MSNBC, CNN anchors baselessly suggested Obama is prematurely "measuring the drapes" for the White House

››› ››› LILY YAN

MSNBC's Alex Witt and CNN's T.J. Holmes each suggested that Sen. Barack Obama is prematurely "measuring the drapes" for the White House. In fact, Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, and Jimmy Carter all planned for a White House transition months before the election, and Sen. John McCain has also reportedly made transition plans.

During an October 18 interview with Obama supporter Maria Cardona on MSNBC Live, anchor Alex Witt said, "Let's talk about reports, though, that Senator [Barack] Obama's team recently held a large meeting to discuss plans for a possible new administration." Witt then asked Cardona, "Do you think that Senator Obama risks looking like he's, you know, measuring the drapes just a little too early there in the East Wing?" Similarly, on CNN Saturday Morning, anchor T.J. Holmes stated, "[Sen.] Joe Biden, Barack Obama his running mate, they're both in Missouri, actually. Their transition team already meeting about postelection plans." Co-anchor Betty Nguyen responded, "Oh. They are moving forward and quickly, apparently." Holmes continued, "Measuring the drapes, as some have said." Later, during a discussion with CNN political editor Mark Preston on CNN Newsroom, Holmes similarly stated, "Also this morning, we're reporting that [Obama is] working with his transition team for what will happen postelection and whatnot. He's been accused of measuring the drapes. So are there signs in his campaign that they are just trying to run out the clock, or are they still being pretty aggressive out there?"

In fact, it is not unusual or inappropriate for presidential nominees to plan for a presidential transition, as the Obama campaign is reportedly doing. As Media Matters for America has noted, Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, and Jimmy Carter all planned for a White House transition months before the election. Indeed, Sen. John McCain has also reportedly made transition plans. A September 12 Time magazine article reported that "[a] prominent Washington lobbyist who has worked for every Republican President since Richard Nixon has been tapped by the McCain campaign to conduct a study in preparation for the presidential transition should John McCain win the election, according to sources familiar with the process."

Additionally, Witt teased the MSNBC segment with Cardona by stating, "The GOP is hitting Barack Obama hard on his 'redistribute the wealth' comments in the last debate," as on-screen text read, "'Redistribute' how exactly?"

MSNBC screengrab

During the segment, Witt said, "Actually, you know, I misspoke. That wasn't during the debate. It was actually to Joe the Plumber that that statement was made." However, Obama did not use the word "redistribute" to define his economic plans during the October 15 presidential debate or during his conversation with Samuel "Joe" Wurzelbacher ("Joe the Plumber").

From the 10 a.m. ET hour of MSNBC Live on October 18:

WITT: The GOP is hitting Barack Obama hard on his "redistribute the wealth" comments in the last debate. So what did he really mean by that? We're going to ask Obama supporter and former senior Clinton adviser Maria Cardona about that here on MSNBC, the place for politics. Wow, those guys were good, huh?

[...]

WITT: So for a look right now from the Obama campaign, here with us is Maria Cardona, former senior Clinton adviser and now Obama supporter. And a good morning to you.

CARDONA: Hey, Alex, great to be here again.

WITT: And I'm glad you're here, Maria. Let's talk about Senator Obama's opponents, who've been talking a lot about a comment that the senator made during Wednesday's debate. Let's take a listen to it.

GOV. SARAH PALIN [video clip]: Senator Obama said that he wants to spread the wealth, and he wants government to take your money and decide how to best redistribute it, according to his priorities. And Joe suggested that that sounded a little bit like socialism.

WITT: Actually, you know, I misspoke. That wasn't during the debate. It was actually to Joe the Plumber that that statement was made. However, that was a reference to the now-famous Joe the Plumber -- or infamous, depending on whom you ask -- and some other --

CARDONA: Right.

WITT: -- small-business owners. Does Senator Obama, do you think, regret at all saying that he wants to spread the wealth around?

CARDONA: You know what, Alex? I think this whole issue about Joe the Plumber has become a little bit of a caricature of a real voter, Mr. Welzelbacher [sic], who is worried about what's going on in this economy. He's a real voter, the same as hundreds of millions of real voters out there who are really looking for real solutions to the real problems that they face.

And what Senator Obama has been saying is that to 95 percent of middle-class and working-class voters in this country, he will give real tax relief. And to 98 percent of the small businesses in this country, including Mr. Wulzelbacher's [sic], if he is going to buy that business that he talked about, he will give a tax cut.

He will also give $3,000 of a tax credit to help them hire employees. He will give them a 50 percent tax premium to help them buy health care for their employees. And he will eliminate completely capital gains taxes.

So under Senator Obama's plan, Mr. Welzelbacher [sic] will actually fair very, very well, as will the majority of working-class, middle-class voters in this country and the majority of small businesses. That is the underscoring theme of Senator Obama's campaign, and it is why the majority of Americans are responding to him.

WITT: OK, I guess I can't ask any more on that one. Let's talk about reports, though, that Senator Obama's team recently held a large meeting to discuss plans for a possible new administration. Do you think that Senator Obama risks looking like he's, you know, measuring the drapes just a little too early there in the East Wing?

CARDONA: No, I don't think so. And I think that we need to take Senator Obama at his word. He has been saying very publicly, telling his campaign, telling Democrats across the country, and telling all of his supporters that not only include Democrats, that we cannot sit on our laurels, that we need to make sure that we now double down. We cannot get cocky. These are his words. He talked about just two words, reminding everybody what happened in New Hampshire.

So this is a time for us to continue to focus on the -- Senator Obama's message of bringing middle-class tax relief, talking about the fact that he will be a fighter for the middle class. He will wake up every single day in the White House, trying to figure out how to bring relief to the middle class, who are the ones that have been really hurt during the eight years of failed Republican policies. This is no time to rest, he has said that. And I think that he's going to continue to make sure these last 17 days in the campaign he's going to work incredibly hard. Seventeen days is 17 lifetimes in politics, Alex. And we're going to continue to make sure we work very, very hard for every single vote on November 4th.

From the October 18 edition of CNN Saturday Morning:

HOLMES: Joe Biden, Barack Obama his running mate, they're both in Missouri, actually. Their transition team already meeting about postelection plans.

NGUYEN: Oh. They are moving forward and quickly, apparently.

HOLMES: Measuring the drapes, as some have said. The election nears, the candidates are certainly firing more attacks at each other. And yesterday, John McCain criticized Obama's plan to raise taxes for people making more than $250,000. Obama, meanwhile, accused McCain of planning to cut Medicare funding to pay for his health-care proposal.

From the 10 a.m. ET hour of CNN Newsroom on October 18:

HOLMES: Also this morning, we're reporting that he's working with his transition team for what will happen postelection and whatnot. He's been accused of measuring the drapes. So are there signs in his campaign that they are just trying to run out the clock, or are they still being pretty aggressive out there?

PRESTON: No, they're absolutely being aggressive. We know that Barack Obama is in Missouri today campaigning with a couple of events. He'll head into North Carolina tomorrow, where, of course, John McCain is today.

Look, they can't rest on their laurels right now. They are up in the national polls. They are winning in most of the battleground states. But there are still 17 days left, and let's not forget back in the summer of 2007, T.J., John McCain's campaign was left for dead, and he rallied to win the Republican nomination. There's still enough time left.

Network/Outlet
MSNBC, CNN
Person
Alex Witt, T.J. Holmes, Betty Nguyen
Show/Publication
MSNBC Live, CNN Newsroom, CNN Saturday Morning
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, 2008 Elections
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