Yesterday morning, several conservative bloggers wrote that they were “hearing” that Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) was “being threatened with closure of an air force base” in his state if he didn’t support health care reform. At 12:41 pm, the Weekly Standard’s Michael Goldfarb posted that “a Senate aide” told him the White House threatened to put “Nebraska’s Offutt Air Force Base on the BRAC list if Nelson doesn’t fall into line.” Goldfarb pointed the finger at White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel:
Offutt Air Force Base employs some 10,000 military and federal employees in Southeastern Nebraska. As our source put it, this is a “naked effort by Rahm Emanuel and the White House to extort Nelson’s vote.” They are “threatening to close a base vital to national security for what?” asked the Senate staffer.
Indeed, Offutt is the headquarters for US Strategic Command, the successor to Strategic Air Command, and not by accident. STRATCOM was located in the middle of the country for strategic reasons. Its closure would be a massive blow to the economy of the state of Nebraska, but it would also be another example of this administration playing politics with our national security.
Last night, White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer wrote on the White House blog that the “absurd rumor” of the threat was “completely baseless and false.” Nelson spokesman Jake Thompson also put out a statement, saying “The rumor is not true” and that “this misinformation is coming from inside-the-Beltway partisans who only want to derail health care reform.” Nelson himself told reporters today that no threat was made.
But these denials from all of the parties alleged to be involved have not stopped the right-wing noise machine from latching onto them. On his Fox News show today, Glenn Beck said three times that “if it is true,” it is close to “treason”:
— “There’s a story at the bottom of the hour that if it is true, and we have three sources on it now, if it is true. I mean how much closer do you get to treason?”
— “I’ve said it all along. Principles over party. Principles. Well, one senator apparently agrees with me, I think, kind of, maybe. But his party reportedly very angry and allegedly making threats. This one borders treason, I believe.”
— “But this! Using the military and our strategic command as a pawn. Threatening to weaken our national security defenses to fulfill your Utopian social justice agenda. To me that borders on treason.”
Beck acknowledged during the show that “Senator Nelson has denied this story this afternoon, the White House denies this story,” but added that “Goldfarb and the Weekly Standard are standing by their source and now two others.” He later said that Nelson “would obviously deny it to protect his party and the president.” Watch it:
Before hosting Goldfarb on his radio show today, Beck said he “called Senator Nelson’s office” and Nelson said “No, no, no. That’s not true.” In the interview, Goldfarb said that Emanuel “delivered” the “message to the Senate leadership” about Nelson and Offutt. When Beck interviewed Goldfarb later on his Fox show, Goldfarb “changed” his “story from this morning,” saying that rather than Emanuel it was “just someone in the White House.”
Bill Shine, Fox News’ Senior Vice President for Programming, has said that the network serves as the “voice of opposition” to Obama. So does Fox News condone Glenn Beck’s accusations of “treason” against Obama? Contact Bill Shine here.
Fox News White House Correspondent Mike Emanuel has posted a second statement from Pfeiffer calling the rumor “absolutely false, as the people spreading it well know.”
,The Omaha World-Herald reports that 20 Republican senators, including fellow Nebraskan Sen. Mike Johanns (R-NE), have sent a letter to the chairman and the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Forces Committee requesting a hearing on the supposed threat against Nelson.