Today's lead editorial in the New York Times is titled the "Low Road Express" and uses terms to describe Mr. McCain and his campaign as "low-minded", "uncivil", "waving the flag of fear", "sophomoric" and "false".
Let me break this down in two ways. First, the easy one: Consider the Source. The New York Times, since shortly after endorsing Sen. McCain in late January (mostly just to trash the Giuliani campaign if you read the editorial) has used this variety of tactics against Sen. McCain (these are the lowlights... I'm sure you can think of more. Feel free to add in the comments):
- Smears against Sen. McCain's fidelity. In a front page story on February 25, 2008 titled "For McCain, Self-Confidence on Ethics Poses Its Own Risk" the Times through rumors sourced with "several people involved in the campaign" "on the condition of anonymity" accused Mr. McCain of conducting an affair with "an attractive female lobbyist" in 1999. The public editor subsequently apologized for the story, but the Times news divisions or editorial page have NEVER FOLLOWED UP on this story to describe who has been relieved of their duties at the Times for this embarrassment.
- Attacks on supporters in Arizona, and on Mr. McCain's integrity. In April, the Times went after Donald Diamond.
- Failing to defend Sen. McCain in the same way he defended Sen. Kerry. In July, when Wes Clark attempted to start a high-level "Swift Boat" campaign against Sen. McCain by impunging his military service, the Times was silent on the editorial page. In fact, Paul Krugman wrote a column on the 4th of July in the Times titled "Rove's Third Term" (interesting how the Times editorial writers take their talking points directly from the Obama campaign) in which he described Clark's smear thus: "It was a blunt but truthful remark, and not at all outrageous — especially given the fact that General Clark is himself a bona fide war hero."
- Failing to provide Equal Time in a Policy Debate. Finally, just last week, the Times (in what the Chicago Tribune's Dennis Byrne called an episode that "further contribut[ed] to the trashing of what was once an admirable profession.") refused to allow Sen. McCain's campaign equal time to respond to an editorial by the Obama campaign about Iraq policy.
Second, to the substance of this ridiculous editorial. Let me count the "low-minded", "uncivil", "sophomoric", and "false" statements:
- Waving the flag of falsity: "Mr. McCain has been waving the flag of fear (Senator Barack Obama wants to 'lose' in Iraq)": The operative quote that describes Sen. McCain's line of attack in this vein is described in this passage from his speech last week in Denver.
"Senator Obama said this week that even knowing what he knows today that he still would have opposed the surge. In retrospect, given the opportunity to choose between failure and success, he chooses failure. I cannot conceive of a Commander in Chief making that choice."
While this line of attack is harsh, he is not saying Sen. Obama "wants to lose in Iraq", but that even after looking at the facts of budding military and political success in Iraq he refused to acknowledge the policy has succeeded and would still choose to retreat in failure. This is a fair statement of the difference in policy, and Sen. Obama's recent statements.
- Sophomoric Mischaracterization masquerading as attack: "issuing attacks that are sophomoric (suggesting that Mr. Obama is a socialist)"
I listened to the complete video that created this statement, as it was an interview with the Kansas City Star after a town-hall in my hometown. The operative statement is here (courtesy of the WSJ Washington Wire blog):
Later, McCain was asked by the Kansas City Star if he thought Obama was an extremist. He replied: “His voting record … is more to the left than the announced socialist in the U.S. Senate, Bernie Sanders of Vermont.” Sanders describes himself as a “democratic socialist” but he ran, and won, as an independent candidate in the 2006 Vermont Senate race with a 33-point margin of victory. He served in the U.S. House for 14 years prior to that.
The Star then asked McCain if he thought Obama was a socialist. “I don’t know,” he replied. “All I know is his voting record, and that’s what people usually judge their elected representatives by.”
Here are the National Journal 2007 Senate Voting Rankings, published January 31, 2008: "Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., was the most liberal senator in 2007, according to National Journal's 27th annual vote ratings. The insurgent presidential candidate shifted further to the left last year in the run-up to the primaries, after ranking as the 16th- and 10th-most-liberal during his first two years in the Senate"
I could continue, but this is growing tiresome...