Media continue to ignore McCain's skipped vote while highlighting his attacks on Clinton

››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN

Several media outlets have reported on the latest ad released by Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign attacking Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton over her support for an earmark funding a Woodstock Festival museum, but these outlets have not noted that McCain skipped the vote on removing the earmark.

On November 11, Sen. John McCain's (R-AZ) presidential campaign released a third campaign advertisement that attacks Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's (D-NY) support for a $1 million earmark for a museum at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, located "at the site of the original 1969 Woodstock Festival" in New York. Following the ad's release, several media outlets -- including the New York Observer, Newsweek, the Chicago Tribune, and the Associated Press -- mentioned the ad without reporting that McCain had skipped the vote on removing the earmark.

McCain has highlighted Clinton's support for the earmark in three different campaign advertisements. His most recent ad features an announcer stating, "A million dollars for a Woodstock Museum -- in a bill sponsored by Hillary Clinton." The announcer goes on to say: "Who has the guts to stand up to wasteful government spending? One man. John McCain." In addition, McCain's campaign website features an interactive trivia game, called "The John and Hillary Show," which pits McCain against Clinton. The first question asked of users: "Which candidate proposed to spend $1 million of taxpayer money on a concert museum for Woodstock?" The second question also refers to Clinton's support for the Woodstock museum: "Which candidate held Sen. Clinton accountable for attempting to waste taxpayer dollars on a museum for the 'cultural and pharmaceutical event?' " The correct answer is "McCain."

As Media Matters for America noted, McCain co-sponsored a Republican amendment to remove the funding for the museum, but was one of six senators to miss the vote to "table" -- or kill -- the amendment. The motion to table the amendment failed by a vote of 52-42, and the Senate subsequently passed the amendment by unanimous consent. McCain's 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.

Yet numerous media outlets reported McCain's attacks on Clinton over the museum without noting that he did not show up for the October 18 vote:

  • On November 14, the Chicago Tribune editorial board published excerpts of its November 13 interview with McCain. The Tribune quoted McCain saying of "[p]ork-barrel spending": "I'd veto every bill [with pork-barrel earmarks]. I'd make the authors of them famous. I would ridicule them for what they are, whether it be a Woodstock concert museum or $3 million to study the DNA of bears in Montana." The excerpts gave no indication that the editorial board brought up McCain's missed vote on the "Woodstock concert museum."
  • In a November 13 New York Observer column headlined "The Real Star of the G.O.P. Primary: Hillary," Jennifer Rubin wrote that McCain's "use of Mrs. Clinton as a foil has delighted the conservative base. ... Mr. McCain's recent comeback, meanwhile, has been greatly aided by a debate moment in which he lampooned Mrs. Clinton's legislative earmark for a Woodstock museum. He parlayed his jibe into campaign ads and a wholesale indictment of the 1960's counterculture (which still drives conservatives to distraction)." Rubin made no mention of the fact that McCain skipped the vote on the amendment.
  • A November 12 Associated Press article on McCain's opposition to a third-party campaign ad that expresses support for McCain noted: "On Monday, the McCain campaign also released its own ad in New Hampshire, focused on spending issues. The 30-second spot, running in New Hampshire and Boston markets, cites millions of dollars of congressional earmarks on items such as a bridge in Alaska that led to a sparsely populated island, for a DNA study of bears and for a Woodstock Museum as examples of pork-barrel spending."
  • In Newsweek's November 19 cover story, headlined "1968: The Year That Changed Everything," Newsweek senior writer and political correspondent Jonathan Darman highlighted McCain's previous ad attacking Clinton for her support of the Woodstock amendment without noting that McCain missed the vote to kill the amendment. Darman wrote: "McCain uttered the best line of the 2008 presidential campaign last month in a Republican primary debate. 'A few days ago, Senator Clinton tried to spend $1 million on the Woodstock Concert Museum,' McCain announced. "Now, my friends, I wasn't there ... I was tied up at the time.' The Republican room erupted, not in laughter, but in applause. His campaign quickly took the debate clip and cut a television ad."

From the November 14 Chicago Tribune editorial:

John McCain, who is seeking the Republican nomination for president, met with the Tribune editorial board Tuesday to discuss Iraq, Pakistan, immigration, politics ... and the future of U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald.

[...]

Pork-barrel spending

I'd veto every bill [with pork-barrel earmarks]. I'd make the authors of them famous. I would ridicule them for what they are, whether it be a Woodstock concert museum or $3 million to study the DNA of bears in Montana. The tipping point in my view was the "bridge to nowhere." When I talked to our party faithful, every one of them said "no" on the bridge to nowhere. They said we're not going to go out and register voters, we're not going to go out and work for the election or re-election of Republican candidates because you're no different than those guys. Right now, Americans are sick and tired of being sick and tired of what Congress does.

From Rubin's November 13 New York Observer column:

His use of Mrs. Clinton as a foil has delighted the conservative base. It has also allowed him to argue that even if they disagree with some of his policy positions, they should not doubt his willingness to take on their most loathed foe.

Mr. McCain's recent comeback, meanwhile, has been greatly aided by a debate moment in which he lampooned Mrs. Clinton's legislative earmark for a Woodstock museum. He parlayed his jibe into campaign ads and a wholesale indictment of the 1960's counterculture (which still drives conservatives to distraction). Having fun at her expense has a serious purpose for Mr. McCain, establishing him on common ground -- and with a common enemy -- with conservative primary voters.

From the November 12 Associated Press article:

McCain was one of the authors of the 2002 law that eliminated unlimited contributions, or soft money, to political parties. In the aftermath of the law, political strategists shifted their attention to outside groups that could still obtain soft money and run ads on behalf of candidates.

The foundation's ad focuses on two issues that are central to McCain's campaign -- support for the U.S. military presence in Iraq and opposition to congressional spending on pet projects.

On Monday, the McCain campaign also released its own ad in New Hampshire, focusing on spending issues. The 30-second spot, running in New Hampshire and Boston markets, cites millions of dollars of congressional earmarks on items such as a bridge in Alaska that led to a sparsely populated island, for a DNA study of bears and for a Woodstock Museum as examples of pork-barrel spending.

The ad shows McCain walking at President Reagan's side, at work and on the campaign trail. "I'll stop wasteful spending by Congress," McCain says. "And restore Americans' trust in their government."

From Darman's November 19 Newsweek cover story:

John McCain is also the '60s. A former naval aviator who spent the latter part of the decade in a North Vietnamese POW camp, McCain uttered the best line of the 2008 presidential campaign last month in a Republican primary debate. "A few days ago, Senator Clinton tried to spend $1 million on the Woodstock Concert Museum," McCain announced. "Now, my friends, I wasn't there ... I was tied up at the time." The Republican room erupted, not in laughter, but in applause. His campaign quickly took the debate clip and cut a television ad.

Posted In
Elections
Network/Outlet
Associated Press, Newsweek, Chicago Tribune, New York Observer
Stories/Interests
John McCain, 2008 Elections
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