The front page of Sunday's New York Times featured the paper's latest defense of Barack Obama against alleged Internet smears -- reporter Jim Rutenberg's "Political Freelancers Use Web to Join the Attack."
Rutenberg went to Culver City, Calif. to profile leftist filmmaker Robert Greenwald and his cottage industry of anti-McCain films. While Rutenberg chided two conservative filmmakers for making dubious claims in their anti-Obama videos, Rutenberg found nothing misleading or objectionable in Greenwald's films, or anywhere else on the left end of the Internet.
Check this contrast:
The change has added to the frenetic pace of the campaign this year. "It's politics at the speed of Internet," said Dan Carol, a strategist for Mr. Obama who was one of the young bulls on Bill Clinton's vaunted rapid response team in 1992. "There's just a lot of people who at a very low cost can do this stuff and don't need a memo from HQ."
That would seem to apply to people like Robert Anderson, a professor at Elon University in North Carolina whose modest YouTube site that features videos flattering to Mr. Obama and unflattering to Mr. McCain, or Paul Villarreal, who from his apartment in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, has produced a harsh series of spots that attack Mr. Obama and make some claims that have been widely debunked.
On a video by Jason Mitchell featured on Eyeblast.tv, Rutenberg wrote:
The segment's announcer notes that Mr. Obama's father was Muslim, asserts that the candidate attended a Muslim grammar school in Indonesia for two years, and asks, "When we are at war with Islamic terrorism, can Americans elect a man with not one, not two, but three Islamic names?" One on screen image shows Mr. Obama's face morphed with that of Osama bin Laden.
Mr. Mitchell says he sticks close to the factual record, but the video has been widely criticized as over the line. Mr. Obama is a Christian. The school he attended in Indonesia was secular.
The Times, hypersensitive to any criticism of its preferred candidate, gave the Obama campaign's official "anti-smear" site yet another plug:
Three weeks ago, the Obama campaign started a Web site called "Fight the Smears" to, among other things, debunk portrayals of Mr. Obama as Islamic. It allows its users to e-mail the information easily to friends.
Greenwald's bravenewfilms.org site features several mockingly anti-McCain videos, including one titled "John McCain Is Dr. Strangelove," interspersing clips from the classic satire with clips of John McCain on the trail, in order to characterize McCain as a crazed warmonger.
Another video with a similar McCain-as-warmonger tone truncates a McCain quote from a town hall meeting to imply McCain wants the Iraq war to go on for "maybe 100" years. What McCain actually said at a town hall meeting in New Hampshire in January 2008 (in answer to a question about Bush saying American troops may have to stay in Iraq for 50 years):
"Maybe 100. As long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed, it's fine with me and I hope it would be fine with you if we maintain a presence in a very volatile part of the world where al Qaeda is training, recruiting, equipping and motivating people every single day."
The Media Research Center's Brent Bozell flagged another false Greenwald commercial in a recent column:
The ad is set in "President McCain's Women's Health Clinic." When a woman asks the perky blond nurse their about her contraceptive options, she's handed a list. When the woman protests it's a blank piece of paper and repeats that she asked about birth-control options, the nurse cheerily replies: "And at the McCain Clinic, you don't have any."
Then a graphic reads: "John McCain voted against requiring insurance companies to cover prescription birth control." The fallacious argument within is that if the government doesn't pay for contraceptives, or force insurers to pay for contraceptives, then no contraceptives are available. There's no "option" to purchase your own condoms or birth-control prescriptions? Where are the media smear-fighters on this obvious howler?
Yet Rutenberg didn't flag any of Greenwald's left-wing videos for being misleading, only those from conservatives.