WSJ uncritically reported McCain attack on Obama over public financing, ignored his loan

››› ››› MATT GERTZ

In reporting that Sen. John McCain "committed to public financing" and "slammed Mr. [Barack] Obama for hedging on his pledge to accept public financing in the general election," the Wall Street Journal's Laura Meckler did not report that McCain is trying to opt out of the public financing system for his primary campaign, yet may not be able to do so because he obtained a loan in late 2007 that could have required him to remain an active candidate, whether or not he had any chance of winning, and apply for federal matching funds to repay the loan.

In a February 28 Wall Street Journal article discussing how "Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama are increasingly attacking each other over a range of issues," staff writer Laura Meckler reported that McCain "slammed Mr. Obama for hedging on his pledge to accept public financing in the general election." Meckler then quoted McCain saying of Obama: "He committed to public financing. It is not more complicated than that." But she did not report that McCain is trying to opt out of the public financing system for his primary campaign, yet may not be able to do so because he obtained a loan for his campaign in late 2007 that could have required him to remain an active candidate, whether or not he had any chance of winning, and apply for federal matching funds to repay the loan.

As the Associated Press reported on February 21: "The government's top campaign finance regulator says John McCain can't drop out of the primary election's public financing system until he answers questions about a loan he obtained to kickstart his once faltering presidential campaign. Federal Election Commission Chairman David Mason, in a letter to McCain this week, said the all-but-certain Republican nominee needs to assure the commission that he did not use the promise of public money to help secure a $4 million line of credit he obtained in November." While Meckler did not mention McCain's loan, a February 25 AP article further reported that "McCain's loan, from Fidelity & Trust Bank, has become a central issue in the Arizona senator's attempt to bypass the public financing system and the strict spending caps that come with it."

In addition, Meckler uncritically reported that "Mr. McCain is equally dismissive of Mr. Obama's health-care ideas, and said yesterday that both Mr. Obama and Mrs. [Hillary] Clinton want 'government to take over the health-care system in America.' " In fact, McCain's claim about the Democrats' health-care plans is false. Neither Clinton nor Obama have said they want "government to take over the health-care system in America," and both have called for "choice[]" in health care. Indeed, on the December 6, 2007, broadcast of National Public Radio's Morning Edition, health policy correspondent Julie Rovner noted: "None of the leading Democratic candidates, however, has proposed anything like a single-payer system, much less a fully government-run program like Britain's National Health Service."

From the February 28 Journal article:

Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama are increasingly attacking each other over a range of issues in what could be the opening rounds of the general-election campaign.

[...]

The disputes between the two men touch a variety of issues. On campaign finance, Mr. McCain slammed Mr. Obama for hedging on his pledge to accept public financing in the general election. "He committed to public financing. It is not more complicated than that," Mr. McCain said last week. "I'll keep my word. I want him to keep his."

Mr. Obama had pledged to take public financing in the fall if his Republican opponent did the same, but now is wavering, perhaps because he has proven to be a powerful fund-raiser.

On Saturday, Mr. Obama said that some of Mr. McCain's top aides are lobbyists and that "many of them have been running their business on the campaign bus while they've been helping him." Mr. Obama also charged that Mr. McCain's health-care plan reflects the "agenda of the drug and insurance lobbyists."

Mr. McCain is equally dismissive of Mr. Obama's health-care ideas, and said yesterday that both Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton want "government to take over the health-care system in America."

Network/Outlet
Wall Street Journal
Stories/Interests
John McCain, 2008 Elections
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