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.