CBS Scolds McCain for 'Infamous' Ad; Empathizes with Obama

ABC, CBS and NBC all aired stories Thursday night about McCain's Britney Spears/Paris Hilton anti-Obama TV ad as well as John McCain's charge that Barack Obama is playing the race card, but only Katie Couric characterized the McCain spot as “infamous” before Dean Reynolds empathized with Obama by citing his “exasperation” with McCain's ad, based on headlines over liberal newspaper editorials asserted that McCain's “sharper edge” has been “criticized by several newspapers,” declared “a voter in Racine called” McCain on his lack of civility, and ended with how, to address McCain's unfair attacks, the Obama campaign created a Web site called the “Low Road Express” -- a page which highlights the very editorials the CBS story displayed (jpg image).  

With images of a St. Petersburg Times and a New York Times editorial on screen -- “From 'straight talk' to smear campaign” and “Low-Road Express,” the inspiration for Obama's new site -- Reynolds maintained: “What is striking about McCain's sharper edge, criticized by several newspapers recently, is how it appears to conflict with some of his more high-minded talk of the need for civility on the stump. Today a voter in Racine called him on it.” Reynolds continued to see events through Obama's eyes: “Obama said critics were trying to paint him as strange and scary.” Presuming Obama is the victim of scurrilous attacks, Reynolds concluded:
Today the Obama campaign went so far as to create a new Web site designed to deal with what it considers to be unfair or untruthful tactics by the McCain camp. And it's called the “Low Road Express.”
The Oxford University Press dictionary defines “infamous” as: “1: well known for some bad quality or deed.  2: morally bad; shocking.” Merriam-Webster's: “1: having a reputation of the worst kind: notoriously evil; 2: causing or bringing infamy: disgraceful.”

After the Reynolds piece aired, Couric turned to Bob Schieffer who denounced the McCain campaign's “weird” tactics:
The McCain campaign shows no sign of catching fire. Nothing he says seems to be getting much traction. They almost seem kind of weird over there, trying to compare Obama to Paris Hilton? I think that's a real stretch. I just don't see how that's going to be taken seriously and now you have this charge that Obama's playing the race card. I think what we're hearing here is the kind of thing that turns people off on all sides.
The lead story on the Thursday, July 31 CBS Evening News:
KATIE COURIC: Good evening, everyone. The presidential candidates are taking a detour off the high road. John McCain and Barack Obama went at each other today over the now-infamous McCain ad that likens his Democratic opponent to celebrities like Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. Senator Obama chastised Senator McCain who defended the ad. Dean Reynolds begins our Campaign '08 coverage tonight.

DEAN REYNOLDS: Facing a more aggressive McCain campaign that now questions Obama's leadership, experience, and even compares him to notorious celebrities, Obama today posed a question himself:

OBAMA, AT EVENT: All we've been hearing about is Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. Is that the best you can come up with?  

REYNOLDS: That Obama would take on the issue himself is proof of his exasperation with it, but McCain today did not back off.

McCAIN: All I can say is that we're proud of that commercial.

REYNOLDS: What is striking about McCain's sharper edge, criticized by several newspapers recently, is how it appears to conflict with some of his more high-minded talk of the need for civility on the stump. Today a voter in Racine called him on it.

WOMAN: So it seems like to Americans like me and other people, like you may have flip-flopped on what you had said earlier.

McCAIN: Campaigns are tough, but I'm proud of the campaign that we have run.

REYNOLDS: The plan appears to be to keep McCain on the high road as much as possible while his campaign aides mud wrestle Obama. Take yesterday in Missouri. Obama said critics were trying to paint him as strange and scary.

OBAMA, AT CAMPAIGN EVENT: Oh, he's not patriotic enough. He's got a funny name. You know, he doesn't look like all those other presidents on those dollar bills, you know.

REYNOLDS: But McCain's campaign pounced on that statement. "Obama has played the race card,” said an official. And this afternoon, McCain agreed it's a legitimate charge to make.

McCAIN TO CNN'S JOHN KING: I'm sorry to say that it is. It's legitimate. And we don't, there's no place in this campaign for that.

REYNOLDS: While Obama's campaign said he'd done no such thing, there might be some political mileage to be gained by McCain in this back-and-forth as he courts white independents. And, according to a new poll, draws closer to Obama in major battled ground states. [Quinnipiac showing Obama at 46, McCain at 44 in Florida and Ohio] Today the Obama campaign went so far as to create a new Web site designed to deal with what it considers to be unfair or untruthful tactics by the McCain camp. And it's called the "Low Road Express.” Katie.
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