On Thursday's "Nightline," co-anchor Terry Moran trashed John McCain for running a hypocritical, dishonest campaign against Barack Obama. He accused the Republican of doing "the kind of thing that George W. Bush and his supporters did to McCain in South Carolina in 2000." The segment, which featured no examples of sleazy campaigning by Barack Obama, began with co-anchor Cynthia McFadden complaining, "Make no mistake, John McCain very well may defeat Barack Obama. But to do so, has he compromised principles in the style that got him this far?"
She also whined, "With just 47 days to the election, is the Straight Talk Express shifting course? Will the real John McCain please stand up?" Moran's tone dripped with sarcasm as he ripped into the Arizona senator's supposed hypocrisy. The ABC journalist fretted that McCain "clearly decided he's got to change. Change a lot, in some ways, in order to win this thing." As old and new clips of the candidate were spliced together, Moran added, "John McCain meet John McCain."
This same journalist who now is horrified over McCain's candidacy has repeatedly and enthusiastically rhapsodized about Barack Obama. On November 6, 2006, he cooed, "You can see it in the crowds. The thrill, the hope. How they surge toward him. You're looking at an American political phenomenon." On Thursday, Moran provided zero examples of Obama switching positions, despite the fact that there are many available. (Obama pledged to accept public financing if he became the Democratic nominee. He ultimately abandoned that promise. He's flip-flopped on oil drilling.) Instead, Moran simply slimed McCain as a practitioner of gutter politics: "Finally, the old John McCain repeatedly promised voters a different kind of campaign. Nobler, less nasty, better...That was then. This is now."
Perhaps Moran isn't aware of the fact that Obama's campaign has started airing Spanish language ads that smear radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh as a racist. Also, the MRC's Rich Noyes highlighted a National Journal article by Stuart Taylor which asserts, "Many in the media have been one-sided, sometimes adding to Obama’s distortions rather than acting as impartial reporters of fact and referees of the mud fights."
The "Nightline" co-anchor even attacked McCain for using a teleprompter: "McCain is on message all the time now. He's often using a teleprompter, reading scripted speeches." This is something that Obama routinely does during his speeches. But, again, Moran didn't mention that.
A transcript of the segment, which aired at 11:36pm on the September 18 "Nightline," follows:
CYNTHIA MCFADDEN: And John McCain, 2.0. With just 47 days to the election, is the Straight Talk Express shifting course? Will the real John McCain please stand up?
MCFADDEN: We begin tonight with presidential politics. It might be called a tale of two John McCains. The John McCain Americans have come to know over his 25 years in Congress and the John McCain who has emerged in the final phase of this hotly contested presidential race. Make no mistake, John McCain very well may defeat Barack Obama. But to do so, has he compromised principles in the style that got him this far? My co-anchor Terry Moran is in Green Bay, Wisconsin, taking a hard look at that question. Terry?
TERRY MORAN: Cynthia, just a couple of hours ago, John McCain and Sarah Palin packed this arena here behind me for a big rally. Wisconsin is one of those battle ground states, of course. They had a good crowd here. You know, it is fascinating to watch John McCain campaign these days This is a very different candidate from the guy who won the Republican nomination this spring. He's in a tough race for the presidency in a tough year for Republicans and he has clearly decided he's got to change. Change a lot, in some ways, in order to win this thing. John McCain meet John McCain.
SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: Change is coming. Change is coming.
MORAN: Well, for McCain change is already here. As the campaign enters the home stretch, John McCain is a changed candidate. Even a changed man. He still looks the same. Working the rope lines with enthusiasm, but make no mistake, this is the new McCain.
MCCAIN: I'm here in Grand Rapids to send a message to Washington and Wall Street.
MORAN: There is his message. The old McCain from just a few months ago was all about experience. He was running as the man who knows how Washington works.
MCCAIN: I'm committed to leading this nation. I am confident that I have the knowledge and the background and the experience and the judgment.
MORAN: The new McCain is all about change.
MCCAIN: We'll put an end to running Wall Street like a casino.
