MSNBC's Gregory failed to challenge suggestion that McCain's heroism during Vietnam War should bar criticism of him now

››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

On Race for the White House, McCain campaign senior adviser Nicolle Wallace said: "I never hear anyone put it to the Obama campaign, the internal deliberations that they may have gone to when they made the strategic decision to essentially fillet an American hero, a former POW, on the stump every day, which is what comes out of their candidate's mouth every day on the stump." David Gregory did not challenge this suggestion that McCain's status as an "American hero, a former POW" should insulate him from criticism of his policy proposals and Senate record.

During the August 8 edition of MSNBC's Race for the White House, host David Gregory failed to challenge the suggestion by Nicolle Wallace, senior adviser for Sen. John McCain's campaign, that McCain's status as an "American hero, a former POW" should insulate him from criticism of his policy proposals and Senate record. Wallace said: "I never hear anyone put it to the Obama campaign, the internal deliberations that they may have gone to when they made the strategic decision to essentially fillet an American hero, a former POW, on the stump every day, which is what comes out of their candidate's mouth every day on the stump." Gregory later noted that Obama has tied McCain to President Bush and asked Wallace, "What else do you have in mind in terms of what they've done?" In response, Wallace stated that "it is a blatant lie" to call "McCain an extension of the Bush administration." But Gregory did not ask Wallace how, as she suggested, McCain's being a former POW exempts him from criticism that he is an "extension of the Bush administration."

Wallace's claim that connecting McCain to Bush policies is "a blatant lie" is contradicted by statements by officials in the Bush White House and the McCain campaign, as well as an independent study of voting records. While appearing with McCain during a March 5 White House endorsement ceremony, Bush said that McCain is "not going to change when it comes to taking on the enemy." In an article about Bush's endorsement, The Washington Post reported that White House officials said that "McCain and Bush are on the same page on the big issues, such as terrorism, Iraq, immigration and taxes." As Media Matters for America has noted, according to a 2008 study by Congressional Quarterly, a nonpartisan publication that tracks legislators' votes, McCain voted with the president 95 percent of the time in 2007.

During the June 8 edition of ABC's This Week, host George Stephanopoulos asked McCain campaign national co-chairman Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC): "You said the tax policy and the health care policy were essentially, Senator Graham -- John McCain is calling for an extension or maybe even enhancement of the Bush policies." Graham replied: "Yeah, absolutely."

From the August 8 edition of MSNBC's Race for the White House:

GREGORY: Let's talk about this campaign --

WALLACE: Sure.

GREGORY: -- and talk about McCain campaign strategy. You have tried, the campaign has recently, to tarnish Obama's credibility and his image in a couple of ways. On the one hand, it is to describe him as a celebrity, to use Britney Spears, Paris Hilton to suggest he's sort of famous for being famous, that he's a lightweight. That's on the one hand.

On the other hand, it is to reduce his energy plan to the idea of the tire gauge, to suggest that his whole energy plan is really about whether there's enough air in the tires.

So the question is, are these ambush political tactics? And is that consistent with the original maverick that you [unintelligible] John McCain is?

WALLACE: You know, two quick things here, David. One, I never hear anyone put it to the Obama campaign, the internal deliberations that they may have gone to when they made the strategic decision to essentially fillet an American hero, a former POW, on the stump every day, which is what comes out of their candidate's mouth every day on the stump.

And two, Barack Obama tarnished himself. We didn't paint him as anything that he isn't. He certainly -- you know, he went overseas; we were pleased that he was finally going to visit the war zone. But their campaign made a decision -- and they obviously did it to gain advantage, because you don't do things in campaigns for other reasons -- to hold a 200,000 person rally in Europe in the midst of a presidential campaign. So it was obviously a decision to celebrate his celebrity with a crowd of screaming Europeans. And it's -- you know, by pointing it out, it's not our effort to tarnish him. It's shining a light on something that his campaign spent a lot of time and money trying to shine a light on themselves.

GREGORY: And when you talk about trying to tarnish McCain's image or fillet his image or his reputation, certainly there's been a very aggressive attempt to tie him to President Bush and say he's a third Bush term. What else do you have in mind in terms of what they've done?

WALLACE: Well, look, let's not gloss over that. I mean, you covered this White House. I worked at this White House. John McCain used to make major news every time he ended up at odds with the Bush White House, whether it was attacking the secretary of defense for the conduct of the war, whether it was a very high profile disagreement that he had with the Bush White House over torture and other aspects of the war on terror. So it is a blatant lie when Barack Obama stands in front of his supporters and calls John McCain an extension of the Bush administration. It's simply not true. So, it's not something to gloss over.

And you know, on the other hand, Barack Obama is someone who's -- the two pillars of his candidacy are a politician who's going to do things differently, change we can believe in, and the other is judgment that he pointed to in his race against Hillary Clinton when he said, "I gave a speech in 2002 in which I had better judgment than you did on Iraq."

So, I think that Barack Obama's wounds are self-inflicted. And I think it's the job of any campaign to highlight a candidate's weaknesses. So that's all that we've done. And really, our focus is on communicating John McCain's vision for the future for making this country energy independent and getting people working again.

GREGORY: But clearly, the McCain campaign has made a calculated decision to turn up the heat on Obama, to go on the attack to try to have a different narrative frame for this campaign. In fact, Senator McCain told [Washington Post columnist] David Broder that he laments the tone of this campaign and what's happened over the past several weeks.

Network/Outlet
MSNBC
Person
David Gregory
Show/Publication
Race for the White House with David Gregory
Stories/Interests
Barack Obama, 2008 Elections
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