UPDATE: Scherer has responded. My response to his response is here.
Under the header "Dodgy Politics: Using Old Votes to Obscure Current Policies," Time's Michael Scherer unsuccessfully debunks a claim Barack Obama didn't make in order to accuse the Democratic candidate of offering misleading criticisms of John McCain.
In the last couple days, Obama has shown an increased enthusiasm for playing this same dodgy game. ... In the first [ad], Obama says that McCain voted three times to privatize Social Security, and that he is willing to risk the nation's retirement program on the risky stock market. Now, it is true that McCain did support President Bush's effort to privatize a portion of Social Security. But it is not true that McCain is running for president on a platform of turning Social Security over to Wall Street.
I'm sure the McCain campaign appreciates Scherer's statement that "it is not true that McCain is running for president on a platform of turning Social Security over to Wall Street." But that statement is completely irrelevant to the ad Scherer purports to debunk. See, the ad doesn't say McCain is running on such a platform. It says McCain has voted in favor of privatization in the past, and supported Bush's privatization plan. Which Scherer acknowledges is true. But it doesn't accuse McCain of "running on" turning Social Security over to Wall Street; Scherer made that up in order to debunk it.
Scherer then quoted from McCain's web page:
Here is what his campaign says: "John McCain supports supplementing the current Social Security system with personal accounts -- but not as a substitute for addressing benefit promises that cannot be kept. John McCain will reach across the aisle to address these challenges, but if the Democrats do not act, he will."
But that doesn't really tell us anything. It certainly doesn't debunk anything in the Obama ad, since it is so vague as to be basically meaningless. It simply says he will "act" (how?) to address "benefit promises that cannot be kept" (how?) But to the extent that it does say something, it reiterates McCain's support for "personal accounts." That's the phrase Republicans turned to when their pollsters told them that "privatization" is wildly unpopular.
Indeed, multiple times this year, McCain has reiterated his support for "personal savings accounts" in which workers could "put part of their salary, part of their taxes into Social Security, into an account with their name on it."
That's Social Security privatization - or it was before the Republicans began browbeating reporters into calling it something else. So, John McCain has, multiple times during his presidential campaign, advocated allowing workers to divert part of their Social Security payroll taxes into private accounts. And yet Time's Michael Scherer insists that "it is not true that McCain is running for president on a platform of turning Social Security over to Wall Street" - a rebuttal to a claim that isn't present in the Obama ad Scherer pretends to debunk.
The result of all this is not only that Scherer has baselessly accused Obama of dishonesty. The bigger problem may be that Scherer made McCain's position on Social Security privatization less clear. Rather than explaining what McCain has done about the topic in the past, and quoting McCain's campaign statements, Scherer simply quoted a vague position paper statement and falsely asserted that McCain hasn't talked about private accounts during the campaign. In his rush to play "gotcha" on an ad, Scherer left his readers with little understanding of what McCain actually has said and done about Social Security privatization.
Rush Limbaugh baselessly asserted that "Sarah Palin's emails, personal emails, have been hacked, no doubt by Obama thugs." Limbaugh also repeated the claim that Sen. Barack Obama's campaign "dropped 30 people up there in Alaska trying to dig up dirt on" Palin, a claim Obama and Democratic officials have reportedly denied.
On his radio show, G. Gordon Liddy and his guest, Obama Nation author Jerome Corsi, each repeated the discredited claim that Sen. Barack Obama has not produced a birth certificate establishing his U.S. citizenship. In fact, FactCheck.org reported that the Obama campaign provided its staff with Obama's original birth certificate and concluded that it "meets all of the requirements from the State Department for proving U.S. citizenship," and even WorldNetDaily.com, the right-wing website for which Corsi works as a staff reporter, has reported that a "WND investigation into Obama's birth certificate utilizing forgery experts also found the document to be authentic."
The AP put out an article advancing the baseless assumption that Michelle Obama was referring to Gov. Sarah Palin when Obama "asked voters Thursday to make their choice on the issues, not because ... 'she's cute' " -- even though the article specifically noted that Obama followed her statement by saying, "I'm talking about me," and that Obama "did not talk about Palin directly in her remarks."
The New York Post falsely claimed that the results of a Wisconsin Advertising Project analysis stating that in a recent week Sen. Barack Obama ran more negative ads than Sen. John McCain "clash with recent media coverage accusing McCain of distorting Obama's record in ads." In fact, the analysis reportedly "do[es]n't measure the veracity of the ads"; rather, in the words of the San Francisco Chronicle's Joe Garofoli, it "define[s] 'negative' as any time you mention the opponent's name." Thus, the analysis did not "clash" with recent media reports noting that McCain's ads distorted Obama's record because it reportedly did not analyze whether the ads contained distortions.
Can the $9 million raised tonight by Obama at that Beverly Hills Barbra Streisand celebrity fundraiser possibly win him as many votes as the bad publicity from the fundraiser is losing him? I don't think so.
How many people does Mickey Kaus think would have otherwise voted for Barack Obama, but will either stay home or vote for John McCain because Barbra Streisand sang at a fundraiser for Obama?
We're a nation at war, with a collapsing economy and a President who views the Constitution as little more than a set of recommendations -- and Mickey Kaus thinks voters are going to vote against a candidate because Barbra Streisand had a fundraiser for him? Why would Slate publish someone who has such obvious contempt for his readers?
Editor & Publisher looks at how actual campaign reporting has made something of a comeback this election cycle.
On her syndicated Christian radio talk show, Jan Markell hosted "former Muslim" Nonie Darwish, who claimed that "whether he believes in Islam or not," Sen. Barack Obama is a "political Muslim" who, as a child, was "immersed in a culture that was anti-American." She also stated that "Obama was influenced by" Islam, which she called "a very political" and "not a true religion."
Blog posts by The New York Times and Reuters quoted Sen. John McCain criticizing Sen. Barack Obama for attending a Hollywood fundraiser without noting reports that McCain himself has recently held lucrative fundraisers in Beverly Hills and Miami.
Naomi Foner at Huffington Post offers up some advice to SNL:
In a time of great political turmoil it seems almost essential that these creative, funny people step up to their responsibility to make people think. They can still be funny. Jon Stewart is funny. Stephen Colbert is funny. That Was The Week That Was was funny. But also relevant. Choose your style. Entertain. SIng. Dance. But stir the pot.
Note that SNL writers said they included Hillary Clinton in last week's Sarah Palin skit because they were more comfortable making fun of both political parties. Cutting edge, eh?
Brian Beutler argues that, despite the focus by some media on how the present dire economic situation will "affect the electoral prospects of the presidential candidates," actual voters probably want more useful information:
From where I sit, though, we're witnessing a series of events that might lead to a fundamental restructuring of the financial sector--risk tolerance, jurisdictions of federal agencies, closing loopholes in existing regulations, etc--and voters might also want to know how these guys have voted on related issues, which one was best buds with Charles Keating, and so on.
On Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, host Bill O'Reilly said that Sen. Barack Obama's wife, Michelle Obama, "looks like an angry woman."
Just said the press turned on McCain because he's no longer bashing conservatives. The far-right press critic dismissed the idea that it's because the press has been turned off by the falsehoods being churned out by the McCain campaign. And Goldberg said the fact that McCain has completely eliminated his interaction with the campaign press has played no role in the tone of the media coverage.
Best line: Goldberg claimed McCain would be getting much better press if he'd picked "liberal Democrat" Joe Lieberman as his running mate.