Media again ignore McCain's skipped vote while highlighting ad attacking Clinton over earmark for "Woodstock Concert Museum"

››› ››› BRIAN LEVY

MSNBC repeatedly aired a campaign advertisement from Sen. John McCain's campaign attacking Sen. Hillary Clinton's support for a $1 million earmark for a museum at the site of the 1969 Woodstock Festival in New York, and other media outlets noted the ad. But none of these outlets reported that McCain had skipped the vote on removing the earmark.

MSNBC repeatedly aired a campaign advertisement from Republican presidential candidate John McCain on the January 17 edition of Morning Joe. The advertisement was also noted in a January 17 article in The State (Columbia, South Carolina) and in January 16 posts on blogs run by The State, The Boston Globe, Newsweek, and National Journal. While the reports all noted that the ad criticized Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's (D-NY) support for a $1 million earmark for a museum at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, located "at the site of the original 1969 Woodstock Festival" in New York, none of the reports noted that McCain had skipped the vote on removing the earmark.

Although McCain is listed as a co-sponsor of an amendment to remove the earmark, he was one of six senators to miss the vote to "table" -- or kill -- that amendment. The motion to table the amendment failed by a vote of 52-42, and the Senate subsequently passed the amendment by unanimous consent. The McCain campaign website notes that McCain had a town hall meeting scheduled in Greenville, South Carolina, at noon ET on October 18, the same day as the 3:37 p.m. ET motion to table.

On Morning Joe, MSNBC's David Shuster said of the ad, "[I]t's brilliant," adding: "I think it's a very smart move by John McCain to counter this perception that he's somehow part of the Washington establishment."

As Media Matters noted, MSNBC also aired the advertisement at least twice during the January 16 edition of MSNBC Live without noting that McCain skipped the vote on removing the earmark. NBC News White House correspondent Kelly O'Donnell noted of the advertisement: "They actually dusted that one off. It had debuted earlier." In November 2007, Media Matters noted a pattern among numerous media outlets, including the Associated Press, of reporting on McCain's criticism of Clinton's support for the earmark without noting that he skipped the vote on removing the earmark.

From the January 17 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:

SCARBOROUGH: It's a generational battle, too.

MIKA BRZEZINSKI (co-host): It sure is.

SCARBOROUGH: It really is. And Barack Obama has been saying -- and I think this also appeals to me and you and a lot of younger people. Younger. I'm, like, 87 now.

BRZEZINSKI: Thanks so much for that. I'll take it.

SCARBOROUGH: I used to be younger. But it's a generational fight, too.

BRZEZINSKI: It absolutely is.

SCARBOROUGH: The Clintons fighting the '60s battles. Barack Obama saying, "Let's move forward." Well, John McCain -- and this is a funny line --

BRZEZINSKI: Yes, it is. I think I know what you're getting at here.

SCARBOROUGH: -- that he uses about Woodstock, but he takes us in the opposite direction and takes us back to a cultural battle. What? God, 1969 --

BRZEZINSKI: '69.

SCARBOROUGH: What would that be? 39 years ago. 39 years ago.

BRZEZINSKI: No, 38 years ago.

SCARBOROUGH: 38 -- 39. So anyway -- trust me.

BRZEZINSKI: OK.

SCARBOROUGH: Close enough. I went to Alabama. Come on. I've got the diploma.

BRZEZINSKI: All right.

SCARBOROUGH: But look at this John McCain ad and it really is -- it is a battle straight out of the 1960s.

BRZEZINSKI: OK.

SCARBOROUGH: Watch this. He's running this in South Carolina.

McCAIN [video clip]: A few days ago, Senator Clinton tried to spend $1 million on the Woodstock concert museum. Now, my friends, I wasn't there. I'm sure it was a cultural and pharmaceutical event. I was -- I was tied up at the time. No one can be president of the United States that supports projects such as these. I'm John McCain, and I approve this message.

SCARBOROUGH: OK, Mika, that's a funny line, but I'm sorry, that's just strange.

BRZEZINSKI: It was a good moment in -- at the time.

SCARBOROUGH: That was a strange ad, wasn't it?

BRZEZISNKI: I -- I'm not sure what I think of it. I'm still sort of processing it.

SCARBOROUGH: Does he -- does he expect --

BRZEZNISNKI: Does it work?

SCARBOROUGH: Keep that one in the banks. We're going to go back to that.

BRZEZINSKI: Yeah.

SCARBOROUGH: It almost looked like an acid trip. I mean, it was so bizarre. You juxtapose John McCain. He had -

BRZEZINSKI: Woodstock.

SCARBOROUGH: --the psychedelic background --

BRZEZINSKI: Himself in prison.

SCARBOROUGH: --then he had Woodstock, and then he had himself in prison. That's one of the stranger ads I think I've seen.

[McCain ad plays on split screen]

BRZEZINSKI: I'm not sure what it does. What am I missing?

SCARBOORUGH: I remember the moment -- I remember the moment in the debate, and I thought it was great, but you know, look at that. It's just kind of weird.

BRZEZINSKI: I -- I --

SCARBOROUGH: Are people in Greenville, South Carolina, going to be moved by this ad?

BRZEZINSKI: Or are -- or are you supposed to laugh? I --

SCARBOROUGH: Well, you start to laugh, and then you see him tied up.

BRZEZINSKI: [Republican presidential candidate] Rudy [Giuliani]'s laughing -- yeah, and then it -- OK. Well, we'll see how it goes.

SCARBOROUGH: We'll see.

BRZEZINSKI: I -- you know, I -- you never know.

SCARBOROUGH: You never --

BRZEZINKSI: I never underestimate John McCain.

SCARBOROUGH: Don't ever underestimate John McCain. That is a bizarre ad, though.

[...]

SCARBOROUGH: David, I want you to see this ad by John McCain. This is a fascinating ad. It's sort of a mind-bender. I'm not exactly sure if this is going to sell to people in Greenville. I mean, it could -- maybe -- maybe some pot-smoking college students somewhere. It's a strange ad. I -- it's sort of like the Jefferson Airplane "Somebody to Love" video with that flashing light behind it.

BRZEZINSKI: Hey, it could work. Let's let Shuster see it.

SCARBOROUGH: Yeah. But take a look at this ad --

SHUSTER: OK.

SCARBOROUGH: -- and tell me if it's going to play in upstate South Carolina.

McCAIN [video clip]: A few days ago, Senator Clinton tried to spend $1 million on the Woodstock concert museum. Now, my friends, I wasn't there. I'm sure it was a cultural and pharmaceutical event. I was -- I was tied up at the time. No one can be president of the United States that supports projects such as these. I'm John McCain, and I approve this message.

BRZEZINSKI: That's weird.

SCARBOROUGH: Or as Chris said, "I'm John McCain, don't eat the brown acid." That is a strange ad to be running in South Carolina, isn't it?

SHUSTER: But you know what, it's brilliant, Joe, and here's why. It's brilliant, and here's why: Mitt Romney has been saying, as he did in Michigan, and he's been saying in South Carolina --

SCARBOROUGH: Uh-oh. You just doomed him.

SHUSTER: -- no, he's been saying that we don't want any more sort of Washington insiders. He's been saying it at every event. He's been suggesting that John McCain is a Washington insider. So what McCain needs to do in order to counter that -- there's McCain with this ad reminding people that, "Hey, I'm the guy that's been going after all this sort of pork barrel spending. I'm the guy that people in Washington don't like. And, oh, by the way, I was a POW for five years," and that's not a bad thing to remind people of in a state where there's so many military veterans and military families. So I think it's a very smart move by John McCain to sort of counter this perception that he's somehow part of the Washington establishment.

BRZEZINSKI: Yeah, it's a lot all wrapped up in one.

SCARBOROUGH: Do you agree with that?

BRZEZINSKI: I -- I think I see what he's saying.

SCARBOROUGH: Shuster -- let's see if you go 2-for-2, Shuster. Michigan and then South Carolina.

From a January 17 article in The State:

New McCain ad takes dig at Clinton. U.S. Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign introduced a television ad in South Carolina on Wednesday that seeks to underscore the Arizona Republican's sense of humor, wartime heroism and fiscal conservatism.

