MSNBC’s Mitchell Defends Obama Against McCain Ad

Andrea Mitchell with Nancy Pfotenhauer, MSNBC News Live | NewsBusters.orgDuring the 1 p.m. hour of the July 30 edition of MSNBC’s “News Live,” host Andrea Mitchell once again defended Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), this time in regards to Sen. John McCain’s newest TV ad tagging Obama as a celebrity that isn’t ready to lead America. During an interview with the Arizona Republican’s senior policy advisor Nancy Pfotenhauer, Mitchell asked: “Tell me about the ad and the reasoning behind [the ad]. Why Paris Hilton? Why Britney Spears? It does seem that you're trying to demean Barack Obama.”

Later, when Pfotenhauer asserted that McCain has proven he’s a leader and has put his country’s interests first on more than one occasion whereas Obama has just given speeches, Mitchell questioned Pfotenhauer’s statement about the presumptive Democratic nominee and claimed that comparing Obama to Paris Hilton raises questions:

 

PFOTENHAUER: But there are real differences between these two candidates and their vision for the future of this country and Senator McCain has proven that he's a leader and that he has served this country and put his country's interests first time and time again and on one level Senator Obama’s just given a speech about it.

 

MITCHELL: All right. Well, I'm not going, I'm not going to argue with you about the fact that John McCain is a real leader, because I've covered him for years. And I know that is to be the case and has served his country. But I think the real question is whether your characterization of Barack Obama is accurate, when she -- you say he's just given a speech and he's a celebrity like Paris Hilton. I think comparing the Democratic nominee to Paris Hilton creates some questions, doesn't it?

However, as Andrea Mitchell with Nancy Pfotenhauer, MSNBC News Live | NewsBusters.org stated during the interview, the Obama campaign is trying to portray the Illinois Democrat as a celebrity, and the wall-to-wall coverage Obama’s trip received, especially compared to that of Sen. McCain’s overseas trip in March, shows that Obama is being treated as one.

Mitchell also defended the junior senator from Illinois against allegations by the McCain campaign that the Obama team ran the first negative TV ad of the general election:

MITCHELL: Well, you guys said on that conference call, Rick Davis said that he launched the first negative ad. But the way we looked at it, we've gone back and checked the records, the first negative ad was the Republican National Committee ad. And then he, his ad, Obama’s, was in response to that Republican attack ad.
PFOTENHAUER: Well, between the two campaigns, that I can say, our analysis is that he launched the first ad, it was July 8th as a matter of fact, and it was on energy of all topics.

MITCHELL: In response to an RNC ad.

PFOTENHAUER: But I think it's basically the pot calling the kettle black, if you will.

Previously, Mitchell defended Sen. Obama against accusations that his speech in Berlin was too broad, and has reported a rumor that Sen. McCain used his Pentagon contacts to sabotage Obama’s visit with wounded troops in Germany.

The transcript of the July 30 segment, which aired at 1:09 p.m., follows:

ANDREA MITCHELL, host: And we want to talk more about that new campaign ad from the John McCain camp. Joining us now from McCain headquarters, Nancy Pfotenhauer, McCain’s senior policy advisor. Nancy, really good to see you. Thanks so much. Tell me about the ad and the reasoning behind it. Why Paris Hilton? Why Britney Spears? It does seem that you're trying to demean Barack Obama.

NANCY PFOTENHAUER: Not at all. We're trying to acknowledge the fact that he is a world celebrity. And it was wall-to-wall photo images and news coverage last week supporting that assessment. It's not just ours. It's most individuals'. But there's a big difference between being a world celebrity and being an American president. And the real question is that at a time when our country is facing the challenges that we're facing, and the economy, with rising energy prices in Iraq and Afghanistan, who is best equipped to be that leader? And that's John McCain. And I think that's why you see -- you see polls as tight as they are. This is a close, close race, despite Obama’s celebrity. And it's why -- it’s clear he can't necessarily translate fans into voters. You can look back into the primaries and see how he can pack an arena with 35,000 people in Philadelphia and then lose the state by ten points.

MITCHELL: Well, let me give you the response now from the Obama campaign. This is from Tommy Veeder. “On a day when major news organizations across the country are taking Senator McCain to task for a steady stream of false, negative attacks,” such as “the New York Times'" piece, I should add parenthetically, “his campaign has launched yet another, or some might say, oops, he did it again.” That, of course, a paraphrase of the Britney Spears song. “Our dependence on foreign oil, says the McCain -- says the obama camp, is one of the greatest challenges we face in this election. The American people have a real choice between Obama’s plan to provide tax rebates to American families, while creating a renewable energy economy in America that frees us from our dependence on foreign oil, as Senator McCain’s plan to continue the same failed energy policies.” Well, you've heard all that again. But the basic line here is, oops, he did it again. Your turn, Nancy.

