CBS and NBC led Tuesday night with speculation over the VP picks, but moved quickly, without citing any proof of John McCain's supposed scurrilous attack on Barack Obama's patriotism, to Obama condemning McCain for questioning his patriotism.
“Patriot games,” CBS Evening News anchor Harry Smith teased, “Barack Obama fights back.” Viewers then heard a clip of Obama before the VFW: “I will let no one question my love of this country.” Reporter Dean Reynolds described how “Obama is pivoting toward a more combative style, rebuking the Republicans for habitually turning differences over policy into questions about patriotism, a habit he said John McCain has readily embraced.” CBS ran two Obama soundbites, yet on Monday, when McCain addressed the VFW, CBS didn't show a second of him. Reynolds soon asserted that McCain and Republicans “had the stage to themselves last week while Obama vacationed.” Certainly not on the CBS Evening News which spent the week puffing Obama.
On the NBC Nightly News, Andrea Mitchell touted how “Obama strongly defended his patriotism today to veterans, the same group that heard John McCain attack him yesterday,” and relayed how Obama's “hearing a lot of messages from all across the country that he has not been tough enough. He has to go after John McCain, he's got to be more aggressive.”
On a potential VP for McCain, Mitchell offered that he “could wait until the Republican Convention to distract attention from George Bush and Dick Cheney, the first night's speakers,” before she reported that sources say McCain is seriously considering a registered Democrat, Joe Lieberman,” but “the right wing is threatening a revolt.” Providing the pro-Lieberman argument, NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd: “It's a message of independence. It brings back the maverick John McCain. It solidifies his image with independent voters.”
Citing Tim Pawlenty as “a much safer political choice for McCain,” Mitchell, who earlier in her story failed to apply a liberal label to Joe Biden, Tim Kaine or Evan Bayh, tagged Pawlenty as “conservative.”
As for Reynolds' contention McCain and Republicans “had the stage to themselves last week while Obama vacationed,” in fact, the CBS Evening News spent the week promoting Obama:
♦ On Monday, Katie Couric highlighted how “Obama put out a tongue in cheek response to Senator McCain's celebrity ad” and she helpfully pointed out: “The ad also features six different shots of Senator McCain next to President Bush.” The newscast also allocated more than three minutes to a "CBS News Exclusive" interview and profile by Couric of "Barack Obama's brain," Valerie Jarrett.
♦ On Tuesday, Jeff Greenfield twisted news -- that a top Clinton campaign operative recommended attacking Obama as less than genuinely American -- into reprimanding McCain for supposedly following that strategy.
♦ On Wednesday, Reynolds himself recalled how McCain promised "to conduct a respectful campaign," but citing McCain's celebrity ad, charged "now it frequently seems respect takes a backseat to ridicule.”
♦ And on Thursday, the CBS Evening News compared the Web sites of the two candidates and declared Obama's far superior as reporter Daniel Sieberg asserted “McCain's Web site is still playing catch up to Obama's use of cyberspace” and considered it newsworthy that “Obama is 'friended' almost seven times more than McCain.”
From Tuesday night, August 19:
CBS Evening News, picking up after the VP speculation:
DEAN REYNOLDS: ...The eventual announcement will come at a time when Obama is pivoting toward a more combative style, rebuking the Republicans for habitually turning differences over policy into questions about patriotism, a habit he said John McCain has readily embraced.
BARACK OBAMA, AT VFW CONVENTION IN ORLANDO: Instead of just offering policy answers, he turned to a typical laundry list of political attacks.
REYNOLDS: Obama told the Veterans of Foreign Wars today he would never suggest McCain bases policy on politics.
OBAMA: I've not suggested it because I believe that he genuinely wants to serve America's national interests. Now it's time for him to acknowledge that I want to do the same.
REYNOLDS: Whether McCain's gone negative or not, the question to many Democrats is whether the Republicans, who had the stage to themselves last week while Obama vacationed, are running a savvier campaign-
NARRATOR OF McCAIN AD, WITH VIDEO OF OBAMA: Who can you thank for rising prices at the pump?
REYNOLDS: -with better ads and a sharper message. Well, the running mate speculation is rampant this evening, one of those on the list appeared to take himself off. Senator Joseph Biden telling reporters "you've got better things to do, I'm not the guy." Harry?
HARRY SMITH, BRIEF MENTION OF McCAIN'S DAY: Dean Reynolds in Chicago. Thanks. John McCain will announce his running mate at the end of next week. Today, the Senator toured an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico and talked of his plan for offshore drilling as one way to deal with the country's energy problems.
NBC Nightly News, after Brian Williams' intro centered on the VP talk:
ANDREA MITCHELL: Barack Obama strongly defended his patriotism today to veterans, the same group that heard John McCain attack him yesterday.
BARACK OBAMA, AT VFW: That is John McCain's prerogative. He can run that kind of campaign, and, frankly, that's how political campaigns have been run in recent years. But I believe the American people are better than that.
MITCHELL: To help defend him on foreign policy, he could turn to Joe Biden. Biden was troubleshooting in Georgia over the weekend, but was back home today in Wilmington trying to deflect attention.
JOE BIDEN, DRIVING BY IN HIS CAR: I'm not the guy. See yah.
MITCHELL: Biden would help Obama with blue collar voters, but he would also undercut Obama’s message of change. And he's been called a “gaffe machine.”
BRIAN WILLIAMS, DURING APRIL 27 PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES: Can you reassure voters in this country that you would have the discipline you would need on the world stage, Senator?
BIDEN: Yes. (Audience laughs)
MITCHELL: If Obama wants change without experience, Virginia Governor Tim Kaine is his man, from a red state that could go blue.
TIM KAINE: It's very flattering, but my main focus is Virginia.
MITCHELL: Or the safest choice, Indiana Senator Evan Bayh. John McCain, who campaigned on an oil rig today, could reveal his choice at the end of next week on his 72nd birthday. Or McCain could wait until the Republican Convention to distract attention from George Bush and Dick Cheney, the first night's speakers. Sources say McCain is seriously considering a registered Democrat, Joe Lieberman. The right wing is threatening a revolt.
RICH LOWRY, NATIONAL REVIEW: You're going to have a lot of conservatives throwing up their hands and saying, you know, this is a ticket we can't support.
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS POLITICAL DIRECTOR: It's a message of independence. It brings back the maverick John McCain. It solidifies his image with independent voters.
MITCHELL: The Lieberman possibility is so serious that state party officials say that they have been asked to check their party rules to see if a non-Republican can be on the ballot in their states. And, Brian, if he does choose Lieberman, McCain would promise to serve for only one term. A much safer political choice for McCain, Minnesota’s conservative Governor, Tim Pawlenty. Brian?
BRIAN WILLIAMS: All of it interesting stuff. Now, Andrea, when we get this far in the game, these presumptive nominees hear from just about everybody in the party. On the Obama front, what's he hearing from fellow Democrats?
MITCHELL: He's hearing a lot of messages from all across the country that he has not been tough enough. He has to go after John McCain, he's got to be more aggressive. He has been trying to do that in the last two days, but a lot of people in the party say that Joe Biden is his man to be an attack dog to really go after John McCain. Brian?
WILLIAMS: Andrea Mitchell in our Washington news room tonight with the very latest on all of this. Andrea, Thanks.