NY Times' Nagourney uncritically repeated Farrakhan, "most liberal" attacks on Obama

››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

A New York Times article about possible attacks against Sen. Barack Obama in the general election reported that Sen. John McCain's aides said "their first line of attack would be to portray [Obama] as a liberal, and they have already begun pointing to a rating in The National Journal, based on his votes, of Mr. Obama as the most liberal member of the Senate." But among the "liberal" positions Obama took to earn the distinction of "most liberal senator in 2007" were his votes to implement the bipartisan 9-11 Commission's homeland security recommendations, provide more children with health insurance, expand federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, and maintain a federal minimum wage.

In a February 29 New York Times article about likely general-election attacks against Sen. Barack Obama if he becomes the Democratic presidential nominee, reporter Adam Nagourney wrote that Sen. John McCain's aides said "their first line of attack would be to portray [Obama] as a liberal, and they have already begun pointing to a rating in The National Journal, based on his votes, of Mr. Obama as the most liberal member of the Senate." Yet the National Journal's rating of Obama was based on only some, not all, of his votes. By contrast, a highly respected vote study by political science professors Keith Poole and Jeff Lewis, which uses every non-unanimous vote cast by every legislator to determine his or her relative ideology, ranked Obama as tied with Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) as the 10th "most liberal" senator in 2007. Moreover, among the "liberal" positions Obama took to earn the distinction of "most liberal senator in 2007" were his votes to implement the bipartisan 9-11 Commission's homeland security recommendations, provide more children with health insurance, expand federal funding for embryonic stem-cell research, and maintain a federal minimum wage. Further, as Obama himself noted in the February 26 debate, one of his "liberal" votes was for a bill that would have established "an office of public integrity, an independent office that would be able to monitor ethics investigations in the Senate."

Additionally, Nagourney reported that the Tennessee Republican Party issued a news release that sought "to link Mr. Obama to the views of some of his most controversial supporters, including Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam" without noting that Obama has denounced both Farrakhan's views and his support of Obama.

From the February 29 New York Times article:

Some of this will almost certainly take the shape of the Internet rumors and whispering campaigns that have popped up against Mr. Obama since he got into the race, like the false reports that he is Muslim. Others will no doubt come from the types of shadowy independent committees that have played a big role in campaigns in recent years.

But others will simply draw on Mr. Obama's voting record and speeches, interviews and debate appearances. Mr. McCain's aides said their first line of attack would be to portray him as a liberal, and they have already begun pointing to a rating in The National Journal, based on his votes, of Mr. Obama as the most liberal member of the Senate.

Though Mr. McCain has vowed repeatedly to wage a tough if respectful campaign -- he chastised a conservative talk radio host this week for disparaging Mr. Obama and invoking his middle name -- his aides have left no doubt that they will draw sharp distinctions with him on issues that Mrs. Clinton has never been able to use. Foremost among them is Iraq.

[...]

But Mr. McCain clearly will not control all of the voices that could oppose Mr. Obama, from bloggers and talk radio hosts to other elected officials. Even parts of the Republican Party apparatus can transmit messages that the presidential nominee cannot or will not.

After the Republican National Committee rebuked the Tennessee Republican Party for a news release this week using Mr. Obama's middle name and a picture showing him in a traditional African outfit -- Mr. McCain also expressed his disapproval -- the state party removed the middle name and the picture.

But for at least some period of time, it left the text of the release on its Web site, seeking to link Mr. Obama to the views of some of his most controversial supporters, including Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam.

David Axelrod, a senior adviser to Mr. Obama, said tactics used effectively against Senator John Kerry in 2004 and Vice President Al Gore in 2000 would not work against Mr. Obama.

"They will try to rerun old races and battles and divide along traditional lines," Mr. Axelrod said. "I think the country is eager for something else. And I think the country is not going to be so easily distracted. We are prepared to deal with whatever they offer."

Network/Outlet
The New York Times, National Journal Group
Person
Adam Nagourney
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, 2008 Elections
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