PFOTENHAUER: First of all, I'm not at all surprised by anything "the New York Times" does or doesn't print at this point. But the bottom line is you look at the economy, Senator Obama is proposing to raise taxes in an economic downturn. Senator McCain believes that lowering taxes is the best way to create jobs. On, on the energy, in the face of rising energy prices, Senator Obama opposes drilling and he doesn't think nuclear policy really has, nuclear power rather has a significant role as part of the solution for us. Senator McCain believes they do as part of a comprehensive plan that includes other things like renewables and, and technological innovation as well. And when you look at Iraq and Afghanistan, you have Senator Obama saying, unconditioned withdrawal, based on a timetable, ignoring the military advice, rather, from the military commanders on the ground. It has a very real possibility of putting us back in a third war with Iraq. And you have Senator McCain saying we will withdraw with victory based on conditions on the ground and the advice of our military leaders. The differences couldn't be more clear. And I would just point out to your viewers that Senator Obama attacks Senator McCain on the campaign trail every day. He launched, his campaign launched the first negative ad, not just in the general election season, but in the primaries as well so-

MITCHELL: Well, you guys said on that conference call, Rick Davis said that he launched the first negative ad. But the way we looked at it, we've gone back and checked the records, the first negative ad was the Republican National Committee ad. And then he, his ad, Obama’s, was in response to that Republican attack ad.

PFOTENHAUER: Well, between the two campaigns, that I can say, our analysis is that he launched the first ad, it was July 8th as a matter of fact, and it was on energy of all topics.

MITCHELL: In response to an RNC ad.

PFOTENHAUER: But I think it's basically the pot calling the kettle black, if you will. But there are real differences between these two candidates and their vision for the future of this country and Senator McCain has proven that he's a leader and that he has served this country and put his country's interests first time and time again and on one level Senator Obama’s just given a speech about it.

MITCHELL: All right. Well, I'm not going, I'm not going to argue with you about the fact that John McCain is a real leader, because I've covered him for years. And I know that is to be the case and has served his country. But I think the real question is whether your characterization of Barack Obama is accurate, when she -- you say he's just given a speech and he's a celebrity like Paris Hilton. I think comparing the Democratic nominee to Paris Hilton creates some questions, doesn't it?

PFOTENHAUER : Well, it's about -- it's really about what there is there. What's behind the curtain, if you will, Andrea? And this is someone -- his campaign has really, in a very methodical way, tried to build this sense of celebrity. And you know that, because you covered them. I mean, there -- there's a lot of stage craft that goes on here. It just doesn't mean there's any state craft behind it. And that has resulted in things like lack of access to the media, really a lack of retail politics, if you will. If Senator McCain -- we had Senator Obama saying I'll meet Senator McCain anywhere, anyplace, anytime and then basically repeatedly refused to engage in a town hall meetings, kind of the one-on-one action, the retail politics and policy discussions that Senator McCain does every day, every week. And he's very open with his access both to the media and to the American people. And Senator Obama is kind of managed. That's their choice. That's absolutely fine. But it does raise the question about what real solutions are the two proposing in such -- at a time when the country is facing such serious challenges. And, again, the differences could not be more clear. Raise taxes, Senator Obama. Cut them, Senator McCain. Don’t drill, Senator Obama. Drill, Senator McCain. Pull out with a timetable in Iraq, despite what our military commanders say. Don’t pullout unless it’s based on conditions, pullout, rather, based on conditions on the ground at the advice of our military leaders, Senator McCain.

MITCHELL: Nancy Pfotenhauer from the McCain campaign. One quick final question. Do you have a position, does John McCain have a position as to what Ted Stevens should do? Should he step down now that he's been indicted? Or should he stay in the Senate and serve in any capacity that hecan until he faces the legal process?

PFOTENHAUER: Honestly, Andrea, I haven't spoken with the Senator about it, and so I would wait to hear from him before I would even try to project what he would have to say on that.

MITCHELL: Okay, thank you very much, Nancy Pfotenhauer. Thanks very much for joining us.

PFOTENHAUER: Thank you.