A Washington Post article falsely reported that "[Sen. Barack] Obama questioned in early May whether [Sen. John] McCain was 'losing his bearings' over Middle East peace issues." In fact, Obama was responding to a smear by McCain when he said, “John McCain always says, well, I'm not going to run that kind of politics ... 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.”
In a June 3 Washington Post article about the New Jersey Democratic primary race for the U.S. Senate between Sen. Frank Lautenberg and Rep. Robert E. Andrews, staff writer Paul Kane wrote that “New Jersey's Democratic voters will answer a question today that may weigh heavily on John McCain's prospects in November: Just how old is too old?” Kane further wrote of McCain's age, "[Sen. Barack] Obama has yet to raise the issue directly," adding, “The McCain campaign has reacted with ferocity at what it perceives to be even subtle hints aimed at bringing attention to McCain's age, most notably when Obama questioned in early May whether McCain was 'losing his bearings' over Middle East peace issues.” However, Obama did not question whether McCain was " 'losing his bearings' over Middle East peace issues"; rather, Obama was responding to a smear by McCain that “Senator Obama is favored by [the terrorist organization] Hamas” when he accused McCain of violating his pledge to avoid negative campaigning. The Post did not note the context of the “losing his bearings” remark or the Obama campaign's subsequent statement that his comment was not about McCain's age.
During an interview with Obama on the May 8 edition of CNN's The 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.”
After McCain adviser Mark Salter asserted in a memo that Obama's “losing his bearings” comment was a “not particularly clever way of raising John McCain's age as an issue,” Obama spokesman Bill 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 June 3 Washington Post article:
In a preview of what could become a central theme of the fall presidential campaign, New Jersey's Democratic voters will answer a question today that may weigh heavily on John McCain's prospects in November: Just how old is too old?
Sen. Frank Lautenberg, 84, is facing a primary challenge from Rep. Robert E. Andrews (D-N.J.), who has made the octogenarian's age, his competence and the energy he brings to the job the defining issues of his underdog campaign.
Age has always been a touchy subject in the Senate, where Lautenberg is among 10 current members who are 75 or older. Several in that group have fallen ill in the past year: Sens. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), who underwent brain surgery yesterday; Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), currently undergoing chemotherapy treatments for Hodgkin's disease; Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.), who was diagnosed with a brain disease; and John W. Warner (R-Va.), who has been treated for abnormal heartbeats since last fall.
Domenici, 76, and Warner, 81, have announced their intention to retire at the end of this year.
Sen. Robert C. Byrd (D-W.Va.), who turned 90 in November, remains chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee despite suffering from a tremor and three hospitalizations this year, the most recent coming last night [Story, A2].
McCain's presidential candidacy has raised the age issue to its greatest political prominence since Ronald Reagan batted back a question in 1984 by promising not to exploit the “youth and inexperience” of Democratic presidential challenger Walter Mondale in 1984. If elected, McCain would be 72 next January, the oldest person ever sworn in for their first term as president.
Obama has yet to raise the issue directly. The McCain campaign has reacted with ferocity at what it perceives to be even subtle hints aimed at bringing attention to McCain's age, most notably when Obama questioned in early May whether McCain was “losing his bearings” over Middle East peace issues.
But there has been nothing subtle about Andrews's attacks on Lautenberg. In the only televised debate Lautenberg agreed to, Andrews accused the incumbent of making “a commitment to run a vigorous campaign” and said, “I believe he has not done that.”