CBS’s Smith: ‘Obama the Target of a Photographic Smear’

NewsBusters.org - Media Research CenterAt the top of Tuesday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Harry Smith teased upcoming coverage of a photo of Barack Obama in Somalian dress: "Heading into the final debate tonight. Obama, the target of a photographic smear." Compare that to how Smith introduced a New York Times hit piece against John McCain last week: "This bombshell report that Republican front-runner John McCain may have had a romantic relationship with a lobbyist who was a visitor to his office and traveled with him on a client's corporate jet."

Later on Tuesday’s segment, reporter Jim Axelrod described the Obama campaign’s reaction to the photo: "His campaign says Clinton staffers put it out and that that's shameful." Smith then asked Axelrod about the photo:

SMITH: Jim here's the thing though, because it ends up on the front page of so many papers all around the country. Here is this morning's New York Daily News. It's on the Post too. Why is the Obama campaign so upset about the picture?

AXELROD: Well, I'm not sure if they're as upset about the picture or if they continue to reinforce the idea that the Clintons are playing dirty, and it just keeps the whole image perhaps that Hillary Clinton is just going to do anything that is possible out there to keep playing whatever tone as negatively as she has to, to try to gain some kind of traction, some kind of footing, because as we say, it's now or never.

Here is the full transcript of the segment:

7:00AM TEASER:

HARRY SMITH: Heading into the final debate tonight. Obama, the target of a photographic smear. This as a new CBS News poll shows there's only one Democrat who can trounce McCain.

7:08AM SEGMENT:

HARRY SMITH: Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton hold their last debate tonight before next Tuesday's critical Ohio and Texas primaries. For Clinton, tonight's meeting in Cleveland may be a last chance to slow down the surging Obama. CBS News Chief White House Correspondent Jim Axelrod is in Cleveland with more. Good morning, Jim.

JIM AXELROD: Well, good morning, Harry. And you're right, you can expect a much more contentious debate than we've seen so far. The Clinton campaign knows Hillary Clinton runs the risk of looking negative, but there's also a feeling inside the campaign that it's now or never. A harsher tone during the debate would match Clinton's tone on the stump. Discrediting Obama's foreign policy more sharply than ever.

HILLARY CLINTON: The American people don't have to guess whether I understand the issues or whether I would need a foreign policy instruction manual to guide me through a crisis.

AXELROD: She's also been mocking his speech-making.

CLINTON: Now, I could stand up here and say, let's just get everybody together. Let's get unified. The sky will open. The light will come down. Celestial choirs will be singing. And everyone will know we should do the right thing, and the world will be perfect!

AXELROD: Obama's pushing back by going right to his supporters.

BARACK OBAMA: But the basic idea, the basic argument is that if you talk about hope and if you're engaging the American people in thinking hopefully, that somehow you're duping them, that you're playing a trick on them.

AXELROD: The latest CBS News poll suggests one reason why Obama's been surging. In a general election match-up Obama runs stronger against McCain than Clinton does. Obama beats McCain by 12. Clinton and McCain are deadlocked. Clinton reads the polls, too. While she's got a clear but shrinking lead in Ohio, it is tied in Texas. And it's not either/or. She needs both states, which is why she may well go after Obama tonight.

CHRIS LEHANE: A year's worth of a campaign is now coming down to one decisive election in Texas. And you're in a phase where the campaigns can literally feel their hot breath on the back of one another's necks.

AXELROD: Now, that picture. An image of Barack Obama in a robe and turban during an African visit has been making it's way around the internet. We want to show it to you. His campaign says Clinton staffers put it out and that that's shameful. Clinton aides say it wasn't them, although they wouldn't rule out the possibility of an employee acting independently. The Clinton aides point is that there's plenty of pictures of the Clinton's, the Obama campaign was just being divisive. So now they're not just taking shots at each other, they're taking shots at each other about whether they're taking shots at each other. Harry.

SMITH: Jim here's the thing though, because it ends up on the front page of so many papers all around the country. Here is this morning's New York Daily News. It's on the Post too. Why is the Obama campaign so upset about the picture?

AXELROD: Well, I'm not sure if they're as upset about the picture or if they continue to reinforce the idea that the Clintons are playing dirty, and it just keeps the whole image perhaps that Hillary Clinton is just going to do anything that is possible out there to keep playing whatever tone as negatively as she has to, to try to gain some kind of traction, some kind of footing, because as we say, it's now or never.

SMITH: Jim Axelrod live in Cleveland this morning, thanks so much.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC