WSJ uncritically reported McCain's accusation that Obama raised age issue, ignoring Obama's actual charge about negative campaigning

››› ››› KATHLEEN HENEHAN

A Wall Street Journal article reported that "Sen. [Barack] Obama suggested Sen. [John] McCain was 'losing his bearings,' " and noted the response of a McCain adviser, who "called it a 'not particularly clever way of raising John McCain's age as an issue.' " But the Journal did not note the context of Obama's remark, which he made after accusing McCain of violating his pledge to avoid negative campaigning, and it did not report an Obama spokesman's denial that Obama was referring to McCain's age.

A May 9 Wall Street Journal article about Sen. John McCain's presidential run reported: "A preview [of the general election] erupted yesterday when, in an interview on cable news, Sen. [Barack] Obama suggested Sen. McCain was 'losing his bearings.' McCain adviser Mark Salter quickly countered with an open memo to reporters. He called it a 'not particularly clever way of raising John McCain's age as an issue.' " But the Journal did not report the context in which Obama made the remark: He was discussing a smear by McCain that "Senator Obama is favored by [the terrorist organization] Hamas" and accused McCain of violating his pledge to avoid negative campaigning. Rather than noting Obama's actual charge and indicating whether the McCain campaign responded to that charge, the Journal printed Salter's accusation that Obama was referring to McCain's age.

During Obama's interview on the May 8 edition of CNN's Situation Room, host Wolf Blitzer quoted McCain as saying, "I think it's very clear who Hamas wants to be the next president of the United States. I think that people should understand that I will be Hamas' worst nightmare. Senator Obama is favored by Hamas. I think people can make judgments accordingly." In response, Obama told Blitzer that McCain's assertion was "disappointing, because John McCain always says, well, I'm not going to run that kind of politics." Obama went on to say: "I've said that they are a terrorist organization, that we should not negotiate with them unless they recognize Israel, renounce violence, and unless they're willing to abide by previous accords between the Palestinians and the Israelis. And, so, for him to toss out comments like that, I think, is an example of him losing his bearings as he pursues this nomination. We don't need name-calling in this debate."

Moreover, while Journal reporters Laura Meckler and Elizabeth Holmes reported that Obama spokesman Bill Burton "called Mr. Salter's email a 'bizarre rant' and accused him of wanting to 'distract and attack,' " their article did not include Burton's denial that Obama was referring to McCain's age. Responding to Salter's memo, Burton said:

Clearly losing one's bearings has no relation to age, given this bizarre rant that Mark Salter just sent out. It's clear why a candidate offering a third term of George Bush's disastrous economic policies and failed strategy in Iraq would want to distract and attack, but it's not the kind of campaign John McCain has promised the American people that he would run.

From the May 9 Wall Street Journal article:

Sen. Obama already has begun pivoting toward the general election. Soon, he is likely to unleash attack ads aimed at defining Sen. McCain. With vastly more money, Sen. Obama will be able to flood the airwaves as voters are forming impressions.

A preview erupted yesterday when, in an interview on cable news, Sen. Obama suggested Sen. McCain was "losing his bearings." McCain adviser Mark Salter quickly countered with an open memo to reporters. He called it a "not particularly clever way of raising John McCain's age as an issue."

Obama spokesman Bill Burton swiped back. He called Mr. Salter's email a "bizarre rant" and accused him of wanting to "distract and attack."

One of Sen. Obama's emerging attacks on Sen. McCain is to try and link him with the unpopular incumbent. "We can't afford to give John McCain the chance to serve out George Bush's third term," he told a North Carolina victory rally Tuesday.

From the May 8 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

BLITZER: He also is going after you now, today, the 60th anniversary of Israel's independence. He says you're not necessarily endorsing policies that would be good for Israel.

He says this, for example: "I think it's very clear who Hamas wants to be the next president of the United States. I think that people should understand that I will be Hamas' worst nightmare. Senator Obama is favored by Hamas. I think people can make judgments accordingly."

OBAMA: Yeah, this is offensive.

And I think it's disappointing, because John McCain always says, well, I'm not going to run that kind of politics. And then to engage in that kind of, you know, smear, I think, is unfortunate, particularly since my policy towards Hamas has been no different than his.

I've said that they are a terrorist organization, that we should not negotiate with them unless they recognize Israel, renounce violence, and unless they're willing to abide by previous accords between the Palestinians and the Israelis. And, so, for him to toss out comments like that, I think, is an example of him losing his bearings as he pursues this nomination.

We don't need name-calling in this debate. What we're going to need is to have a serious conversation about how do we keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of the Iranian regime, how do we broker a peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians that allows both sides to benefit, Israel assuring its security and its status as a Jewish state, the Palestinians able to have a contiguous, functioning state, where their people can prosper?

And, if we end up continuing to be locked up in these ideological arguments, playing politics of the sort that we've seen John McCain doing recently, then I think, frankly, we're going to miss an opportunity to really move this country in a better direction and to reset our foreign policy in a way that I think the world is anxious for.

The world wants to see the United States lead. They've been disappointed and disillusioned over the last seven, eight years. But I think there is still a sense everywhere I go that, you know, if the United States regains its -- its sense of who it is and our values and our ideals, that we will continue to set the tone for creating a more peaceful and more prosperous world.

Posted In
Diversity & Discrimination, Elections
Network/Outlet
Wall Street Journal
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, John McCain, 2008 Elections
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