Obama on Vacation, Yet Earns More & Better Coverage than McCain

So much for John McCain's hope that remaining on the campaign trail this week while Barack Obama vacations in Hawaii would lead to more or friendlier coverage. At least not on Monday night when Katie Couric highlighted how “Obama put out a tongue in cheek response to Senator McCain's celebrity ad” and she helpfully pointed out: “The ad also features six different shots of Senator McCain next to President Bush.” Later, CBS allocated more than three minutes to a “CBS News Exclusive” interview and profile by Couric of “Barack Obama's brain,” Valerie Jarrett, who “just may be the most powerful woman in Chicago besides Oprah.”

ABC centered an entire piece around revelations Hillary Clinton campaign operatives planned to “question Obama's authenticity as an American. She rejected that strategy,” yet ABC managed to twist the story into Obama victimization as anchor Charles Gibson fretted: “There are indications that John McCain may be adopting it now.”

Reporter Jake Tapper warned “some say that John McCain has tried to subtly portray Obama as not quite American enough, playing up Obama’s popularity abroad.” The proof? This from McCain at a South Dakota motorcycle rally last week: “Not long ago, a couple of hundred thousand Berliners made a lot of noise for my opponent. I'll take the roar of 50,000 Harleys any day!” Tapper moved on to how McCain's ad narrator saying “John McCain: The American President Americans have been waiting for” is “a line many saw as implying something not American about Obama.” Tapper ominously concluded:
ABC News has learned that an independent conservative group has been filming in Indonesia where Obama spent a few years during his childhood. So even if Senator McCain does not draw attention to that unusual quality of Obama’s youth, someone will.

I didn't see anything on Tapper's “Political Punch” blog naming the group.

In the fawning segment with Jarrett, Couric hailed her “pioneering parents,” wondered “how have you been shaped by the accomplishments of your parents?”, prompted Jarrett to recollect how Michelle Obama wanted Jarrett to meet her fiancee, cued Jarrett up with how “I understand you were critical when it came to the controversy over Reverend Wright. What did you advise him to do?” and got in Couric's favorite topic, anti-Hillary Clinton sexism: “You've also said it's always going to be harder as a woman. I'm just curious if you saw any of that in the primary process and your thoughts on how Hillary Clinton was treated?”

Posted version of the interview, with video.

As noted above, Couric described Obama's ad as “a tongue in cheek response to Senator McCain's celebrity ad.” But back on the July 31 CBS Evening News, Couric characterized the McCain ad as “infamous,” citing “the now-infamous McCain ad that likens his Democratic opponent to celebrities like Britney Spears and Paris Hilton.”

NBC Nightly News did not run a campaign story, but was the only broadcast network evening newscast to mention John Edwards on Monday night, with a full report from Andrea Mitchell on how “John Edwards now faces more questions about his confession, many involving money,” such as how a friend of Edwards paid the mistress “to move to a $3 million rental in California” and also “helped relocate another close Edwards' aide who claims to be the father of the child.”

Only the CBS Evening News relayed the comments from the two candidates about Russia's invasion of Georgia.

The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video to provide these transcripts of the CBS and ABC campaign coverage on Monday night, August 11:

CBS Evening News:

KATIE COURIC: Meanwhile, the presidential candidates jumped right into the Georgia crisis today with some strong words for Russia's leaders. That tops our CBS News Campaign '08 Notebook. John McCain warned Russia it faces severe long-term consequences if it doesn't pull its troops out of Georgia.

JOHN MCCAIN: Russian actions in clear violation of international law have no place in 21st century Europe.

COURIC: During a campaign stop in Erie, Pennsylvania, Senator McCain called on NATO to convene an emergency meeting on the situation. Barack Obama on vacation in Hawaii also blamed Russia for the violence saying: “No matter how this conflict started, Russia has escalated it well beyond the dispute over South Ossetia and invaded another country.”

Meanwhile, the campaign ad wars continue. Senator Obama put out a tongue in cheek response to Senator McCain's celebrity ad.

CLIP OF AD: For decades, he's been Washington's biggest celebrity.

COURIC, OVER AD VIDEO OF BUSH HUGGING McCAIN: The ad also features six different shots of Senator McCain next to President Bush.
ABC's World News:
CHARLES GIBSON: Next, we're going to turn to presidential politics, and a campaign strategy that was once suggested to Hillary Clinton by a top advisor in her primary campaign against Barack Obama. The idea was to question Obama's authenticity as an American. She rejected that strategy. But there are indications that John McCain may be adopting it now. So we turn to our senior political correspondent, Jake Tapper. Jake?

JAKE TAPPER: Good evening, Charlie. Well, Senator Barack Obama this week is on vacation with his family in Hawaii, the state where he was born and where the grandmother who largely raised him still lives. Some of Obama’s opponents have debated how much they want to draw attention to his unusual background, his unusual roots -- a Kenyan father, a childhood spent largely in Hawaii and Indonesia. As Senator Barack Obama vacations with his family in Hawaii, a controversial memo has surfaced about his roots there.

In a March 2007 memo obtained by the Atlantic magazine, Mark Penn, the top strategist for Obama’s then rival Senator Hillary Clinton, wrote that the campaign should draw attention to Obama’s heritage. Obama’s, quote, “boyhood in Indonesia and his life in Hawaii exposes a very strong weakness for him – his roots to basic American values and culture are at best limited. I cannot imagine America electing a President during a time of war who is not at the center fundamentally American in his thinking and values. Let’s explicitly own ‘American’ in our programs, the speeches, and the values. He doesn’t.”

Many Democrats are disgusted.

BOB SHRUM, FORMER DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: It's an appeal to stereotypes, it’s an appeal to prejudice. I think it's ugly. And I think if Hillary Clinton had done that, she would permanently besmirch her reputation, her legacy, and her place in American politics.

TAPPER: Some say that John McCain has tried to subtly portray Obama as not quite American enough, playing up Obama’s popularity abroad.

JOHN MCCAIN, AUGUST 4: Not long ago, a couple of hundred thousand Berliners made a lot of noise for my opponent. I'll take the roar of 50,000 Harleys any day.

TAPPER: And then there was this.

MCCAIN AD NARRATOR: John McCain: The American President Americans have been waiting for.

TAPPER: A line many saw as implying something not American about Obama.

NORMAN ORNSTEIN, POLITICAL ANALYST: Is it fair to say that this kind of an appeal would resonate with some voters? Absolutely.

TAPPER: But underlining Obama’s “otherness” carries with it great risks.

ORNSTEIN: It's going to be seen as below the belt. It’s not quite the same as going after race, but it's getting pretty close.

TAPPER: Charlie, ABC News has learned that an independent conservative group has been filming in Indonesia where Obama spent a few years during his childhood. So even if Senator McCain does not draw attention to that unusual quality of Obama’s youth, someone will.
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