RNC's Obama attack sheet "not surprising" and "a bit of a stretch" -- but still news to National Journal, MSNBC


An April 9 entry on the National Journal's Hotline On Call weblog noted that the Republican National Committee, in anticipation of Sen. Barack Obama's (D-IL) appearance that night on CBS' Late Show with David Letterman, released an attack sheet detailing "Obama's Top Ten Fabrications." However, despite acknowledging that "these are 'alleged' fabrications, and some of them are... a bit of a stretch," Hotline On Call reprinted the entire RNC release without informing readers which "fabrications" it considered to be "a bit of a stretch."

Similarly, the April 10 edition of MSNBC News Live devoted an entire segment to the RNC attack sheet, even though anchor Amy Robach noted that "the Republicans did try to at least grab a headline with their own top-10 list," and "it's not surprising to know that Republicans are attacking a potential Democratic candidate, but it is pretty early." Robach's guest, Chicago Sun-Times columnist Lynn Sweet, added that "this is the second time that the Republican National Committee has issued this string of information," and that "there's nothing new in the things they listed."

Additionally, Sweet claimed that one "of the more important things" the RNC attack on Obama highlighted "might be whether or not somebody claims to speak a language they don't. I don't know if he's fluent in Indonesian." But Obama wrote in his memoir Dreams from My Father (Three Rivers Press, 1995) not that he is fluent or that he became fluent in six months but, rather: "It had taken me less than six months to learn Indonesia's language, its customs, and its legends." The RNC attack sheet cited a March 25 Chicago Tribune article with an assertion that also differed from Obama's memoir: "Obama has claimed on numerous occasions to have become fluent in Indonesian in six months. Yet those who knew him disputed that during recent interviews. Israella Pareira Darmawan, Obama's 1st-grade teacher, said she attempted to help him learn the Indonesian language by going over pronunciation and vowel sounds. He struggled greatly with the foreign language, she said, and with his studies as a result."

From the April 9 Hotline On Call entry:

Barack Obama will guest on CBS' "The Late Show With David Letterman" tonight. He "shares the star billing" with actress Halle Berry (Sweet, Chicago Sun-Times, 4/9).

The RNC will blast e-mail "Obama's Top Ten Fabrications" to the press later today. (We'll add that these are "alleged" fabrications, and some of them are... a bit of a stretch.)

They include: "#6: Obama's Campaign Only Had 'Very Attenuated' Ties To The 1984 Ad Creator"

#10: Obama Was A Constitutional Law Professor

Even: "#8: Obama Was Fluent In Indonesian As A Child"

The full release, after the jump. This might be the first RNC e-mail the Clinton campaign will applaud and file away.

Responds Obama comm. dir. Bill Burton: "If the Republican Party would like for this race to come down to Obama's vision versus how fast Obama picked up Indonesian as a child, I like our chances. It's probably disappointing to their supporters but I myself very much enjoy how they're spending their time over there."

From the April 10 edition of MSNBC News Live:

ROBACH: All right, well, the Republican Party used Barack Obama's appearances on David Letterman's show last night as a chance to launch an early political attack. The GOP released its own mock top-10 list outlining what it claimed were Obama's past "fabrications." But Letterman was more interested in the battle within the Democratic Party and the possibility of both Obama and Hillary Clinton being on the ticket.

[begin video clip]

LETTERMAN: Maybe he'll be the presidential candidate, Hillary might be the vice president. Maybe it will be the reverse of that. Any of that occur at this point or not?

OBAMA: You don't run for second.


OBAMA: No, I don't believe in that.

LETTERMAN: But that would be -- that would be a powerful ticket. Undeniably, that would be a powerful ticket.

OBAMA: Well, which order are we talking about?

LETTERMAN: Well, let's say --


LETTERMAN: Let's say you're the presidential candidate.


LETTERMAN: And Hillary is the vice presidential candidate. Now, if she were sitting here, it would be different from that, but --

[end video clip]

ROBACH: Lynn Sweet is a columnist for Obama's hometown newspaper, the Chicago Sun-Times. Thanks for being with us.

SWEET: Good morning.

ROBACH: All joking aside, the Republicans did try to at least grab a headline with their own top-10 list, as we mentioned, and they showed disparities -- what they call disparities -- from what Obama has said about his past and what has actually happened. Raising questions about whether he was truly fluent in Indonesian, as he claimed, whether he's really a law professor, whether he really had a racial awakening after seeing a photo of, apparently, he says, a black man bleaching his skin to make it white. He said he saw it in Life magazine. Is there anything to any of this?

SWEET: Well, this is the second time that he Republican National Committee has issued this string of information. They repackaged it in a top-10 list format because that goes along with what Dave Letterman does, and they thought it was a little catchier. So there's nothing new in the things they listed. But these are some of the items that are now coming out about Senator Obama's biography that you have out there for people to decide if it's important or not.

On the point of -- he sometimes says that -- sometimes been in his literature when he ran in 2004 that he was a law professor at the University of Chicago. Actually, he was a lecturer. In academia, there's a big distinction. Whether or not this is a biographical misdemeanor or felony, I leave for others to judge right now. Now, some of the more important things might be whether or not somebody claims to speak a language they don't. I don't know if he's fluent in Indonesian.

The other point is on this picture in his memoir that he said triggered this memory. His staff had been looking for it. I'm not sure if they exactly found it yet, but apparently, it was of concern enough to Senator Obama that he wanted his research team -- which is, in a sense, re-reporting his life -- to go look for it.

ROBACH: And Lynn, obviously there's -- it's not surprising to know that Republicans are attacking a potential Democratic candidate, but it is pretty early. Can we infer from that early fear? Or is this just setting a media narrative?

SWEET: Both. You're right on both counts. I think it's softening up the front-runner. That's the compliment you get when you're -- you know, when you're on top. The other thing is, because so much is still not really known about Senator Obama, compared to the other front-runner, Hillary Rodham Clinton -- my goodness, you've known her negatives for years. People have written books. It was a whole cottage industry, you know, for everything that Hillary Rodham Clinton has done since she was first lady and before. So this is new, and I think some of these stories that are coming out now by reporters who were just looking at every bit of Obama's life become fodder for the Republicans, who are now looking towards a general election, rather than a primary. And that's the enormous compliment that's been paid in all this to Senator Obama, is that they consider him the potential Democratic nominee.

ROBACH: All right --

SWEET: Because they wouldn't bother with this if they didn't think so.

ROBACH: Very interesting. Lynn Sweet, thanks for being with us.

MSNBC, The Hotline, National Journal Group
Amy Robach
Barack Obama, 2008 Elections
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