Journalism

Mitchell calls Obama '90%' ad 'remarkably negative'

by Brad Jacobson

The media continues to present this phony moral equivalency: Obama’s ads are somehow just as negative as McCain’s. On Meet the Press Sunday, Andrea Mitchell exemplified this ludicrous meme, unintentionally entering Onion and Saturday Night Live territory when she called the following “a remarkably negative ad”:

Here’s the specific context in which Mitchell presented this specious notion:

TOM BROKAW: Can they continue to tag John McCain with George Bush?

MITCHELL: They can, and, in fact, they’re doing it with a remarkably negative ad. I mean, we talk a lot about the negativity on the Republican side. But the fact is that Barack Obama has so much more money, and some of these targeted ads, one that they unveiled on Thursday and Friday of this week and it’s on national television, has John McCain in his own words saying, in another interview, in another context, “I voted, I supported George Bush 90 percent of the time.” So they’ve got him on videotape. And the fact is, that this ad is running and running and running. …Yes, the robocalls are reaching hundreds of thousands of people, the negative robotic calls from the Republican side. But these ads are reaching millions and millions of people.”

With all due respect to planetary travel, what planet is Mitchell on? This kind of nonsense should be beneath a serious news organization’s Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent. It’s the kind of comment or, as they call it in the “real parts of America,” lie that we’d expect from Fox News wingnuts, their talk radio minions, and desperate McCain Pfotenhauers. As much a lie as calling Obama a “socialist” or saying he “pals around with terrorists.” Yet Mitchell states this falsehood as fact and no one on the panel, including host Tom Brokaw, calls her on it.

Even worse is Mitchell’s feckless defense of her accusation: McCain’s 90% comment was unfairly taken out of context. McCain told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto on 5/22/03, “The president and I agree on most issues. There was a recent study that showed that I voted with the president over 90 percent of the time, higher than a lot of my even Republican colleagues.”

I’d like to hear Mitchell explain what possible additional context would dispel the fact that McCain touted his allegiance to Bush over five years ago and then, as confirmed by Congressional Quarterly, remained steadfast in his avowed allegiance by continuing to vote with Bush 90% of the time over the next five years? I’d like to hear it because no such context exists.

Calling this “a remarkably negative ad” is like calling vanilla a remarkably exotic flavor, McCain a remarkably sunny candidate, Palin a remarkably complex thinker, or, say, Andrea Mitchell a remarkably responsible journalist.

It’s the kind of overt stupidity and shameless mendacity that helped drum up support for attacking a country that never attacked us. The kind of sloppy reporting that continues to claim McCain took a noble stand against torture when, in fact, he folded on the torture issue by voting to sanction the “enhanced interrogation techniques” — including historically known forms of torture such as waterboarding, stress positions and sleep deprivation — in the Military Commissions Act of 2006; given another chance to right that wrong, he caved once again to the extremists in his party. (Yes, the Obama campaign gives McCain credit on “standing against torture” for whatever political calculation it has made — throw the war hero a bone? if Obama brought it up it would shed light on his lack of military service? — but the media has endlessly perpetuated this myth, or lie, to the benefit of McCain and detriment of the American people.) The kind of hack journalism that needs to be corrected not just by media critics and partisans but by every mainstream journalist who hopes to restore a level of professionalism we watched vanish during the Bush years.

Incidentally, McCain has also said, “I have agreed with President Bush far more than I have disagreed. And on the transcendent issues, the most important issues of our day, I have been totally in agreement and support of President Bush.” [NBC, “Meet The Press,” 6/19/05] And: “No one has supported President Bush on Iraq more than I have.” [The Mike Gallagher Show, 3/28/08]

Meanwhile, here is just one of the robocalls Mitchell portrays as equivalent to Obama’s 90% ad:

“I’m calling for John McCain and the RNC because you need to know that Barack Obama has worked closely with domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, whose organization bombed the U.S. Capitol, the Pentagon, a judge’s home, and killed Americans. And Democrats will enact an extreme leftist agenda if they take control of Washington. Barack Obama and his Democratic allies lack the judgment to lead our country. This call was paid for by McCain-Palin 2008 and the Republican National Committee.”

That is remarkable.

Cross-posted from MediaBloodhound.

6 replies »

  1. Andrea Mitchell’s reports have consistently held a Republican tilt for some time now. I’m not sure if it’s her personal bias showing through or if she is trying to “give balance” by appearing equally tough on both sides.

    It’s also very telling that voting with your party’s leader is seen to be “remarkably negative”.

  2. Well, not all leaders are burned in effigy across the world.

    The University of Wisconsin Advertising Project classifies negative ads as any ads that attack the candidate’s opponent, whether they are true or false. In that context, you can’t deny “90%” is a negative ad, but as Slammy says, they don’t bother wondering whether the attacks are true or not. Declaring the truth or falsity of an ad’s content would inevitably end with the network being accused of bias.

    However, this means any polling they do on what impact negative ads are having on the race is inherently skewed since they don’t make this distinction. I’d wager most of the people turned off by negative ads are voting for Obama, and see the adjective “negative” as used to describe libelous claims rather than just attack ads.

  3. Andrea Mitchell’s on the Allen Greenspan Crazy Train. delusional. she also said, post-debate 3, that John McCain won.

  4. That Mrs. Alan Greenspan would present a republican perspective should only be of shock value to those who are totally unaware of her history!

    Her husband was appointed to chair the Fed because he is a 100% republican.

    Anyone who believes that Andrea is not 100% republican with a veneer of impartiality must also believe that James Carville and Mary Matalin are not the couple from hell! But then again, you may also believe that Joe Scarborough & Tom Brokaw are also impartial observers.

  5. I find it amusing that the strict tense of “negative” is used (as in, not nice because someone’s feelings could get hurt) when we’re talking “factual”.

    You guys covered it well above, so there’s not much more to add.. The problem is that the average right-wing hard core partisan will never be able to make the distinction between “fact” and “fabrication”, nor will they ever concede that “nagative light sheding facts” are nothing like “viscious lies and distortions”.

    To the ruling elite, it’s a game. And they intend to win. They don’t care about playing nice, or obeying rules. They just want to win. ….. which is why WE are supposed to be running the country. Instead, through their viscous games, they have wrested control away. … perhaps we’ll get it back.

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