CBS Deceptively Edits McCain Interview?

If this pans out to be true, CBS will soon be answering to angry Democrats much in the same way it had to answer to angry Republicans over “Rathergate.”

At issue is an interview between Katie Couric and Republican Presidential candidate John McCain. McCain is using the venue to tout his superior understanding and judgment on Iraq: a perfectly fair campaign claim. But McCain apparently went overboard and bizarrely credited the surge with an event that started happening two months before the US even started discussing having a surge.

In the final interview, however, this footage has been edited so that McCain answers a different question than he was asked, cutting out his mistake.

Now, it’s one thing to simply edit out material for time, and just because something that ended up on the editing room floor happens to be something the opposition thinks they could use to their advantage is still not evidence of bias. But in editing together different questions and responses, CBS goes too far: and the unfortunate effect is spinning directly for McCain’s benefit.

The clips are shown side-by-side here:

As for McCain, I’m generally pretty forgiving of gaffes by politicians: prepped interviews are hardly a good venue for judging a candidates grasp on any issue other than how they do on prepped interviews.

But McCain can’t quite escape criticism here: he’s lambasting Obama on not understanding a foreign policy issue, but then badly either doesn’t understand it himself, or at least badly misstates it (the latter, if Obama did it, would be immediately implied to be the former by McCain’s camp, and vice-versa). And he’s made several clumsy foreign policy gaffes in the past few weeks: again all forgivable, but all of which make his criticisms of Obama as having a shallow grasp on things deeply hypocritical.

And, like former McCain fan Joe Klein, I’m sad to see that McCain is resorting to directly accusing Obama of wanting to “lose the war” to just win the election (a claim his campaign has been experimenting with indirectly for weeks).

Even people that support a long-term stay in Iraq can’t sensibly define what we’re doing there as simply a “war” to win or lose. We’re an occupying nation with the goal of setting up a stable, sovereign Iraq, and there’s a difference of opinion in what the conditions need to be in order for us to start leaving, and how soon we can plausibly start. How to win the “War on Terror,” whether it be ambiguously connected or not to whatever “war” in Iraq McCain is referencing, is again also a matter of different policy opinions.

It’s one thing to say that Obama has a blinkered and unrealistic view of things (though this got far harder to say given that the supposedly sovereign in-all-but press-releases Iraqi government seems to prefer Obama’s take). McCain has been making a reasonably convincing case on that. But neither candidate wants to “lose” anything, and its unfortunate that McCain has slipped into basically accusing his opponent of self-interested treason.

Finally, isn’t it a little bizarre of McCain to paint himself as the sort of principled person who won’t say false things just to win an election, when in fact it’s clear that he thinks that saying things like this (which I have a very hard time accepting that he really believes) will help him win the election?

Update: In another of a growing list of disappointing moves, the McCain campaign is now accusing Obama of being soft on genocide, or at least changing his position on it. But the charge is both wrong and somewhat despicable, as hilzoy argues.

There are plenty of issues, in the rough and tumble of political debate, where campaigns playing fast and loose with their opponents positions and words is, if not quite honest or acceptable, an accepted part of the game. But when it comes to issues like genocide, I think at least some sense of deceny should compell you to charitably extend the benefit of the doubt to a fellow American, even if they are your political opponent, and not be so quick to pounce on any statement which might be twisted into either endorsement or indifference to moral evil.

7 Responses to CBS Deceptively Edits McCain Interview?

  1. charleslawlesss says:

    I have noticed that the entire McCain campaign has been one big Gaff. Look I think McCain served this country and demands the up most respect. He is probably even a patriot. But it is a cold fact of life when you get older you dull intellectually. I think McCain just isnt as sharp as a president needs to be. We cant elect presidents on the mere fact that they are a war hero., They need to be able to function as a president functions. Here is a site that has videos of all of the mccain gaffs. It also has a video of McCain falling asleep on the Conan Obrien show., I cant believe this video isnt being shown on the news more. Wow.! I will leave the link its

    I would like to take the opportunity to say I would not vote for a McCain Romney ticket, I might a McCain / Huckabee ticket. Here is a link that has all of the Romney attack ad videos, that Romney released against McCain during the primary, along with a video of romney calling McCain dishonest. How could McCain even consider picking Romney. I think the McCain camp is trying to sabotage McCain. The link to the videos is

    You can sign a petition to make Huckabee the VP at

  2. Bad says:

    He’s definately a patriot, and I don’t think he’s gaffed anything that demonstrates a dull mind, per se, just a wooden tongue when it comes to trying to one-up his opponent on foriegn policy matters.

    We’ll see about the VP pick though. Hopefully we may know soon.

  3. rebeldreams says:

    I’m not sure that this can be painted as a “misstatement” by McCain; he prefaces his response to Couric by stating that Obama’s take is “blatantly untrue” and an example of how deluded his (Obama’s) view of the Middle East is. He also claims that the Sunni Awakening falling *after* the surge is “just a matter of history”, when history most certainly shows the opposite.

    Yes, the case can certainly be made that the surge *aided* the Awakening, by providing breathing room for the tribal leaders to operate in, but they had done a pretty thorough job of cleansing those reigons of Al-Qaeda cells before the boots hit the ground, about six months later.

    Sure, it might have been a misstatement, an over-enthusiastic overstatement to try to claim some moral high ground over Obama’s “anti-Surge” sentiments expressed both before and since the surge, but the way it was framed suggests a deliberate attempt (to me, and I am speaking personally here) to twist the known facts to suit his own (political) purposes.

    Bottom line; I wait to be convinced, and the McCain campaign’s refusal to deal with this head-on, except to claim an Obama-led media conspiracy against him does absolutely nothing to convince me that I’m wrong here. Which is a pity, becuause, damnitall, I *like* McCain.

  4. Bad says:

    A deliberate attempt implies a degree of forethought. But any forethought would reveal how easily the falsehood could be exposed and thus counsel against it. Perhaps “confusion” is a better word than misstatement.

    McCain did cancel his only press briefing today: a remarkably odd thing to do for someone complaining that he isn’t getting enough coverage. But that means we won’t get direct answers any time soon.

  5. rebeldreams says:

    I agree that “deliberate” implies forethought; but I do caution that several other “deliberate” distortions (on both sides, to be fair) that were horribly transparent. Yesterday’s “Obama is behind high gas prices” ad larf-fest is one that comes to mind.

    I think both sides to a certain extent and McCain’s to a much larger degree (and again, I fault McCain’s campaign rather than the man himself for this) have used deliberate distortions either not knowing or not caring whether these distortions can be easily seen through. It’s a variant of the “throw enough mud and some will stick” policy; in this case its targeted at the so-called “low informaiton voters”, a term I find pretty unpleasant, if apt.

  6. Flander Annapollis says:

    Why is this NOT GETTING THE PRESS IT DESERVES? If it were the other way around, we would see loops upon loops of it. It is time to BOMBARD CBS and Katie (my gums are nasty) Couric.

  7. Bad says:

    Because it doesn’t fit the script. The script is that the press will have Obama’s baby. The fact that McCain has received fawning press treatment most of his career, with perhaps this being one example, is off script.

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