When it comes to his memory of the 2008 presidential campaign, Ed Schultz is either dishonest or ignorant, though he might well be both.
On his radio show Thursday, Schultz made a claim that was demonstrably false -- and refuted by the source he cited to bolster it, the HBO docudrama "Game Change." (video, audio clips after page break)
Schultz was angered by news of a proposed GOP ad campaign that would criticize President Obama for his erstwhile close ties to radical minister Jeremiah Wright, a relationship ended by Obama in the spring of 2008 after Wright became a political liability.
John McCain hammered Obama over Wright four years ago, an indignant Schultz complained (audio) --
You know, McCain tried all this garbage. Hell, you can even see the movie "Game Change" and see how they, you know, McCain didn't want to do it but they did it and it failed! It fail-, in fact, President Obama came out and gave two speeches on race and this was, Hannity, he couldn't get off this story for several months. This was their strategy. And I think you can make the case that had Hannity not gone down this road, who knows, it might have been a closer race than it was.
With Schultz's suggestion in mind, I revisited "Game Change" and found not one, not two, but three scenes where McCain or a senior advisor explicitly reject proposals tying Obama to Wright.
All three scenes are included in the video embedded here. (Warning: the language gets salty in a hurry). In the first scene, late July 2008 with Obama holding a double-digit lead in the polls, McCain is told by media strategist Fred Davis, "John, if there ever was a time to run a Rev. Wright ad, this is that time." The suggestion is rejected out of hand by advisors Mark Salter and Steve Schmidt. "There's footage of his own reverend saying 'God damn America' ," Davis counters. "It's the single best weapon we've got."
"I want to run a f****ing campaign that my kids can be proud of," McCain bristles. "And that precludes attacking a black reverend!"
Second example, three months later, campaign party after the vice presidential debate, Sarah Palin speaking with Schmidt.
"Senator McCain wanted me to congratulate you on a fantastic debate," Schmidt tells Palin. "You really did a great job."
"Thanks," Palin responds. "Tell John I want to bring up Bill Ayers and Rev. Wright. I think it's time to go for the jugular."
The suggestion doesn't go over well with Schmidt. "Uh, you'll have to discuss that with your running mate," he tells Palin. "He made it very clear that he doesn't want to touch Wright."
"I'll talk to him about it," Palin responds, then leans forward to whisper, "I have to win this thing. I so don't want to go back to Alaska."
Last example, closing days of the campaign, polls showing McCain down 5 to 8 points. "We've got to make this about Obama," says campaign manager Rick Davis. "We've got to get tough and we've got to get negative." Fred Davis again suggests hitting Obama with Wright and McCain again forcefully rejects it. "If we go this way," Davis says, "Rev. Wright is still the best play we have."
McCain -- "Any of you ever been accused of having a Negro child out of wedlock because your adopted daughter was born in Bangladesh? And then when she was 16 and Googled her name, I had to explain to her why President Bush's henchmen called her a bastard when she was 10 years old."
"Yeah, listen, South Carolina, that was an ugly primary," Rick Davis says, referring to the 2000 campaign. "But this isn't the same thing. I mean, Rev. Wright really did say those things."
"That may be true," McCain responds. "But there's a dark side to American populism. Some people win elections by tapping into it. I'm not one of those people."
"OK, so what about Bill Ayers?" Fred Davis suggests. "Obama began his career in the living room of a domestic terrorist. Domestic terrorist, nothing to do with race."
"Yeah, OK, Ayers is fair," McCain says -- but not Wright. In other words, strike three.
Clearly it hasn't dawned on Schultz that the proposal to revive Wright as a campaign issue is based in large part on McCain's refusal to do so. Whether it would have helped McCain can never be known. What is known is that McCain lost to Obama after taking what he considered the high road -- and four years later it cuts him no slack whatsoever with shabby liberals like Schultz.
On his radio show Friday, Schultz puffed himself up in a way that was all the more laughable considering his delusions about McCain and Wright. Listen to what Schultz says after a caller complains about media coverage of the campaign leading to recall elections in Wisconsin next month (audio) --
CALLER: If this fails, Ed, if this fails there's no hope for democracy left in America.
SCHULTZ: I mean, here's what amazes me. This is what amazes me. And I'm not trying to talk down to anybody in the media in Wisconsin, don't get me wrong. If I was a young aspiring reporter, if I was in a newsroom, I would have no loyalty to anybody but the story and the facts. And if there was somebody lying, I'd make a career out of it.
Uncovering or emulating?