Burden on Cindy McCain Over Michelle Obama's Lack of Pride in U.S.

Michelle Obama proclaimed that “for the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country,” but instead of putting the burden on the Obama campaign to defend her admission of a lack of pride in her nation, NBC on Tuesday night framed its coverage around Cindy McCain's “rhetoric” in issuing a “political jab” over the remark and concern over whether that “was a knock at Michelle Obama?” But at least NBC highlighted the comment from Monday. ABC's World News didn't utter a word about it while CBS's Jim Axelrod pointed out how the Obama “campaign says don't slice apart the quote to infer she's not a patriot.”

NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams set up the story: “For the Republicans, the rhetoric today was also largely about words. And today it involved the wife of the frontrunner, Cindy McCain.” Kelly O'Donnell relayed how “the most memorable political jab of the day did not come” from John McCain but from Cindy McCain who declared “I'm proud of my country.” O'Donnell treated that as an attack which required justification: “Asked directly if this was a knock at Michelle Obama, John McCain steered clear.”

From the February 19 CBS Evening News story, picking up after more charges over plagiarism by Barack Obama:
JIM AXELROD: It's Michelle Obama's words that may give her husband's opponents an even sharper line of attack.

MICHELLE OBAMA, ON MONDAY: Let me tell you something: For the first time in my adult lifetime I'm really proud of my country.

AXELROD: That was her yesterday. Less than 24 hours later, John McCain's wife jumped in.

CINDY McCAIN: I'm proud of my country, I don't know about you if you heard those words earlier. I'm very proud of my country.
....

AXELROD: Michelle Obama's words -- the campaign says don't slice apart the quote to infer she's not a patriot. They understand that those words could be a problem down the road, Ohio and Texas two weeks from today, and then later on April 22nd in Pennsylvania.
Next, anchor Harry Smith discussed the campaign with Bob Schieffer and Jeff Greenfield, and wrapped up with this exchange:
HARRY SMITH: The Michelle Obama dust-up, does it have legs? Will it last?

JEFF GREENFIELD: I think it's a bigger problem for Obama in the fall if he's the nominee. But you have to believe the Clinton campaign is trying to find some way to use those words in the working class areas of Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania.
The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video to provide this transcript of the story on the Tuesday, February 19 NBC Nightly News:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: For the Republicans, the rhetoric today was also largely about words. And today it involved the wife of the frontrunner, Cindy McCain. Here is NBC's Kelly O'Donnell with that. Kelly, good evening.

KELLY O'DONNELL: Good evening, Brian. And today, John McCain made a point to talk about things beyond this race. He commented on Fidel Castro and the Pakistan elections. So, yes, the most memorable political jab of the day did not come from him. John McCain's Milwaukee event hit all of the usual notes.

JOHN McCAIN: We will carry the state of Wisconsin.

O'DONNELL: But then, the unexpected, from Cindy McCain, who speaks often on the trail, but rarely gets political.

CINDY McCAIN: My job is to, is very brief today, but it is to introduce my husband.

O'DONNELL: Today Mrs. McCain made a subtle but pointed reference to this comment by Michelle Obama Monday:

MICHELLE OBAMA: And let me tell you something. For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback.

O'DONNELL: And Cindy McCain today.

CINDY McCAIN: I'm proud of my country. I don't know about you, if you heard those words earlier. I'm very proud of my country.

O'DONNELL: Asked directly if this was a knock at Michelle Obama, John McCain steered clear.

JOHN McCAIN: I don't think we have any comment on it, do we? Do you have any comment?

O'DONNELL: Asked again later, Cindy McCain chose not to escalate the exchange, but repeated her point.

CINDY McCAIN: Well, really, all it was about is I always have been and will always be extremely proud of my country. I have led a very fortunate life. It was nothing more than that.

O'DONNELL: And besides opponents on the Democratic side, John McCain has to contend with Mike Huckabee, who's still in this race. He's headed to Texas, where Huckabee argues voters there are independent enough to pass on the frontrunner and vote for him.
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center