CBS Scolds McCain: 'Respect Takes a Backseat to Ridicule'

For the third weekday as Barack Obama vacations in Hawaii, John McCain on the campaign trail received more hostile coverage from the broadcast network evening newscasts -- to the extent they bothered to cover the presidential campaign. In a full story on CBS, Dean Reynolds recalled how McCain promised “to conduct a respectful campaign,” but citing McCain's celebrity ad, charged “now it frequently seems respect takes a backseat to ridicule.”

NBC, which also didn't touch the campaign on Monday or Tuesday, ignored it again Wednesday, though in a story on TV ads during the Olympics Chris Jansing asserted the Obama ads deliver “optimism and hope” while McCain's have a “more negative tone.” For the first time this week, ABC skipped the campaign, but anchor Charles Gibson raised Obama's “windfall profits” proposal with Exxon Mobil's chief: “When the public sees the kind of profits that the oil companies are making, isn't it fair that they wonder, 'why not?'”

CBS anchor Katie promised more about “the new look and sound of the McCain campaign,” but Reynolds didn't approve of the change as he asserted: “The sharper edge by his aides and the candidate is further evidence that the McCain campaign has changed....Replaced by splashier events reminiscent of a previous Republican campaign for the White House,” that would be Bush-Cheney. After a soundbite of Senator Joe Lieberman declaring at a McCain rally, “between one candidate, John McCain, who's had experience, been tested in war and tried in peace. Another candidate who has not,” Reynolds played a clip of McCain from “months ago” pledging “to conduct a respectful campaign.” Reynolds pounced: “But now it frequently seems respect takes a backseat to ridicule.” The proof: The Paris Hilton ad's “attack on Obama” that “ran during the Olympics.”

(NBC and CBS had brief mentions of Cindy McCain's sprained wrist.)

Chris Jansing, in the NBC Nightly News story on TV ads running during NBC's Olympic coverage, ads going for $750,000 for 30 seconds:

JANSING: From the Obama camp, the Olympic strategy is optimism and hope.

CLIP OF OBAMA TV AD: Because America's future is in our hands

JANSING: From McCain, a riskier, more negative tone.”

McCAIN TV AD: Is the biggest celebrity in the world ready to help your family?

During the second of two interview segments with Exxon Mobil CEO and Chairman Rex Tillerson, which Gibson traveled to Texas to conduct, Gibson raised McCain's proposal to open up offshore drilling, but without noting the popularity of the proposal as he did with Obama's wish to impose a “windfall profits” tax:

Senator Obama, he's calling for a windfall profits tax -- $65 billion, five years -- oil companies, in his plan, pay it. And when the public sees the kind of profits that the oil companies are making, isn't it fair that they wonder, 'why not?'”

Of course, the oil companies would simply pass on to consumers any higher tax, a basic economic reality that eludes journalists and liberal politicians.

Earlier, when Gibson set up the interview excerpt by reporting “the high price of gas brought Exxon Mobil close to $22 billion in profit -- in profit -- for the first half of this year,” and described how “I asked him how he justifies that amount that some see as obscene,” Tillerson pointed out:

I saw someone characterize our profits, the other day, in terms of $1,400 in profit per second. Well, they also need to understand we paid $4,000 a second in taxes.

My earlier NB posts detailing ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscast coverage this week:

For Monday night: “Obama on Vacation, Yet Earns More and Better Coverage than McCain

For Tuesday night: “Weekday #2: No Media Benefit for McCain from Obama's Vacation

The full CBS story. From the Wednesday, August 13 CBS Evening News, picking up after Couric's taped interview with Georgia President Mikheil Saakashvili:

KATIE COURIC: The Georgian President says he appreciates the support of American presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain and he says he speaks with McCain frequently.

Dean Reynolds has more now about that and the new look and sound of the McCain campaign.

DEAN REYNOLDS: At a press conference today in Michigan, John McCain decried what he called partisan political sniping over the crisis in Georgia.

JOHN McCAIN: This isn't a time for partisanship and sniping between campaigns.

REYNOLDS: However, the sharpest criticism has come from the surrogates standing next to McCain this afternoon, attacking Barack Obama's stand on the crisis as quote "morally neutral." The sharper edge by his aides and the candidate is further evidence that the McCain campaign has changed. Gone are the bile green backdrop and the hard to master teleprompter.

McCAIN IN ARCHIVE VIDEO: To have the audicity, audacity to hope you don't mind.

REYNOLDS: Replaced by splashier events reminiscent of a previous Republican campaign for the White House . But it's more than staging, it's tone. The campaign theme is no longer "reform, prosperity and peace," it's now "country first." What that means exactly was made clear Tuesday when an introductory speaker framed the contest with Obama this way.

SENATOR JOE LIEBERMAN: Between one candidate, John McCain, who's had experience, been tested in war and tried in peace. Another candidate who has not.

REYNOLDS: Remember, this was McCain months ago.

JOHN McCAIN, UNKNOWN DATE: I've pledged to conduct a respectful campaign.

REYNOLDS: But now it frequently seems respect takes a backseat to ridicule.

McCAIN AD WITH PARIS HILTON: Is he ready to lead?

REYNOLDS: This attack on Obama ran during the Olympics.

KEN GOLDSTEIN, UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN-MADISON: McCain advertisements are much more likely to be contrast or negative and the Obama advertisements are much more likely to be positive.

REYNOLDS: And as often as McCain speaks out against partisanship, there was a broad Republican consensus that his tamer approach was not working and that something new was needed, something like we are seeing today. Dean Reynolds, CBS News, Birmingham, Michigan.
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