An ABC story Wednesday night attributed conservative opposition to John McCain not to McCain's more liberal positions on many issues, but to how McCain “basically is not going to answer to anybody, especially the conservative pundits or the conservagentsia. And they don't like that.” That claim that resistance to embracing McCain is a petty personal matter came from former Bush-Cheney campaign strategist Matthew Dowd, now an ABC News political contributor. ABC reporter Ron Claiborne buttressed Dowd's explanation, asserting: “And that has drawn attacks from the likes of radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh.” Viewers then heard an audio clip of Limbaugh: “He is not the choice of conservatives, as opposed to the choice of the Republican establishment.” (MP3 audio clip, 23 secs.)
In contrast, over on the CBS Evening News, reporter Bill Whitaker accurately attributed the opposition to McCain's policy positions: “McCain is routinely savaged by Rush Limbaugh and other conservative stalwarts for breaking ranks on immigration, taxes and global warming.” Two weeks ago, CBS's Bob Schieffer was as off-base as ABC, insisting opposition to McCain from the right is because “he's always been willing to challenge the authority and a lot of Republicans just have not forgiven him for that.”
My January 15 NewsBusters item, “Schieffer: Republicans Anti-McCain Because He Challenges Authority,” recounted:
Asked by Katie Couric Tuesday night [January 15] why having Republicans dominate the Michigan GOP primary, as opposed to independents and Democrats, is bad for John McCain, CBS's Bob Schieffer didn't cite any of McCain's views -- such as on immigration, tax cuts and freedom of speech -- where he's out of sync with most Republicans. Instead of realizing how McCain is too liberal for many conservatives who are the majority in the GOP, Schieffer contended Republicans just don't like him because he's "willing to challenge the authority," insisting: "John McCain has always been sort of a maverick. He's always been willing to challenge the authority and a lot of Republicans just have not forgiven him for that."
A transcript of the second half of Ron Claiborne's story -- from the site of the GOP debate at the Reagan Library -- about the GOP race following Rudy Giuliani's departure from it, as aired on the January 30 World News:
RON CLAIBORNE: What's remarkable is that he [McCain] beat Mitt Romney in a closed primary, where only Republicans could vote. No independents, who provided him winning margins in New Hampshire and South Carolina. Today, Romney told Good Morning America's Robin Roberts that he would remain in the race.
MITT ROMNEY ON GMA: In a two person race I like my chances.
MATTHEW DOWD, ABC NEWS POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: He basically is not going to answer to anybody, especially the conservative pundits or the conservagentsia. And they don't like that.
CLAIBORNE: And that has drawn attacks from the likes of radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh.
AUDIO OF RUSH LIMBAUGH: He is not the choice of conservatives, as opposed to the choice of the Republican establishment.
CLAIBORNE: Some analysts say the objections of members of the Republican right may not matter so much now as long as McCain is winning primaries, chalking up delegates and endorsements. And California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger was heaping praise on McCain earlier today. He could be the latest in the parade of elected officials backing McCain. That could come, Charlie, as soon as tomorrow.