The ad highlights McCain's opposition to an effort by U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., to spend $1 million in taxpayer money to create a museum commemorating the famous Woodstock rock festival that took place in upstate New York in 1969.

From a January 16 post in The State's S.C. Politics Today blog:

U.S. Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign introduced a television ad in South Carolina today that seeks to underscore the Arizona Republican's sense of humor, war-time heroism and fiscal conservatism.

The ad highlights McCain's opposition to an effort by U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y. to spend $1 million in taxpayer money to create a museum commemorating the famous Woodstock rock festival that took place in Upstate New York in 1969.

The rock festival was an important cultural moment for many Americans, but it was also a scene of mass, public use of illegal drugs. McCain, who was a prisoner of war in Vietnam at the time, opposed using public funds for the museum.

His 30-second ad reminds voters about that fact.

"A few days ago, Sen. Clinton tried to spend $1 million on the Woodstock concert museum," the ad quotes McCain as saying. "Now my friends, I wasn't there. I'm sure it was a cultural and pharmaceutical event. I was...I was tied up at the time."

After applause and laughter, McCain's ad closes with this line from the senator: "No one can be president of the United States that supports projects such as these. I'm John McCain, and I approve this message."

From a January 16 post in The Boston Globe's Political Intelligence blog:

John McCain began airing a TV ad today in South Carolina that neatly wraps in two of his strengths -- as POW war hero and budget watchdog.

It shows him at a Republican debate firing off one of the best one-liners of the campaign, a criticism of a budget provision pushed by Democrat Hillary Clinton.

"A few days ago, Senator Clinton tried to spend one million dollars on the Woodstock concert museum," McCain says.

"Now my friends, I wasn't there. I'm sure it was a cultural and pharmaceutical event," he continues over footage of hippies at the 1969 cultural watershed.

"I was, I was tied up at the time," he says as footage is shown of a bedridden McCain recovering from injuries at the "Hanoi Hilton."

"No one can be President of the United States that supports projects such as these," he says, as the ad shows his rivals applauding him, and the audience rising to its feet.

The spot is airing in the populous Greenville/Spartanburg market.

From a January 16 post in Newsweek's Stumper blog:

Attempting to blunt further speculation about his pro-life cred, McCain trotted out new endorsee Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma), a furious foe of abortion and pork-barrel spending, adding that he would "nominate the closest thing to a clone of Justice Roberts I can find." He railed against internet pornography and spoke frequently of "family values" and the "breakdown of the family." He turned a question about drug use into an opportunity to talk tough on illegal immigration, dropping phrases like "go back where they came from" more often than "humane" and "compassionate," his usual watchwords. And McCain even revived an old ad slamming Hillary Clinton for supporting a Woodstock museum. Let the culture wars begin--again.

Don't get me wrong. McCain's rightward drift is all well and good--and probably necessary in a state where Confederate Flag loyalists are swarming each of his events and a group called Vietnam Veterans Against McCain is accusing him of betraying fellow P.O.W.'s to save himself. (South Carolina has a long, colorful history of smears--as McCain knows from him 2000 loss, when he whispering campaigns alleged that he was gay and/or the father of an out-of-wedlock black child.) But it's largely a defensive crouch, and it detracts from what even McCain says are his main strengths--national security and veterans issues, which play well among South Carolina's massive military community.

From a January 16 post in National Journal's Hotline on Call blog:

John McCain's negative ad against Hillary Clinton -- the one with the psychedelic colors and music, the one that knocks HRC for designating federal money for a Woodstock museum in upstate N.Y. -- is making another appearance. This time, in South Carolina. The spot first ran in N.H.

Because we at On Call find that it ably uses McCain's at times biting humor ... and because we think it's a deft effort at reminding voters that he spent five years as a prisoner of war while flower children partied, we'll post it again. Could play well in conservative S.C., especially given the military presence there.

McCain is clearly stressing his "Service" as he works to woo the very same voters who effectively tanked his campaign in 2000.

Posted In
Economy, Budget, Elections
Network/Outlet
MSNBC
Person
David Shuster
Show/Publication
Morning Joe
Stories/Interests
John McCain, 2008 Elections
We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.