CBS Channels Liberal Fretting Over Obama: 'Where's the Fight?'

With “Where's the Fight?” on screen under video of a man in New Hampshire who pushed Barack Obama (“When and how are you going to start fighting back?”), Katie Couric teased Friday's CBS Evening News: “Supporters of Barack Obama are frustrated and letting him know it.” Couric set up the story by highlighting how “an Obama campaign official sent out a memo saying 'today is the first day of the rest of the campaign,' and vowing to take the fight to John McCain. But Dean Reynolds reports the new edge Obama tried out today wasn't sharp enough for some of his supporters.”

Indeed, Reynolds, who soon asserted that “many think” McCain's ads are “lies,” began his piece by showcasing the one questioner: “At a stop in New Hampshire today, Glenn Grasso of Dover asked Barack Obama a question on the minds of many Democrats.” Grasso pleaded: “When and how are you going to start fighting back against attack ads and the smear campaigns?” After a clip of Obama insisting “our ads have been pretty tough,” Reynolds focused on how “the audience here was clearly expecting more” and “what bothers many Democrats is what happened next. The audience literally coaxing a word from him that baldly describes what many think of the McCain camp's tactics.” Viewers then heard a man in the audience yell “lies!” before Obama endorsed his word: “Lies, that's the word I was looking for.”

In the next story, a “Reality Check” on inaccuracies in campaign ads, mostly McCain's, reporter Wyatt Andrews concluded by painting Obama as the victim being forced to respond in kind:
McCain has been the aggressor in this slide to negativity, and that is putting pressure on Obama to respond. Either way, this is not the elevated discussion both candidates promised to deliver.
Interestingly, while CBS News (and the Washington Post) found Grasso's question newsworthy -- maybe because it matched the concern of more than a few journalists -- neither of two articles on Saturday in the local Dover, New Hampshire newspaper, Foster's Daily Democrat, mentioned the question: “Obama goes after McCain on taxes, economic policy” and “Obama woos undecided, but some voters still uncertain after visit.”

In a Saturday Washington Post story, “Obama Campaign Begins Counterattack,” reporter Jonathan Weisman recounted:
Even after being prodded by the audience in Dover, Obama appeared reluctant to get too aggressive. Glenn Grasso, 39, a doctoral student, pleaded: "When and how are you going to start fighting back?"

Obama responded by calling McCain's ads "just fabricated" and "just made up," an answer that spurred some to shout out: "Lies."

"Lies, that's the word," Obama said.
The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video to provide this transcript of the Reynolds story on the Friday, September 12 CBS Evening News:
KATIE COURIC: Turning to the presidential race, Barack Obama is looking to get his campaign back on track and stop his opponent's momentum. An Obama campaign official sent out a memo saying "today is the first day of the rest of the campaign," and vowing to take the fight to John McCain. But Dean Reynolds reports the new edge Obama tried out today wasn't sharp enough for some of his supporters.

DEAN REYNOLDS: At a stop in New Hampshire today, Glenn Grasso of Dover asked Barack Obama a question on the minds of many Democrats.

GLENN GRASSO, OBAMA SUPPORTER: When and how are you going to start fighting back against attack ads and the smear campaigns?

REYNOLDS: Obama responded that his campaign is running new ads.

BARACK OBAMA: I have to tell you, our ads have been pretty tough.

REYNOLDS: This is the latest, suggesting the 72-year-old McCain is very old school.

CLIP OF AD: He admits he still doesn't know how to use a computer, can't send an e-mail.

REYNOLDS: But after a drum roll of promises that Obama would now toughen his approach, the audience here was clearly expecting more than this.

OBAMA: I just have a different philosophy, and that is that I'm going to respond with the truth. [APPLAUSE] I'm going to respond with the truth.

REYNOLDS: They applauded, but what bothers many Democrats is what happened next. The audience literally coaxing a word from him that baldly describes what many think of the McCain camp's tactics.    

OBAMA: You have ads that are based, are just fabricated. They're just made up. And-

MAN IN AUDIENCE: Lies!

OBAMA: Lies, that's the word I was looking for.

REYNOLDS: Obama acknowledged that some of his supporters are getting nervous. They've seen this movie before, as he put it. But his campaign is assuring Democrats that what they will now see is a methodical and well-planned offensive in the 53 days left in this race. Dean Reynolds, CBS News, Concord, New Hampshire.
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