Situation Room played up McCain attacks on Clinton over earmark, but didn't note his missed vote

››› ››› BRIAN LEVY

CNN's The Situation Room has reported several times on Sen. John McCain's attacks on Sen. Hillary Clinton's support for a $1 million earmark for a museum at the site of the original 1969 Woodstock music festival. But in none of its reports did CNN note that, although McCain is listed as a co-sponsor of the amendment to remove the funding for the museum, he missed the vote on the earmark.

The October 22, 25, and 26 editions of CNN's The Situation Room included reports on Sen. John McCain's (R-AZ) attacks on Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's (D-NY) support for a $1 million earmark for a museum at the Bethel Woods [NY] Center for the Arts, which, according to its website, is "at the site of the original 1969 Woodstock Festival." But in none of its reports did CNN note that although McCain is listed as a co-sponsor of the amendment to remove the funding for the Bethel Performing Arts Center, as The Washington Post noted, he "missed the vote on the earmark."

McCain was one of six senators to miss the vote to "table" -- or kill -- the amendment to remove the earmark. The motion to table the amendment failed by a vote of 52-42, and the Senate subsequently passed the amendment by unanimous consent. The McCain campaign website states that McCain had a town hall meeting scheduled in Greenville, South Carolina, at noon on October 18, the same day as the 3:37 p.m. ET motion to table.

The Washington Post reports that McCain has missed more votes than any other senator except Tim Johnson (D-SD), who spent months in the hospital and recuperating following a brain hemorrhage.

The Situation Room included three reports on McCain's attacks on Clinton without noting that McCain missed the vote on the earmark:

  • On October 22, CNN congressional correspondent Dana Bash noted that "McCain attacked Clinton for trying to spend a million dollars on a Woodstock museum" and aired the clip of McCain's comments about Woodstock at the October 21 Fox News-sponsored presidential debate: "Now, my friends, I wasn't there. I'm sure it was a cultural and pharmaceutical event. I was -- I was tied up at the time."
  • On October 25, host Wolf Blitzer said that "John McCain is using a new presidential campaign ad to draw contrast between himself and Democrat Hillary Clinton. The spot pokes fun at Clinton's support for a plan to spend $1 million to build a museum at the site of the 1969 Woodstock rock festival in New York State" while video from McCain's advertisement played behind Blitzer. Blitzer said that "[t]hat proposal was since scrapped," but did not note that McCain missed the vote.
  • On October 26, CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider aired a clip of McCain attacking the earmark at the Fox News debate, and then added that "[t]he line worked so well, his campaign has turned it into a commercial, now running in New Hampshire." Schneider then showed video from McCain's campaign commercial -- the clip from the debate that Schneider had just aired. Moments later, Schneider said that McCain had "[q]uite a formula for winning over conservatives -- highlight your service, attack Hillary Clinton, and draw sharp contrasts between the '60s counterculture and his own dramatically different experience of the '60s. And maybe that will get McCain some R-E-S-P-E-C-T."

In her October 18 Situation Room report on the Bethel Woods earmark, Bash asserted that the removal of the $1 million earmark was a "big victory" for Republicans. Bash also asserted that Woodstock is a "liberal mecca." Washington Post staff writer Joel Achenbach, reporting on the controversy over the earmark in an October 27 article, wrote: "In this rural area, the project is seen as crucial to the economic recovery of a region hammered by the closing of once-popular Borscht Belt tourist resorts."

On October 25, The Washington Post reported in its "In the Loop" column that at a lunch at the National Republican Senatorial Committee headquarters, "[a]ttendees watched a highlights reel of unfavorable news clips about Democrats, including one that brought down the house. It was CNN's report on the vote to strip a $1 million earmark for a museum honoring the Woodstock music festival, a provision that was sought by Clinton and Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.). We're told [Vice President Dick] Cheney watched with a belly laugh."

From the October 26 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

BLITZER: As Senator John McCain attempts to jump-start his campaign, he's managing to get in his own digs at Hillary Clinton. Let's bring in our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, our senior political correspondent, Candy Crowley. They're both here. We got a lot to assess. Let's start with you, Bill, first of all. On John McCain, he's trying, obviously, to make a comeback.

SCHNEIDER: He is, and he's doing it by trying to contrast two very different images of the 1960s.

[begin video clip]

SCHNEIDER: On Friday, John McCain commemorated the 40th anniversary of the day he was shot down over Hanoi and captured.

McCAIN [video clip]: Many years ago on this day, I was able to intercept a surface-to-air missile with my own airplane.

SCHNEIDER: And spent the next five and a half years as a prisoner of war, refusing to accept early release until those who were captured ahead of him were freed.

McCAIN [video clip]: I came out of the Vietnamese, quote, "hospital" in very bad condition.

