Blitzer ignored McCain's inconsistencies on issues, gave short shrift to other '08 hopefuls
Research ››› ››› BRIAN LEVY
While discussing Sen. John McCain's potential presidential candidacy, CNN's Wolf Blitzer ignored McCain's inconsistencies on taxes and abortion and essentially contradicted himself about McCain's position on Iraq. Blitzer also noted the names and experience of other political figures with presidential exploratory or campaign committees but did not describe their positions on any issues.
On the November 16 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, host Wolf Blitzer purported to explain where Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) "stand[s] on the issues that matter to you," but Blitzer ignored McCain's inconsistencies on taxes and abortion and essentially contradicted himself about McCain's position on Iraq. Blitzer did not describe the positions of other political figures with presidential exploratory committees, simply noting their names and government experience. Indeed, Blitzer did not note the positions of Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack (D), who has created, as CNN.com noted on November 11, a full-fledged "presidential campaign committee" and not merely an exploratory committee. Blitzer's exposition of McCain's positions came after a 3-minute, 45-second segment on McCain's exploratory committee by CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley. Later, after former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) told Blitzer that he would "maybe" run for president, Blitzer responded: "There's one explorer out there already. That was John McCain," ignoring the other such "explorer[s]" and Vilsack.
Blitzer said that McCain "supports President Bush's plan for Iraq, but he's called for more U.S. troops to be sent there to help suppress the insurgency" -- a statement that is internally inconsistent, given that McCain's call for more troops differs from Bush's stated "plan for Iraq." On October 25, Bush told reporters, "I will send more troops to Iraq if General [George] Casey [Jr.] says, 'I need more troops in Iraq to achieve victory.' And that's the way I've been running this war." As Media Matters noted, during an October 27 campaign event for Republicans in New Hampshire, McCain advocated sending 20,000 more troops to Iraq, which he said "means expanding the Army and Marine Corps by as much as 100,000 people." On the November 13 edition of The Situation Room, Blitzer touted McCain's plan while ignoring the question of whether his plan is achievable. As Media Matters also noted, on the November 13 edition of The Situation Room, CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider asserted that McCain's "strong national security credentials are no small thing after a midterm where Iraq was a big issue," overlooking the fact that McCain's position on the war appears to be at odds with that of the majority of the American people. According to CNN's nationwide exit poll for House races, only 17 percent of voters supported sending more troops to Iraq.
Blitzer then said that McCain "opposes abortion rights, except in the case of rape, incest or to protect the life of the mother," without noting that McCain had expressed support for legislation in South Dakota banning all abortions except those necessary to save the pregnant woman's life. That law was overturned in a referendum on November 7. When the National Journal's The Hotline asked what McCain would do with the abortion bill if he were governor of the state, McCain's office replied that he "would have signed the legislation, but would also take the appropriate steps under state law -- in whatever state -- to ensure that the exceptions of rape, incest or life of the mother were included." McCain's office gave no indication what steps he could take to change a law he already signed. Moreover, as Media Matters has noted, the Associated Press reported on August 24, 1999, that McCain told reporters that "in the short term, or even the long term, I would not support repeal of Roe v. Wade." When his comments came under fire from pro-life groups, he wrote a letter to the National Right to Life Committee, stating: "I share our common goal of reducing the staggering number of abortions currently performed in this country and overturning the Roe vs. Wade decision."
Later in the program, Democratic strategist Paul Begala noted that McCain "now supports the South Dakota abortion law that would outlaw it even in the case of rape and incest." Blitzer responded to Begala only by noting that the South Dakota ban "was defeated."
Blitzer also said that McCain "supports the president's call for the extension of tax cuts," without noting that McCain initially opposed the tax cuts. As Media Matters documented, McCain said he could not "in good conscience support" President Bush's 2001 tax-cut package because it was "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 need tax relief," according to a February 27, 2006, article in The Washington Times. Yet in 2006, when Congress was considering extending Bush's 2003 capital-gains tax cuts, which benefited mainly the richest Americans, McCain voted with his Senate Republican colleagues to keep them on the books. Even Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform who advocated the tax cut and cheered McCain's reversal, labeled it a "big flip-flop."
In her segment, Crowley asserted that "[e]veryone fully expects" McCain to announce he will run for president in January, which means "they kind of get two hits from us. They file for an exploratory committee, and we give it lots of attention. And then in January, when a lot of these candidates are going to announce officially, we go back at it again."
From the November 16 edition of CNN's The Situation Room at 4 p.m. ET:
CROWLEY: Everyone fully expects that come January, he'll make the official announcement and, by the way, they kind of get two hits from us. They file for an exploratory committee and we give it lots of attention. And then in January, when a lot of these candidates are going to announce officially, we go back at it again. So it's a -- it's a good mechanism for fundraising and also for a little name recognition.
BLITZER: Candy, thanks for that. Candy Crowley and [CNN congressional correspondent] Dana Bash, as you know, they are all part of the best political team on television.
So where does McCain stand on the issues that matter to you? He supports President Bush's plan for Iraq, but he's called for more U.S. troops to be sent there to help suppress the insurgency.
On immigration, McCain supports the president's plan that calls for border security and a guest-worker program for illegal immigrants.
The senator opposes abortion rights, except in the case of rape, incest, or to protect the life of the mother.
McCain believes marriage should be defined as between a man and a woman, but he opposes a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. He also believes that individual states should make those decisions, but says he would support a federal marriage amendment if the courts interfered and overturned a state's decision.
On Social Security, the senator supports the president's call for privatization using individual savings accounts.
McCain also supports the president's call for the extension of tax cuts.
McCain's not the only person to take the first step toward a presidential run. Earlier this week, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani [R] also formed an exploratory committee.
Yesterday, the Wisconsin -- former Wisconsin governor, that is, former Bush administration cabinet secretary Tommy Thompson announced that he intends to create a similar committee early next year.
And last month, the outgoing House Armed Services Committee chairman, Duncan Hunter, announced he was taking the first steps toward a possible White House run as well.
On the other side, Tom Vilsack so far is the only president -- presidential hopeful to file formal papers on the Democratic side. The outgoing Iowa governor is expected to kick off his White House run later this month.
He hasn't made it official, by the way, but incoming Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Joe Biden [D-DE] has said here in The Situation Room and on many other newscasts that he intends to throw his hat into the ring. The senator from Delaware ran unsuccessfully for the White House once before. That was back in 1988.
BEGALA: I love it. It's version 3.0 of John McCain.
He came to Washington in the '80s as a Barry Goldwater-Ronald Reagan conservative. And then he got caught up in the Keating Five scandal. So, then he remade himself. He became version 2.0, a reformer, McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform, a maverick. He supported abortion rights. He supported gay rights.
Now it's version 3.0. The same guy who, a couple of years ago, was attacking [Rev.] Jerry Falwell is now getting along quite well with Falwell. The same guy who used to say he was for abortion rights now supports the South Dakota abortion law that would outlaw it even in the case of rape and incest.
BLITZER: Which was defeated.
BLITZER: Do you want to be president of the United States?
EDWARDS: Maybe. A resounding maybe. I haven't decided for sure, but seriously thinking about it.
BLITZER [voiceover]: There's one explorer out there already. That was John McCain, he's announced he's exploring the possibility. It doesn't mean he's going to run. But by all accounts that's a pretty good bet.