'I Hate to Keep Being in the Position of Defending Obama, But...'

Weeks before Linda Douglass announced she would be jumping aboard the Barack Obama presidential campaign as a senior strategist, the former CBS News and ABC News Washington correspondent was already aiding the Obama campaign. Back on the May 4 Reliable Sources on CNN, for instance, she became defensive: “I hate to keep being in the position of defending Barack Obama...” Yet that's exactly what she did on a panel with Amy Holmes and Joan Walsh. On that Sunday, the weekend after Obama held a press conference to denounce Jeremiah Wright, she pronounced media attention on Wright to have “been too much” and contended: “To make your judgments about how to cast a vote for President based upon the statements of this pastor seems to be a bridge too far.”

After host Howard Kurtz played a clip of Bill Moyers complaining that “white preachers are given leeway in politics that others aren't,” Douglass agreed: “That is actually a point that we should be discussing,” as she contended “Republican candidates have routinely associated themselves with white pastors who have made similarly incendiary statements.” As to attention to how Obama does not (at that time) wear a flag pin, a flustered Douglass countered:
I hate to keep being in the position of defending Barack Obama, but on this question, John McCain does not wear a flag pin. Hillary Clinton does not wear a flag pin. And yet questions about his patriotism come up all the time...
No wonder the Obama team saw Douglass as an ally.

My earlier NB posting: “Douglass Joins Obama's Campaign, Reported from Left at ABC & CBS.”

Excerpts from the May 4 Reliable Sources, brought to my attention by the MRC's Clay Waters, Editor of our TimesWatch site on the New York Times:
KURTZ: Short answer from everyone. Linda Douglass, the media have treated this as a huge story that could sink Barack Obama's candidacy. Are journalists going overboard here?

LINDA DOUGLASS, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, NATIONAL JOURNAL: Well, it's a legitimate issue because it certainly raises questions about his judgment. However, you know, as Robin Toner in the New York Times wrote this morning, there's a fixation on this. It has been the number one story, and I think that it has been too much.

….

KURTZ: Linda Douglass, the press loves to get into the character game. What does this tell us about Barack Obama's values? Is that fair? This was, after all, somebody with whom he was associated for 20 years.

DOUGLASS: Well, this was the pastor of his church. And this was a guy who came to Christianity by virtue of going to this church. He had this lifelong search for who he was. He was an African- American guy with a white mother, white grandparents, grew up in Hawaii, went to Indonesia looking for himself. And he found himself, if you read his autobiography, in this church where he became a Christian. So in that sense, that association is somewhat relevant. But I have to say that to make your judgments about how to cast a vote for President based upon the statements of this pastor seems to be a bridge too far.

….

KURTZ: Well, Bill Moyers took a lot of criticism from me, among others, for not pressing Reverend Wright in a full hour on many of his most controversial statements. Now, he talked about this on his PBS show on Friday, and he did say that there were some offensive comments -- which he hadn't say earlier -- that there was this absurd charge by Reverend Wright about the U.S. government having manufactured the AIDS virus to kill blacks. Here's some of what else Moyers had to stay.

VIDEO CLIP OF BILL MOYERS ON PBS'S BILL MOYERS JOURNAL: This is crazy and wrong. White preachers are given leeway in politics that others aren't. All the rest of us should hang our heads in shame for letting it come to this in America, where the gluttony of the nonstop media grinder consumes us all and prevents an honest conversation on race.

DOUGLASS: Well, I think that that is actually a point that we should be discussing. E.J. Dionne wrote this very interesting column this week about how it is that Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson routinely have blamed all the woes of the United States on homosexuality and other kinds of things, and Presidents, Republican candidates, have routinely associated themselves with white pastors who have made similarly incendiary statements, and it hasn't come back to haunt them. Now, this is a much more personal association with Barack Obama.

….

KURTZ, AFTER CLIP OF OBAMA DEFENDING NOT WEARING A FLAG PIN: Have the media done a less than stellar job here in that so many people seem to believe these rumors about Obama and patriotism, or is it not the fault of the media?

DOUGLASS: Well, I hate to keep being in the position of defending Barack Obama, but on this question, John McCain does not wear a flag pin. Hillary Clinton does not wear a flag pin. And yet questions about his patriotism come up all the time. He does do the Pledge of Allegiance, but he didn't put his hand over his heart during the singing of the National Anthem, which became a practice that originated under the times of Ronald Reagan, where you put your hand over your heart when you're singing the Star-Spangled Banner. So all of these questions, again, go -- fill the vacuum in people's minds who don't know enough about him.
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