemplating a pre-emptive attack on underground Iranian nuclear facilities.

Gates' affiliation
As the highest-ranking political holdover for the new Obama administration, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates recently disclosed that while he considers himself a Republican, he has not registered for either major party.

The defense secretary, a former career CIA intelligence analyst and former CIA director, was asked by a reporter whether he was a Republican or Democrat and said: "I felt, when I was at CIA, that as a professional intelligence officer, like a military officer, I should be apolitical, and so I didn't register with a party. I consider myself a Republican. Until yesterday, all of [my] senior appointments have been under Republican presidents."

Mr. Gates was also deputy national security adviser at the White House under President George H.W. Bush.

  • Bill Gertz covers national security affairs. He can be reached at 202/636-3274, or at

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