CNN's Borger claimed Obama's decision to forgo public financing gives McCain "opening" to attack Obama's character, didn't note McCain's loan

››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI & LAUREN AUERBACH

On The Situation Room, Gloria Borger asserted that Sen. Barack Obama's decision to forgo public financing for the general election "is going to become a character issue for Barack Obama, because ... [i]t gives [Sen.] John McCain an opening to say, 'This is not the man you think you know.' " But Borger did not note that McCain has also given Obama an "opening" on the issue of public financing: a loan agreement McCain signed during the primary season that could have forced him to remain in the race -- even if he had no chance of winning -- in order to be eligible for public matching funds to repay the loan.

On the June 25 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, CNN senior political analyst Gloria Borger asserted that Sen. Barack Obama's decision to forgo public financing for the general election "is going to become a character issue for Barack Obama, because ... [i]t gives [Sen.] John McCain an opening to say, 'This is not the man you think you know.' " But Borger did not note that McCain has also given Obama an "opening" on the issue of public financing: a loan agreement McCain signed during the primary season that could have forced him to remain in the race -- even if he had no chance of winning -- in order to be eligible for public matching funds to repay the loan. Indeed, on the June 20 edition of CNN's American Morning, Obama communications director Robert Gibbs asserted of McCain: "When his poll numbers were bad, he was using the public financing system as nothing more than a shell game to get a loan from a bank that, [anchor] John [Roberts], you or I never could walk into that bank and get. And the collateral he used was the public financing system." David Axelrod, Obama's chief strategist, also reportedly drew attention to McCain's loan in April, as Media Matters for America has documented.

Federal Election Commission (FEC) chairman David Mason has taken the position that McCain cannot legally opt out of public financing for the primary without FEC approval and has asked the McCain campaign to expand upon its assertion that it had not "pledged the certification of Matching Payment funds as security for private financing," citing provisions of the loan agreement, the security agreement, and modifications to that agreement. If McCain's campaign is not allowed to withdraw from the public financing system and if it is found to have knowingly raised and spent money beyond public financing limits, its actions "could put McCain at risk of stiff fines and up to five years in prison," according to The Washington Post.

Additionally, in a June 26 article, Chicago Tribune reporter John McCormick uncritically quoted McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds attacking Obama for his decision to forgo public financing, without noting the loan. McCormick wrote that on June 25, Obama "vigorously defended his brand, arguing that his recent decision to reject public financing and its spending limits will not hurt his image as a candidate of change." McCormick later quoted Bounds saying of Obama: "His arrogant refusal to concede that he broke his word to the American people either shows that he is unable to admit the facts or that he believes Americans aren't smart enough to recognize typical politics when they see it."

Media Matters has documented a pattern in which media outlets uncritically report the McCain campaign's attacks on Obama over public financing without noting McCain's loan.

From the June 25 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

WOLF BLITZER (host): Jack [Cafferty, commentator], listen to this clip from Barack Obama at that news conference just a little while ago responding to charges that he flip-flopped on the issue of public funding for the general election campaign. He opted out of it.

Listen to this.

OBAMA [video clip]: I think that the characterization of flip-flop was wrong because if you looked at my statement, what I said was, is that we would try to work with the Republican nominee to preserve the option of public financing.

BLITZER: Does his explanation, you know, hold?

BORGER: No.

CAFFERTY: I -- well, you know, at the risk of hijacking this segment, I -- that's an issue that the voters don't care about. But he said something at that news conference today that I think the voters will care about. He was asked about the Supreme Court decision that said you can't execute people who rape children. And he disagreed with the Supreme Court. If you remember [1988 Democratic presidential nominee] Mike Dukakis being asked by CNN's Bernie Shaw way back a long time ago whether he'd support the death penalty for somebody who raped and murdered his wife, Dukakis went off on some cockamamie generic explanation of law and theory and whatever. And that was the beginning of the end of his run for the White House.

Today, Barack Obama said the court is wrong. If you rape a 6-year-old or an 8-year-old child, within narrowly defined terms -- and Jeff [Toobin, CNN legal analyst] would know much more about this than I would -- you ought to be able to put these people to death.

I think he did himself a lot of good with voters. I don't think voters give a damn about campaign finance law.

TOOBIN: And I think Cafferty is running for office because he is not answering the question the way politicians don't answer the question, with it --

CAFFERTY: I'm just trying to keep it interesting.

TOOBIN: Well, but --

BORGER: I'll answer it.

TOOBIN: That was a total flip-flop by Obama.

BORGER: It total -- complete.

TOOBIN: It's a total flip-flop. And you know what? He made a calculation. He wants the money more than he wants the -- more than he worries about the consistency.

BORGER: And here's the danger: not only that it's a flip-flop and he gives some cockamamie excuse here, saying, "You know, I'm doing this because of my small donors." He did it because he wants to raise the money. But this is going to become a character issue for Barack Obama, because John -- it gives John McCain --

CAFFERTY: No, it's not.

BORGER: It gives John McCain an opening to say, "This is not the man you think you know."

CAFFERTY: Yeah. I don't -- the voters don't care. Besides, this is three days old, this story.

BLITZER: All right. It's -- I think it's more than three days.

TOOBIN: Three days?

BLITZER: It's about a week old. All right, stand by, guys.

From the June 26 Chicago Tribune article:

Obama said he also is not concerned that he has not yet received a more full-throated endorsement from Clinton's husband, the former president.

"If the question is, do I want Bill Clinton campaigning for us for the ticket leading into November, the answer is absolutely yes," he said. "I want him involved. He is a brilliant politician."

Obama vigorously defended his brand, arguing that his recent decision to reject public financing and its spending limits will not hurt his image as a candidate of change.

"The overwhelming bulk of the 1.7 million donors that we get money from are ordinary Americans, not fat cats," he said.

That point brought a rebuttal from Sen. John McCain's campaign.

"His arrogant refusal to concede that he broke his word to the American people either shows that he is unable to admit the facts or that he believes Americans aren't smart enough to recognize typical politics when they see it," McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds said.

Obama, meanwhile, criticized one of McCain's top aides for suggesting that a terrorist attack might politically benefit the likely Republican nominee.

Network/Outlet
CNN, Chicago Tribune
Person
Gloria Borger
Show/Publication
The Situation Room
Stories/Interests
John McCain, 2008 Elections
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