Spicer gets imaginative to defend White House’s aircraft carrier misinformation

Aaron Rupar

Aaron Rupar Journalist, Think Progress

Last week, the White House claimed that that an aircraft carrier strike group was on its way to the Korean peninsula from southern Asia, when in fact it was sailing in the opposite direction. Forced to defend that falsehood on Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer resorted to a little creative thinking.

“The president said that we have an armada going to the peninsula,” Spicer said, referring to a April 12 Fox Business interview where President Trump said, “We are sending an armada.”

But according to Spicer, Trump’s comments shouldn’t have been taken to mean the peninsula was the carrier group’s first stop. That’s convenient, because when Trump said that, the armada in question was actually sailing the opposite direction to the Indian Ocean for joint exercises — not toward North Korea to serve as a deterrent.

“That’s a fact. It happened,” Spicer said on Wednesday, before quickly correcting himself, “it is happening, rather.”

So even though Trump’s remarks and what Spicer himself suggested during his April 11 news conference weren’t true at the time — “I think when you see a carrier group steaming into an area like that, the forward presence of that is clearly, through almost every instance, a huge deterrence,” Spicer said that day — they were still ultimately validated as far as Spicer is concerned, because the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson strike group is now (allegedly) headed toward the Korean peninsula.

“PACOM [United States Pacific Command] put out a release talking about what it’s ultimate destination was going to be and that’s where it ended up,” Spicer said. “The only question that we were asked was what signal it sends, and I think we answered that very question at the time.”

Spicer’s logic has counterintuitive implications.

And his explanation won’t reassure South Koreans concerned the White House lacks credibility when it comes to deterring North Korea.

Hong Joon-pyo, the presidential candidate from former leader Park Geun-hye’s ruling party, told the Wall Street Journal that “what [Trump] said was very important for the national security of South Korea. If that was a lie, then during Trump’s term, South Korea will not trust whatever Trump says.”

Even officials from Trump’s own party were perturbed. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), said the confusion over the carrier group’s destination was “troubling.”

“Every time I have seen that map that shows where our naval assets are, believe me, the Pentagon knows exactly where they are,” she said in a radio interview. “So I suspect there was some just terrible miscommunication, but it should not have occurred.”

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This was reposted from Think Progress.

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Freight can’t wait

From the USW

From tumbledown bridges to decrepit roads and failing water systems, crumbling infrastructure undermines America’s safety and prosperity. In coming weeks, Union Matters will delve into this neglect and the urgent need for a rebuilding campaign that creates jobs, fuels economic growth and revitalizes communities.

A freight train hauling lumber and nylon manufacturing chemicals derailed, caught fire and caused a 108-year-old bridge to collapse in Tempe, Ariz., this week, in the second accident on the same bridge within a month.

The bridge was damaged after the first incident, according to Union Pacific railroad that owns the rail bridge, and re-opened two days later. 

The official cause of the derailments is still under investigation, but it remains clear that the failure to modernize and maintain America’s railroad infrastructure is dangerous. 

In 2019, 499 trains that derailed were found to have defective or broken track, roadbed or structures, according to the Federal Railroad Administration’s database of safety analysis.

While railroad workers’ unions have called for increased safety improvements, rail companies have also used technology and automation as an excuse to downsize their work forces.

For example, rail companies have implemented a cost-saving measure known as Precision Scheduled Railroading (PSR), which has resulted in mass layoffs and shoddy safety protocols. 

Though privately-owned railroads have spent significantly to upgrade large, Class I trains, regional Class II trains and local, short-line Class III trains that carry important goods for farmers and businesses still rely on state and local funds for improvements. 

But cash-strapped states struggle to adequately inspect new technologies and fund safety improvements, and repairing or replacing the aging track and rail bridges will require significant public investment.

A true infrastructure commitment will not only strengthen the country’s railroad networks and increase U.S. global economic competitiveness. It will also create millions of family-sustaining jobs needed to inspect, repair and manufacture new parts for mass transit systems, all while helping to prevent future disasters.

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work