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George W. Bush's presidency since 2007

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Protecting McCain; Pounding Obama

By Brent Budowsky
July 23, 2008

Editor’s Note: Two hot-button issues are emerging in the U.S. presidential race: first, the powerful new conventional wisdom that George W. Bush’s “surge” has been a great success, and second, the alleged favoritism of the press corps toward Barack Obama.

These two dynamics have combined with this result: major U.S. news personalities (determined to show they’re not in the tank for Obama) are pounding their supposed favorite with endless demands that he accept the pro-Bush conventional wisdom about the “surge.” Meanwhile, they go easy on John McCain.

This press behavior is producing a variety of odd results, as former Democratic congressional aide Brent Budowsky observes in this guest essay:

John McCain, presumably advised by Karl Rove and definitely imitating the politics of George Bush, is now saying that Barack Obama would rather lose a war than lose an election.

This is a defamation; this is a slander; this is a lie. McCain should apologize to Obama.

This is the latest in a long list of cheap-shot, low-blow politics. McCain has learned nothing about why the American people are rejecting the Republicans and why the Republican brand has been compared to the appeal of defective dog food.

On Wednesday morning, right-wing former congressman Joe Scarborough essentially said that Keith Olbermann is "too stupid to be on television."

Here is the story, which is much more important than the rantings of former right-wing politicians who become cable television politicians.

The soon-to-be-fired, low-ratings CBS anchor Katie Couric did interviews Tuesday night with both McCain and Obama.

In the McCain interview, the candidate who makes a growing list of factual errors wrongly said the Sunni Awakening was a result of the surge. He referred to a conversation between Sunnis and then-Col. (now Gen.) McFarlane that he falsely claimed resulted from the surge.

Problem is, the conversation McCain quoted happened long before the surge.

The Sunni Awakening happened many months before the surge. In fact, Sunni leaders approached the U.S. military more than a year before the surge, but were rebuffed.

In short, the Sunni Awakening happened well before the surge, had zero to do with the surge, and McCain had his facts (again) completely wrong.

Enter Ms. Couric, who used the McCain interview on the evening news, but edited out the McCain misstatement. Enter Olbermann, who did what is far too rare in cable political news: real reporting. He pointed out and documented the latest McCain mistake.

Of course, this was too much for Scarborough, who foamed at the mouth, did not intelligently discuss the McCain misstatement or the Couric protection of McCain when she kept his mistake out of the broadcast.

No, Scarborough said that the issue had been raised by others on MSNBC, and that anyone who raised it (referring to Olbermann) is too stupid to be on television (his phrase).

Mika Brzezinski, who knows better, made a face but said nothing.

Harold Ford, the voice of the Democratic Leadership Council, who never met a camera he didn't like, simply smiled his television smile and smoothly agreed with Scarborough's cheap shot at Olbermann. Ford then, as ever, referred to how close to Obama he wants to appear. (With friends like these …)

For now, two points:

First, McCain repeatedly lowers the quality of discourse in American politics. The man who ran in 2000 has disappeared; the face of Bush 44 has taken his place with these Rove-like low blows. It is McCain who has always been the fair-haired boy of the press.

Second, John McCain has made a long series of substantial factual errors that will become a major issue. Whether the problem is age or sloppiness, partisanship or tiredness, on issue after issue McCain says things that are factually incorrect.

Couric protected McCain by editing out his latest and very substantial factual error, gaffe, falsehood or mistake (call it what you will). Scarborough works to protect McCain by demeaning Olbermann, the messenger, who should be praised for doing real reporting (heaven forbid).

McCain’s Rove-like attacks – and his serious and repeated factual errors on major issues – should be major topics in the election and staying silent about them does our political discourse no good.

Brent Budowsky was an aide to Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and to Rep. Bill Alexander, then the chief deputy whip of the House. A contributing editor to Fighting Dems News Service, he can be read on The Hill newspaper where this essay first appeared. He can be reached at [email protected].

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