CBS Scolds McCain's Tactics, Sees Hypocrisy in Palin's 'Six-Figure Wardrobe'

Consistency on the CBS Evening News: Wednesday night Dean Reynolds concluded his piece on Barack Obama's campaign day by asserting “McCain's campaign tactics...have drawn criticism even from some Republicans” and next Chip Reid ended his story on John McCain's day on the trail by highlighting how “Gordon Smith of Oregon,” otherwise unidentified, “today became the fourth Republican to urge John McCain to stop those robo-calls to people's homes linking Barack Obama with William Ayers” -- all before a full report on how Sarah “Palin's carefully cultivated Joe Six Pack image is now bumping up against a six-figure wardrobe.”

Reynolds helpfully previewed some additional CBS News bias in advance as he reported “this afternoon, the Early Show's Harry Smith asked Obama about McCain's campaign tactics that have drawn criticism even from some Republicans,” and after a clip of Obama declaring he would never make unfair attacks on his opponents, Reynolds concluded: “Obama says he understands that politics is a rough business, but he insisted there is no equivalence between his campaign tactics and John McCain's.”

Anchor Katie Couric soon announced: “Sarah Palin may think the world of Joe the Plumber, too, but that doesn't mean she intends to dress like him. In fact, the Republican Party has spent $150,000 on Governor Palin's wardrobe, something that may not square with her image as a down-to-earth every woman.” The story from reporter Nancy Cordes ended with another media-generated controversy: 
Palin's also facing questions today about the 55 grand she charged Alaska taxpayers so her family could travel with her to events the past two years. Alaska law is vague, but when it comes to the clothes, the campaign is crystal clear. After the fashion faux pas came to light, they announced that all the pricey duds would go to charity.
ABC's World News gave a sentence to the $150,000 for Palin family clothing story, first reported Tuesday by the Politico, while NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams put it at the top of his newscast as he set up his interview with McCain and Palin:
What a day it's been for the McCain-Palin campaign. The story about her wardrobe broke overnight. $150,000 worth of clothing from top retailers, for Palin and her family, clothing that was bought with Republican Party funds. The campaign says the clothes will be donated to charity.
From the end of the CBS Evening News story by Dean Reynolds, which mostly dealt with Obama's reaction to Joe Biden's suggestion Obama's victory will precipitate an “international crisis”:
REYNOLDS: This afternoon, the Early Show's Harry Smith asked Obama about McCain's campaign tactics that have drawn criticism even from some Republicans.

BARACK OBAMA, IN EARLY SHOW CLIP: “Pals around with terrorists.” I mean, just the kinds of stuff that, that I can't imagine saying about an opponent of mine.

REYNOLDS: Obama says he understands that politics is a rough business, but he insisted there is no equivalence between his campaign tactics and John McCain's.
Chip Reid wrapped up the next story, about McCain using “Joe the Plumber” to criticize Obama, by, out of the blue, taking this shot at McCain:
In other news, Gordon Smith of Oregon today became the fourth Republican to urge John McCain to stop those robo-calls to people's homes linking Barack Obama with William Ayers.
Smith is a Republican U.S. Senator is a tough re-election race. Neither Reid, nor Reynolds before him, had uttered a word about robo-calls mentioning Ayers.

CBS decided Palin's wardrobe deserved a full story and while some GOP donors may not like putting such money into clothing over TV ads, that angle didn't interest CBS which instead used the revelation to paint Palin as a hypocritical phoney. Couric, immediately after Reid:
KATIE COURIC: Meanwhile, Sarah Palin may think the world of Joe the Plumber, too, but that doesn't mean she intends to dress like him. In fact, the Republican Party has spent $150,000 on Governor Palin's wardrobe, something that may not square with her image as a down-to-earth every woman. Here's Nancy Cordes.

NANCY CORDES: On the night she addressed the Republican convention, Governor Palin was dressed for success. The self-described-

SARAH PALIN IN CONVENTION ADDRESS: Just your average hockey mom

CORDES: -sporting a $2,500 Valentino blazer. Palin's carefully cultivated Joe Six Pack image is now bumping up against a six-figure wardrobe. Federal records show in the 54 days since she joined McCain's ticket, the Republican National Committee has spent $75,000 for clothes at Neiman Marcus, $49,000 at Saks Fifth Avenue, perfectly legal says this former Chairman of the Federal Election Commission, although-

SCOTT THOMAS, FORMER FEC CHAIRMAN: I would be the first to tell you, public relations-wise, it is a mess.

CORDES: As it was for Hillary Clinton, when her $3,000 hair stylist bill came to light, or John McCain with his $520 Italian loafers. Or John Edwards, whose $400 haircut spawned satire online. Candidates have a tough needle to thread, says Maxine Risik, who has been dressing Washington power women for 58 years.

MAXINE RISKIK: They do need to spend some money.

CORDES: Does it have to be $150,000 for three months?
 
RISIK: You can do it for less, much less. Yes.

CORDES: Palin's also facing questions today about the 55 grand she charged Alaska taxpayers so her family could travel with her to events the past two years. Alaska law is vague, but when it comes to the clothes, the campaign is crystal clear. After the fashion faux pas came to light, they announced that all the pricey duds would go to charity. Nancy Cordes, CBS News, Washington.
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