SCHNEIDER: This summer, McCain's presidential campaign had its own near-death experience when it almost ran out of money. He needs to bring back the McCain of 2000, starting with the image that first brought him national prominence: service and sacrifice.

McCAIN [video clip]: In case you missed it, a few days ago Senator Clinton tried to spend $1 million on the Woodstock concert museum. Now, my friends, I wasn't there. I'm sure it was a cultural and pharmaceutical event. I was -- I was tied up at the time. But the fact is -- but the fact is --

SCHNEIDER: The line worked so well, his campaign has turned it into a commercial, now running in New Hampshire.

McCAIN [video clip]: Now, my friends, I wasn't there. I'm sure it was a cultural and pharmaceutical event. I was -- I was tied up at the time.

SCHNEIDER: McCain is hoping to turn things around, using what might be called the Aretha Franklin method.

McCAIN [video clip]: And I don't think you can fool the American people. I think the first thing you need is their respect, and I intend to earn their respect.

[end video clip]

SCHNEIDER: Quite a formula for winning over conservatives -- highlight your service, attack Hillary Clinton, and draw sharp contrasts between the '60s counterculture and his own dramatically different experience of the '60s. And maybe that will get McCain some R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

BLITZER: All right. That would be respect.

SCHNEIDER: Yes.

From the October 25 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

BLITZER: On our "Political Ticker" this Thursday: Republican John McCain is using a new presidential campaign ad to draw contrast between himself and Democrat Hillary Clinton. The spot pokes fun at Clinton's support for a plan to spend $1 million to build a museum at the site of the 1969 Woodstock rock festival in New York State.

That proposal was since scrapped. McCain notes that, during Woodstock, he was a prisoner of war in Vietnam. The ad starts airing today in New Hampshire.

From the October 22 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

BASH: John McCain attacked Clinton for trying to spend a million dollars on a Woodstock museum and used it as a reminder of his '60s experience, as a Vietnam POW.

McCAIN [video clip]: Now, my friends, I wasn't there. I'm sure it was a cultural and pharmaceutical event. I was -- I was tied up at the time.

BASH: This was [former Sen.] Fred Thompson's [R-TN] second debate, and he got the most pointed question about why he doesn't campaign more and criticism that he's lazy.

From the October 18 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

BLITZER: All of us old enough to remember Woodstock know it was much more than an outdoor rock concert. It was an event that helped define the so-called "hippie generation." Now Republicans are using it to try to define Senator Hillary Clinton and her presidential campaign -- at issue, whether creating a Woodstock museum is any way to spend Americans' money. Let's go to our congressional correspondent Dana Bash. She's watching this story for us. All right, Dana, what's going on here?

BASH: Well, there was just a vote. And Republicans had a big victory, because the Senate just voted to eliminate what Republicans call Hillary Clinton's taxpayer-funded Woodstock flashback.

[begin video clip]

[clip of Jimi Hendrix performing "Purple Haze"]

BASH: Woodstock, an event and images that define a generation. New York senators Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer want to spend one million taxpayer dollars to preserve these memories and others from the '60s in a museum. It's a million-dollar earmark tucked into a health spending bill. And Republicans are crying foul.

SEN. TOM COBURN (R-OK) [video clip]: I'm part of the hippie generation, but the question is -- is should this be a priority for this body, over the priority of women and children?

SEN. JON KYL (R-AZ) [video clip]: Gather your groovy beads, and we will see you on the lawn for a trip down memory lane. Well, a trip down memory lane be -- may be just fine for folks. I suggest if they want to participate in that, they can pay the admission price.

BASH: Republicans privately admit they're making an issue of the Woodstock earmark to go after presidential contender Hillary Clinton, to hit her for misplaced priorities and link her to a liberal mecca. Clinton was in Washington, but did not take the floor to defend her earmark, saying only through a spokesman, "Senators Schumer and Clinton have worked hard to promote economic development and tourism in Upstate New York."

SCHUMER [video clip]: It's the right type of earmark.

BASH: Clinton left the battle to her colleague from New York. Schumer adamantly defended the project, calling it a job generator for his state.

SCHUMER [video clip]: I'm proud to do it. I spent some time doing it. I'm going to continue to do it. I think it's part of my job.

BASH: The museum is also getting state and private dollars. Backers insist it's not just a monument to hippies, but a place to learn about a tumultuous decade.

[end video clip]

BASH: Now, again, the Senate did just vote to eliminate this program. It is highly unusual for senators to kill each other's pet projects, but, at the end of the day, opponents said it was just too hard for senators to defend back home having a Woodstock museum for Senators Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer in the state of New York -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Dana, thanks very much. Dana Bash on the Hill.

Posted In
Elections
Network/Outlet
CNN
Person
Bill Schneider, Wolf Blitzer, Dana Bash
Show/Publication
The Situation Room
Stories/Interests
John McCain, Hillary Clinton, 2008 Elections
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