Wall Street Journal, CNN's Cafferty latest to apply "straight talk" label to McCain despite his growing list of falsehoods

››› ››› KIRSTIN ELLISON

A Wall Street Journal article by Jonathan Kaufman stated that Sen. John McCain's "war record and straight-talking approach could make him appealing to many working-class men," an assertion repeated by Jack Cafferty on The Situation Room. Kaufman and Cafferty join a long list of media outlets that have adopted McCain's self-characterization as a "straight-talker," despite repeated falsehoods by McCain, as well as his stark inconsistencies on numerous issues, including the Iraq war, immigration, and tax cuts.

In a February 19 article by Jonathan Kaufman, The Wall Street Journal reported that Sen. John McCain's "war record and straight-talking approach could make him appealing to many working-class men." CNN commentator Jack Cafferty repeated the claim while paraphrasing the Journal article during the February 20 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, stating: "[B]lue-collar white males could be the key group of swing voters, either backing the Democrats' nominee or putting their support behind John McCain, whose war record and straight talk could appeal to a lot of them." Kaufman and Cafferty join a long list of media figures who have adopted McCain's self-characterization as a "straight-talker," despite repeated falsehoods by McCain, as well as his stark inconsistencies on numerous issues, including the Iraq war, immigration, and tax cuts.

In the last month alone, Media Matters for America has documented the following examples of false assertions by McCain about his own record and statements, and those of other Democratic and Republican presidential candidates:

  • McCain claimed that he called for the resignation of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. In fact, while McCain expressed "no confidence" in Rumsfeld in 2004, the Associated Press reported at the time that McCain "said his comments were not a call for Rumsfeld's resignation." Further, when Fox News host Shepard Smith specifically asked McCain, "Does Donald Rumsfeld need to step down?" on November 8, 2006 -- hours before President Bush announced Rumsfeld's resignation -- McCain responded that it was "a decision to be made by the president." After The Washington Post uncritically reported McCain's claim that he called for Rumsfeld's resignation, a subsequent Post article noted that "McCain's false account has been unwittingly incorporated into the narrative he is selling by some news organizations, including The Washington Post." The article also stated, "A McCain spokesman acknowledged this week that that was not correct. 'He did not call for his resignation,' said the campaign's Brian Rogers. 'He always said that's the president's prerogative.' "
  • McCain has repeatedly asserted that Sen. Barack Obama "once suggested bombing our ally, Pakistan." In fact, in an August 1, 2007, foreign policy speech, Obama stated: "If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and [Pakistani] President [Pervez] Musharraf won't act, we will." Contrary to McCain's assertion, Obama did not say he would take action against Pakistan -- he made any action against "high-value terrorist targets" inside Pakistan conditional -- and he did not specify what the action would be. Nor did he say that "Pakistan" itself would be the target of any action.
  • McCain stated that "Senator Obama had, according to the National Journal, the most liberal senator in the Senate. I have a very high ranking on the conservative side." In fact, according to the National Journal report that ranked Obama the "most liberal senator," McCain "did not vote frequently enough in 2007 to draw a composite score."
  • McCain pointed to a purported comparison between "the Democrats who want to raise your taxes, or me, I want to lower your taxes. Whether it will be a health care system run by the federal government, or whether families in America will make their choices about health care." McCain's claims about the Democrats' plans on taxes and health care are false. Neither Obama nor Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has proposed "a health care system run by the federal government," and both have called for "choice[]" in health care. Additionally, both Clinton and Obama have proposed tax cuts for the poor and the middle class.
  • McCain claimed in an interview that aired February 5 that his rival in the Republican presidential race at the time, Mitt Romney, "disparage[d] the service and courage of an American hero" with his statement that former Sen. Bob Dole (R-KS) is "probably the last person I would have wanted to have write a letter for me." In fact, Romney made no comments disparaging Dole's military "service and courage." Rather, Romney stated: "I think there are a lot of folks that tend to think that maybe John McCain's race is a bit like Bob Dole's race -- that it's the guy who's the next in line; he's the inevitable choice and we'll give it to him, and then, it won't work. I think that the right course for a winning campaign against someone like Barack Obama is going to have to be somebody who can speak with energy and passion about the future of America, not another senator who can say, 'Well, here's what I did on bill H. 1234. Here's what I did on my committee assignment.' "
  • McCain has repeatedly asserted on the campaign trail that he originally voted against the Bush tax cuts because they were not paired with spending cuts -- a claim that the media have repeated. But in the floor statement McCain made during the May 2001 Senate debate on the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 (EGTRRA) conference committee report, in which he explained why he was not voting for the final bill, McCain did not mention the absence of offsetting spending cuts. In that statement -- which is available on his Senate website -- McCain said that while he supported an earlier version of the bill "that provided more tax relief to middle income Americans," he could not "in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us, at the expense of middle class Americans who most need tax relief."
  • Having told The Wall Street Journal in late 2005 that he knows "a lot less about economics" than "military and foreign policy issues," McCain then suggested he had not said this when confronted with the quote in a debate question about that discussion: "I don't know where you got that quote from. I'm very well-versed in economics." McCain later acknowledged to NBC's Tim Russert, "Now I know where you got that quote from."

From the February 20 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

CAFFERTY: The Wall Street Journal reports, when it comes to the Democratic race, "some of these white men are finding it difficult to identify" with either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. In interviews with the Journal, some of them said that because Obama is black, they will cross over and vote Republican. And others say the country is not ready for a woman president yet. One Ohio political strategist points out that a lot of blue-collar men over 40, Hillary Clinton is -- quote -- "a poster child for everything about the women's movement they don't like, their wives going back to work, their daughters rebelling, the rise of women in the workplace."

So, stay tuned for the general election, where blue-collar white males could be the key group of swing voters, either backing the Democrats' nominee or putting their support behind John McCain, whose war record and straight talk could appeal to a lot of them.

Here's the question: Is the importance of white male voters being overlooked in this election cycle? You can go to CNN.com/caffertyfile. Post a comment on my blog.

From the February 19 Wall Street Journal:

Blue-collar men could also emerge as an important swing constituency in November -- either backing the Democrats' eventual nominee, or shifting to some degree toward Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, whose war record and straight-talking approach could make him appealing to many working-class men.

Marc Dann, Ohio's Democratic attorney general, frets about the reluctance of some of these blue-collar Democrats to embrace either of his party's candidates. "I worry about [the appeal of] McCain," says Mr. Dann, who lives in Youngstown. "It's not like watching an episode of Archie Bunker -- but there are real issues" that white male voters here have with Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama.

Network/Outlet
Wall Street Journal, CNN
Person
Jack Cafferty, Jonathan Kaufman
Show/Publication
The Situation Room
Stories/Interests
John McCain, 2008 Elections
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