MORAN: The reason for the dramatic shift in McCain's overarching message is obvious. She's standing right beside him. Ever since he picked Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate, McCain has seized a piece of the change action Barack Obama has been running on and drawn big, enthusiastic crowds with her at his side. Beyond the overarching message, McCain has dramatically changed his stance on several big, substantive issues. Chucking old positions and adopting new ones. Take the financial crisis. The old John McCain was a champion of financial deregulation. Here he is back in April.
MCCAIN: I am less -- less government, less regulation, lower taxes.
MORAN: And when the financial crisis deepened earlier this year, this was his proposal to fix it.
MCCAIN: Our financial market approach should include encouraging increase capital in financial institutions by removing regulatory accounting and tax impediments to raising capital.
MORAN: But all of a sudden, the new John McCain is an economic populist, railing against Wall Street and calling for tough regulation.
MCCAIN: We're going to reform the way Wall Street does business and put an end to the greed that has driven our markets into chaos.
MORAN: Offshore drilling. The old John McCain was against it, supporting a federal moratorium on all offshore drilling.
MCCAIN: Not in ANWR, nor the everglades nor in the Grand Canyons, nor off the coast of Florida, nor off the coast of California, unless those people wanted it done.
MORAN: The new john McCain, well --
MCCAIN: Drill, baby, drill. We've got to offshore drill and now!
MORAN: But will McCain's campaign conversions work?
MATTHEW DOWD: He's moving, he's changed his positions, but how receptive, ultimately, the voters are going to be to a new John McCain on new stands on different issues is still open to question.
MORAN: It's more than substance that's changed in McCain, it's the tone and style of his campaign.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: I have some specific questions about, sort of, gay rights issues.
MORAN: Remember the Straight Talk Express? That was the old John McCain, rolling, roiling, nonstop, no holds barred press conference. Held constantly aboard a campaign bus or plane.
MCCAIN: Maybe there's a difference --
MORAN: Those days are gone. McCain is on message all the time now. He's often using a teleprompter, reading scripted speeches. A far cry from the shoot from the hip candidate of last year. And on the McCain campaign plane, the candidate is sequestered behind a curtain in first class and this cardboard John McCain is about as close as reporters get to him. This plane was equipped with facilities to hold press conferences. He hasn't had one since August 13. Our colleague Bret Hovel who's dogged McCain's every step for a year says the change is striking.
BRET HOVEL (ABC News): I want to say just that they're totally professional and it's not that necessarily that they weren't. But it's this kind of the polish of maybe the Bush campaign, whereas in the past it was the -- sort of the shoot from the hip McCain. So it does seems very different.
MORAN: Finally, the old John McCain repeatedly promised voters a different kind of campaign. Nobler, less nasty, better.
MCCAIN: I will be respectful of the Democrat nominee. Americans want a respectful debate in this country. They're tired of the mud slinging, they're tired of the character assassination.
MORAN: That was then. This is now.
MCCAIN AD: Obama's one accomplishment? Legislation to teach comprehensive sex education to kindergartners.
MORAN: This ad, which has been called, quote, "simply false" by the non-partisan Annenberg's Public Policy Center's Factcheck.org and others. It seems like just the kind of thing that John McCain said he wouldn't do. It's the kind of thing that George W. Bush and his supporters did to McCain in South Carolina in 2000. And now at the top of the McCain campaign, you'll find former Bush operatives like senior advisor Steve Schmidt and Nicole Wallace.
DOWD: And I think the Obama campaign wants to have this as a campaign in the clouds. I think the McCain campaign wants to have a campaign that's in the mud.
MORAN: So the new John McCain is as tougher, more disciplined, less open, more populist candidate. He's clearly betting that the way to win in a year when voters are clamoring for change is to change.
DOWD: There's an open question as to whether or not they'll be successful. And I have- I think there's some serious problems that he could have. One is that John McCain's brand was premised on authenticity. And he's had so many changes not only in style, but in substance that I think voters may begin to ask the questions who really is John McCain and is he who we believe he is?
MORAN: Now, we asked the McCain campaign for an interview with John McCain or one of his senior advisors and they declined. But they make no apologies. This campaign, they say, is not going to play defense. Cynthia?