Yesterday, Marc Ambinder said it was "scuzzy" for the Obama campaign to bring up Keating Five -- while avoiding any such description of the McCain campaign's attacks on Obama over Bill Ayers and Jeremiah Wright. Today, Ambinder again offers a bizarre complaint about Democrat's campaign criticisms.
McCain's own policy chief said that McCain might cut Medicare and Medicaid. So while Dems do demagogue this issue, pointing out that McCain wants to cut Medicaid and Medicare isn't out of bounds. And if McCain wants to keep his goal of balancing the budget, those cuts would have to be deep.
So, it "isn't out of bounds" to point out that "McCain wants to cut Medicaid and Medicare." And those "cuts would have to be deep" if McCain is to follow-through on his plan to balance the budget. And yet "Dems do demagogue this issue."
Ambinder doesn't bother to explain how Democrats "demagogue" the issue. Indeed, his post seems to undermine the assertion rather than support it.
David Gregory just interviewed McCain spokesperson Nicole Wallace on MSNBC, and kept asking her if McCain would bring up Bill Ayers tonight. When Wallace criticized Ayers, that's how Gregory responded - by asking if McCain would make those same points tonight.
That's just an inept question. All it does is give Wallace a chance to bash Obama. And there's no upside: who cares what Nicole Wallace says at 6 pm about whether McCain will bring something up at 9 pm? We'll find out whether he will soon enough.
The blindingly obvious question would have been to ask Wallace about McCain's ties to Gordon Liddy, who served four and a half years in prison as a result of his role in Watergate, plotted to murder journalist Jack Anderson and Howard Hunt and to firebomb the Brookings Institution, and who instructed radio audiences in the 1990s to shoot federal law enforcement agents and bragged that he named his own shooting targets after Bill and Hillary Clinton. McCain and Liddy are buddies.
Of course, Gregory didn't do that. Instead of asking her about McCain's own close ties to criminals, Gregory just invited her to attack Obama.
UPDATE: Now David Gregory is sitting there as former Nixon aide Pat Buchanan attacks Obama over Ayers. Surely Gregory will ask Pat Buchanan about McCain & Liddy? No.
Mark Halperin carries water for the McCain campaign in an interview with Obama strategist Robert Gibbs, repeatedly asking Gibbs if Barack Obama thinks it is "appropriate" to have "associations" with a "terrorist," in reference to Bill Ayers.
So when will Halperin ask the same questions of the McCain campaign about McCain's relationship with Gordon Liddy?
It's rather amusing to listen to major media figures ponder the question of whether John McCain will be able to successfully change the subject away from the economy and towards controversial figures Barack Obama has met. It's entertaining, of course, because the media figures treat this as something they have nothing to do with -- as if the political discourse is some kind of independent animal, which news outlets are powerless to control.
The reality is, McCain wants the political world to obsess over the three-headed Ayers-Rezko-Wright monster, and it will be successful if the media decides the three-headed monster is suddenly newsworthy. There's no great mystery here. In fact, the pundits' speculation is silly -- if they follow McCain's orders, and talk about what he wants them to talk about, McCain's plan will be a triumph; if not, it won't.
The thing a lot of journalists don't seem to understand is that they don't have to cover attacks about Bill Ayers.
If they have concluded that Obama's non-friendship with a Chicago education activist who did controversial things 40 years ago when Obama was a child isn't as important as, say, the economy, there's nothing compelling them to cover Ayers. Nothing at all. The fact that John McCain or his surrogates want reporters to talk about Ayers doesn't mean they have to do so. "Journalism" doesn't mean "doing what John McCain wants you to do."
Candidates say thousands of words every day. The media ignores the vast majority of them. What makes MSNBC think they are required to broadcast the couple of dozen words Sarah Palin says about Bill Ayers? Particularly when she said the same couple of dozen words yesterday, too?
So we have the bizarre situation where reporters talk about things like Bill Ayers, all the while suggesting that things like Ayers are "distractions." Right! So ... stop!
If a reporter honestly thinks that with fewer than 30 days to go before election day -- and with early voting already underway in many states -- Bill Ayers is one of the most important things for voters to hear about, fine. He or sh should cover Ayers. But reporters who think that the economy, health care, war, terrorism, and the Constitution are more important should just cover those things. It doesn't matter if the candidates aren't talking about them -- reporters don't work for campaigns.
Is that really so hard to understand?
MSNBC's David Gregory reported Gov. Sarah Palin's assertion that Sen. Barack Obama has been "palling around with terrorists" without noting Palin's distortion of The New York Times article she used to make her claim, or that the Obama campaign issued a statement rebutting the claim.
On Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, Sean Hannity repeatedly cited Sen. Barack Obama's 2007 remark that "[w]e've got to get the job done there [in Afghanistan] and that requires us to have enough troops so that we're not just air-raiding villages and killing civilians, which is causing enormous pressure over there," calling the statement a "lie." Hannity did not note that Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently offered Afghans "sincere condolences and personal regrets for the recent loss of innocent life as a result of coalition airstrikes" and that news outlets have repeatedly reported that U.S. airstrikes in Afghanistan have resulted in civilian casualties.
On Fox News' Hannity's America, Sean Hannity hosted Andy Martin -- identified by Hannity as an "Internet journalist" -- who made what Hannity called "the explosive claim that [Sen. Barack] Obama's role as a community organizer was a political staging ground perpetuated by the unrepentant terrorist William Ayers." At no point during the segment did Hannity note Martin's history of smears against Obama or Martin's history of anti-Semitic and racially charged comments.
Today's Meredith Vieira twice suggested that an Obama campaign ad describing Sen. John McCain as "erratic in crisis" is a reference to McCain's age. She did not note that the "erratic" characterization, in fact, comes from a USA Today editorial cited in the ad, which referred to McCain's response to the economic crisis on Wall Street as "erratic." Further, at least two of Vieira's colleagues at MSNBC, Joe Scarborough and Chris Matthews, also said McCain's actions could be perceived as erratic.
Matt Yglesias points out that tonight's debate may be a "Town Hall," but moderator Tom Brokaw, not the audience, will pick the questions:
In essence, Tom Brokaw and his staff will be asking the questions. They're sifting through a big group of people, and their pre-set questions, and picking the questions they like. Meanwhile, though, Brokaw and co. get to evade responsibility for the questions if people don't like them — it was real people asking! And no followups, so if John McCain gets a question about his plan to cut Medicare and wants to give an answer about Bill Ayers, nobody can stop him.
Remember: Brokaw was the McCain camp's choice to moderate this debate -- and is NBC's liaison to the GOP candidate.
NPR and the Los Angeles Times reported Gov. Sarah Palin's claim that Sen. Barack Obama has been "palling around with terrorists," a reference to his acquaintance with William Ayers. However, neither noted Palin's distortion of The New York Times article she cited, which reported that "the two men do not appear to be close."
On his radio show, Rush Limbaugh made numerous false statements about Obama's health-care plan, his employment history, his legislative record, his work on behalf of veterans, and whether he puts his hand over his heart during the national anthem.
On Hannity & Colmes, Sean Hannity praised Gov. Sarah Palin for citing Sen. Barack Obama's remark that more coalition forces are needed in Afghanistan "so that we're not just air-raiding villages and killing civilians, which is causing enormous pressure over there." Hannity did not note that Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently offered Afghans "sincere condolences and personal regrets for the recent loss of innocent life as a result of coalition airstrikes" and that news outlets have repeatedly reported that U.S. airstrikes in Afghanistan have resulted in civilian casualties.
Earlier today, MSNBC ran this chyron:
"Race gets personal: Willie Ayers & Keating 5 are latest topics on trail."
But Ayers' name isn't "Willie" Ayers, it's "William" Ayers. Or "Bill" Ayers. Nobody calls him "Willie."
So what's with MSNBC's chyron? Maybe they were just trying to save space? No, that can't be it - "Willie Ayers" takes up more screen real estate than "Bill Ayers." Strange.
Strange enough that we can't help recall another "William" who became "Willie" during an election year: William J. Horton. Kathleen Hall Jamieson has explained:
Although his given name is William, he calls himself William, court records cite him as William, a July 1988 Reader's Digest article identifies him as William J. Horton, Jr.,and press reports prior to the Republican ad and speech blitz name him "William," the Bush campaign and its supporting PACs identified the furloughed convict as "Willie" Horton. Even the crusading anti-Dukakis newspaper that won a Pulitzer Prize for its expose on the furlough program consistently identifies Horton as William Horton or William Horton, Jr. When the Maryland man who was stabbed by the furloughed convict contacted the Lawrence Eagle-Tribune, he too referred to Horton as William Horton. In his account of the attack in the PAC ad, however, that man, Clifford Barnes, instead identifies the convict as "Willie" Horton.
One might trace the familiar "Willie" to the naming practices of slavemasters, to our patterns of talk about gangsters, or to the sort of benign paternalism that afflicts adults around small children. Whatever its origin, in discussions of murder, kidnapping, and rape, "Willie" summons more sinister images of criminality than does "William." After all, it wasn't J. "Eddie" Hoover who hunted down "Alphonse" Capone. And during his trial, the person to that point known as Willie Smith was identified by family and attorney as either William or Will. After his acquittal on charges of rape, the family reverted to the name by which he had been known before the trial.
The televised PAC ad titled "Weekend Prison Passes," as well as the PAC ads featuring Horton's victims, all refer to him as "Willie Horton." When his mug shot appears on the screen of "Weekend Prison Passes," the name under it reads "Willie Horton." Reporters reduced Dukakis on crime to the Republican sculpted image of "Willie Horton." In news reports, "Willie" Horton's name was mentioned more often by reporters than by George Bush or any of his representatives. Use of dramatic, coherent narrative increases the likelihood of recall. Once the Horton narrative was embedded in public consciousness, mention of his name should have been sufficient to evoke the entire story.
It's probably a little scuzzy for the Obama campaign to relitigate the Keating Five -- after all, it happened seventeen years ago, McCain was never charged, and he's acknowledged misjudgment -- what more can some reasonably expect out of him?
The Obama campaign's Keating Five criticisms are factual statements about actions McCain took as a public servant - he met with regulators on behalf of his wife's business partner, who had generously funded McCain's campaigns and flew him to lavish vacations on his private jet.
The criticisms have to do with a banking collapse that was at least partially a result of deregulation, making them relevant to both the current financial situation and to McCain's general opposition to regulations. (Ambinder knows this: in a previous post, he wrote: "the Keating Five was a banking and financial scandal. So it fits better with the political environment than sudden attempts to re-raise Obama's associations with Ayers and Wright.")
And, though the Keating Five happened years ago, it's a safe bet that the majority of voters don't know key details - such as the fact that McCain's wife was a business partner of Keating's - because the media has been politely ignoring the scandal for the bulk of this campaign.
And Marc Ambinder says it's "scuzzy" for the Obama campaign to bring Keating up. That's laughable on its own merits - McCain was involved in what may be the most famous scandal in the history of the U.S. Senate, and his opponent isn't supposed to mention it? - but it is even more absurd in the context of Ambinder's reaction to recent attacks by McCain and his campaign.
In three separate posts today, Ambinder notes the McCain campaign's criticisms of Obama's relationship with Jeremiah Wright - something that had nothing to do with actions Obama took as a public servant. In none of the three does Ambinder call the criticisms "scuzzy." The closest he comes to criticizing the McCain campaign for talking about Wright is saying it doesn't fit well "with the current political environment."
Bill Ayers is mentioned at least in passing in five different Ambinder posts today. In none of them does Ambinder say it is "scuzzy" to bring Ayers up - even though the attack has nothing to do with Obama's performance as an elected official, even though Obama had nothing to do with Ayers' anti-war activities decades ago, and even though the McCain campaign has not been honest about Obama's relationship with Ayers. (Indeed, on Saturday, Ambinder repeated Sarah Palin's false description of Ayers as a "Pal" of Obama's, despite the fact that the New York Times article on which Palin based her comments specifically concluded that the two men "do not appear to have been close.")
So: The McCain campaign is attacking Barack Obama not for things he has done as an elected official, but for things people he knows have done. And they are doing so dishonestly. But Marc Ambinder thinks it is "scuzzy" for the Obama campaign to make factual statements about things John McCain himself did - his use of public office on behalf of his wife's business partner and his political and personal benefactor.
Or at least it tries to.
The newspaper's Clinton article today is relatively straight-forward report on how Clinton is pitching in to help get Democrats, and especially Barack Obama, elected in November. It details the fundraisers she'll host.
But here's the odd part, with emphasis added:
Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton has raised more than $8 million for former rival Barack Obama's presidential campaign since July and plans to barnstorm the country for even more cash, as the New York senator works to show she is aggressively helping the candidate who cut short her White House bid.
USA Today seems to suggest that Clinton isn't actually working aggressively to help Obama. She's working to show that she is helping Obama.
See the difference between the two? And see why why it's really not USA Today's place, especially since it provides no evidence to back it up, to imply Clinton's campaign work is just for show and she's simply trying to create the perception that she's helping, rather than, y'know, actually helping.
In other words, why didn't USA Today just write this:
Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton has raised more than $8 million for former rival Barack Obama's presidential campaign since July and plans to barnstorm the country for even more cash, as the New York senator works aggressively to help the candidate who cut short her White House bid.