CNN's Situation Room aired McCain's ad attacking Obama, but ignored McCain's own record on issues highlighted in ad

››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

On CNN's The Situation Room, Dana Bash uncritically aired an ad by Sen. John McCain that states that Sen. Barack Obama "never held a single Senate hearing on Afghanistan. He hasn't been to Iraq in years. He voted against funding our troops -- positions that helped him win his nomination." Neither Bash nor host Wolf Blitzer noted that McCain himself "voted against funding our troops" when he voted against legislation that would have provided funds for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

During the 4 p.m. ET hour of the July 18 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, congressional correspondent Dana Bash uncritically aired an ad by Sen. John McCain that states that Sen. Barack Obama "never held a single Senate hearing on Afghanistan. He hasn't been to Iraq in years. He voted against funding our troops -- positions that helped him win his nomination." However, neither Bash nor host Wolf Blitzer noted, as Media Matters for America has documented, that McCain himself "voted against funding our troops" when he voted against legislation that would have provided funds for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and directed more than $1 billion to the Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as other legislation funding care for veterans. That legislation included a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq except for a "limited number" of troops "essential" for "[p]rotecting United States and coalition personnel and infrastructure," "[t]raining and equipping Iraqi forces," and "[c]onducting targeted counter-terrorism operations." Further, neither Bash nor Blitzer noted that McCain is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, but has reportedly not attended a single Armed Services Committee hearing related to Afghanistan in 2007-08.*

In a July 17 post on ABC News' Political Radar blog, reporter Byron Wolf wrote:

McCain, R-Ariz., the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, has attended zero of his committee's six hearings on Afghanistan over the last two years.

Meanwhile, Obama attended the full Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Afghanistan in March 2007, although he used the opportunity to ask Gen. James L. Jones, then the commander of NATO, about Pakistan.

Jones also came before the Senate Armed Services Committee that week. But McCain was a no-show.

The findings are surprising given the fact that the McCain campaign loudly criticized Obama this week for failing to schedule any hearings on Afghanistan in the last year and a half. Obama chairs the European Affairs Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which has oversight of military operations in Afghanistan.

[...]

A review of the Senate Armed Services Committee hearings as listed on the committee Web site for the past two years reveals that McCain's committee has held six hearings that included the word "Afghanistan" in the title or Central Command -- which overseas U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

McCain missed them all.

[...]

Update: McCain campaign spokesman Brian Rogers, in a statement to ABC News, argued that McCain's years of previous foreign policy experience make up for his recent lack of attendance at hearings.

"The point is that Obama claims to be a leader on Afghanistan, but had the power to hold hearings on our NATO operations there and failed to do so," wrote Rogers in an e-mail, although he did not say why McCain missed his own Armed Services Committee hearings over the past two years.

In contrast to CNN, host David Shuster aired McCain's ad on MSNBC Live and noted, "[O]ne of the unfortunate timing things for the McCain campaign is, when you look at the first line, Barack Obama never held a single Senate hearing on Afghanistan, which refers to his work on a subcommittee. That's true. But it's also true that John McCain, the ranking member on Armed Services, he never attended a single hearing on Afghanistan the last two years and there were six of them."

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

BASH: And that's pretty much the kind of thing we heard from McCain all week on the stump. He's trying to prevent Obama from using his trip abroad to burnish his foreign policy credentials. But now McCain is going to pay to do that. We have a brand new TV ad the McCain camp says it will run in battleground states while Obama is abroad.

NARRATOR [video clip of McCain ad]: Barack Obama never held a single Senate hearing on Afghanistan. He hasn't been to Iraq in years. He voted against funding our troops -- positions that helped him win his nomination. Now Obama is changing.

BASH: Now, that's noteworthy for a couple of reasons. One, it's the McCain campaign's first so-called contrast ad against Senator Obama. And the other thing is, that's pretty stuff -- tough stuff to run against Senator Obama while he's abroad. But McCain aides tell me that this is something that they thought has precedent because the Obama campaign and the DNC hit McCain pretty hard while he was abroad, so they say it's fair game.

BLITZER: Some would call a contrast ad an attack ad, but that's for people to interpret, Dana.

BASH: Exactly.

BLITZER: Thanks very much. Let's check in with Jack Cafferty, he's got "The Cafferty File." Jack.

From the 4 p.m. ET edition of MSNBC Live on July 18:

SHUSTER: Now, to a political campaign alert: The first negative ad of this 2008 presidential general election. John McCain released it today, and here it is.

[begin video clip]

NARRATOR: Barack Obama never held a single Senate hearing on Afghanistan. He hasn't been to Iraq in years. He voted against funding our troops -- positions that helped him win his nomination. Now Obama is changing to help himself become president. John McCain has always supported our troops and the surge that's working. McCain: country first.

McCAIN: I'm John McCain and I approve this message.

[end video clip]

SHUSTER: McCain advisers says the ad will run in 11 battleground states, including Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Joining us in Washington is Matt Cooper, Washington editor of Condé Nast Portfolio magazine. Good of you to be with us, Matt.

COOPER: Thanks, David.

SHUSTER: What do you make of this ad?

COOPER: Well, you know, look, it's an effort to, you know, shift the conversation back to Iraq, national security, where John McCain has noted strengths. And, you know, I think it puts that issue front and center, especially at a time when Barack Obama's going to go overseas and have a lot of visuals that make him look very presidential. You know, it's probably not a bad move. I'm not sure the execution of the ad is exactly that exciting.

SHUSTER: Well, one of the unfortunate timing things for the McCain campaign is, when you look at the first line, Barack Obama never held a single Senate hearing on Afghanistan, which refers to his work on a subcommittee. That's true. But it's also true that John McCain, the ranking member on Armed Services, he never attended a single hearing on Afghanistan the last two years and there were six of them. So, doesn't this just sort of blow back into John McCain's face?

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