The New York Times' Adam Nagourney suggested Sen. Barack Obama had highlighted Sen. John McCain's age when he said that McCain was "losing his bearings," but Nagourney failed to note that Obama made the comment in response to a smear by McCain and was accusing McCain of violating his pledge to avoid negative campaigning.
In a June 15 article, New York Times reporter Adam Nagourney baselessly suggested Sen. Barack Obama had highlighted Sen. John McCain's age when he said that McCain was "losing his bearings" without noting that Obama made the comment in response to a smear by McCain and was accusing McCain of violating his pledge to avoid negative campaigning. Nagourney wrote: "It is hardly any wonder that Mr. McCain seemed rankled last week when some of Mr. Obama's supporters said he seemed 'confused'; Mr. McCain did not disabuse a reporter who asked if he thought the Obama surrogates were using code words. (Mr. Obama himself in May said that Mr. McCain was 'losing his bearings.')"
As Media Matters for America has documented, 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."
Nor did Nagourney note that Obama spokesman Bill Burton denied that Obama was referring to McCain's age.
Additionally, Nagourney wrote that "Mr. McCain seemed rankled last week when some of Mr. Obama's supporters said he seemed 'confused' " without noting that those supporters denied that they were referring to McCain's age. During a June 11 conference call (audio available here), Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and Obama foreign policy advisor Susan Rice asserted that McCain had "confuse[d]" several facts about Iraq. Both Kerry and Rice reportedly said that "confuse[d]" referred not to McCain's age but to numerous misstatements that McCain has made about Iraq. As ABC News senior national correspondent Jake Tapper reported in a June 11 post to his Political Punch blog:
Asked if the word "confused" was meant to invoke McCain's age, Rice said, "what I meant by that is very simple -- on critical, factual questions that are fundamental to understanding what's going on in Iraq and the region, Sen. McCain has gotten it wrong. And not just once but repeatedly."
Rice mentioned a recent incident when McCain mistakenly said troop levels had returned to pre-surge levels. "I'm not ascribing it to any particular function, I'm completely unable to do so," Rice said. "I'm simply pointing out a pattern."
She invited a reporter to offer another word to convey what she saw as McCain's "lack of understanding, misunderstanding, ...they all amount to the same thing. There is a gap. Between reality and sen McCain's characterization of reality and that's disturbing from somebody who has staked his candidacy on judgment and experience."
Kerry said to a reporter that it was "unfair and even a little bit ridiculous to assume that because you use a word that is used about every day in America life and people's policies and apply it to John McCain and you jump to the conclusion that is about somebody's age."
Kerry said there are plenty of senators and congressman older than McCain "who understand the difference sand [sic] don't make the mistakes he's made with respect to those policies," he said, citing Sen. John Warner, R-Virginia. "They know who the Sunni are and they know who the Shi'a are, and they know exactly who's training who. And they don't make those kinds of mistakes."
From Nagourney's June 15 New York Times article, headlined "Age Becomes the New Race and Gender":
This is, in part, because the very notion of "old age" is continually in flux, owing to increased life expectancy and advances in medicine; but it is also because questions about age can be unsettling to anyone on the wrong side of the divide. Race and gender are, in most cases, inescapable categories. But who among us really thinks of himself or herself as old, with all it connotes: memory lapses, slowed reflexes, and - wait, how did this sentence start again?
It is hardly any wonder that Mr. McCain seemed rankled last week when some of Mr. Obama's supporters said he seemed "confused"; Mr. McCain did not disabuse a reporter who asked if he thought the Obama surrogates were using code words. (Mr. Obama himself in May said that Mr. McCain was "losing his bearings.")
Age will figure in this election - not only because of the gulf in years separating the two candidates, but also because of fault lines of age within the electorate. Both Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama will have to reckon with the great mass of baby boomers, the post-World War II generation who make up a major part of the voting demographic and are themselves experiencing for themselves just what it means to get older. (The oldest of the boomers, born in 1946, reach the early retirement age of 62 this year.)