Strategy ’08

Obama vs. the other guy, 2008

Action Time: Katie Couric and CBS

I’m one of those skeptical bloggers who doesn’t believe that we can do much to impact media behavior, but what went down tonight was enough to finally push me over the edge.   If we can’t get this story out to the wider blogosphere and then to the MSM, I’m not sure what deserves to be pushed:

CBS had an interview with Barack Obama tonight during which Katie Couric hammered him on the surge, asking the same question over and over in different formats.  Then came her interview with John McCain, in which she gave him a free platform to smack at Obama, and as he was speaking, she ran pictures of McCain with Petraeus, soldiers doing their jobs, and basically made McCain out to be a heroic old master contrasted with Obama the petulant child.  

But that’s not the scandal.  This is:

From the transcript of the CBS interview:

Couric: Senator McCain, Sen. Obama says, while the increased number of U.S. troops contributed to increased security in Iraq, he also credits the Sunni awakening and the Shiite government going after militias. And says that there might have been improved security even without the surge. What’s your response to that? 

McCain: I don’t know how you respond to something that is such a false depiction of what actually happened. Colonel McFarlane (phonetic) was contacted by one of the major Sunni sheiks. Because of the surge we were able to go out and protect that sheik and others. And it began the Anbar awakening. I mean, that’s just a matter of history. Thanks to General Petraeus, our leadership, and the sacrifice of brave young Americans. I mean, to deny that their sacrifice didn’t make possible the success of the surge in Iraq, I think, does a great disservice to young men and women who are serving and have sacrificed. 

They were out there. They were protecting these sheiks. We had the Anbar awakening. We now have a government that’s effective. We have a legal system that’s working, although poorly. And we have progress on all fronts, including an incredible measure of security for the people of Iraq. There will still be attacks. Al Qaeda’s not defeated. But the progress has been immense. And to not recognize that, and why it happened, and how it happened, I think is really quite a commentary. 

Couric: A commentary on what? 

McCain: That Sen. Obama does not understand the challenges we face. And … not understand the need for the surge. And the fact that he did not understand that, and still denies that it has succeeded, I think the American people will make their judgment.

First, the facts, because McCain has his completely wrong: the Sunni Awakening began in 2006, long before the surge or this alleged phonecall (more on this here).  So, in other words, the great foreign policy expert, in the course of saying Obama doesn’t understand history, gets his irrevocably wrong (and, by the way, it goes to the heart of his justification for the surge).

But here’s the juice, via DKos commenter on this post:

  1. McCain’s response didn’t survive the cutting room floor, but
  2. Couric’s question did; and
  3. CBS replaced McCain’s incorrect response with one he gave to another question.

Like I said, I rarely get this upset about press stories, because the press is pathetic on a daily basis.

But this is shocking: CBS edited the interview to remove the parts McCain got factually wrong – that go to the HEART of his argument – and replaced it with an answer designed to make him sound better.

Here’s the actual interview.

I’m not going to ask you to mail CBS, because that won’t do anything.  But I am going to ask you to send this story to every possible outlet you can, because two essential things need to happen:

1) CBS has to explain itself on air
2) and they have to explain why McCain was wrong

This isn’t a small thing.


July 23, 2008 - Posted by | Iraq, Media Strategy | , ,


  1. Got this at DKos and hope it goes around as much as possible. I commented over there that the original story wasn’t a bombshell (as per the diary title) and got a little bit of the business for what it’s become with respect to the editing, etc…

    The idea that CBS can edit an interview in such a slipshot way to cover up another McCain gaffe is extraordinary. What’s next? They’ll digitally alter his image to make him look 40 years younger?

    Comment by Mike Plugh | July 23, 2008 | Reply

  2. This is a big story Mike – CBS editing a presidential candidate to cover up for a gaffe – a gaffe that gets to the heart of his “strength.”

    Email it to everyone you know with a blog – to every news site, etc…

    Comment by dansac | July 23, 2008 | Reply

  3. Well the good news about this is that about 4 people watch the evening news with Katie Couric.

    But I agree that this is morally reprehensible. I just wish I could be more surprised. I guess this is just another example of the media being “in the tank” for Obama.

    Comment by smashartist | July 23, 2008 | Reply

  4. The low-ranked CBS evening news still crushes our favorite cable shows by a wide margin.

    The big reason this needs to get out isn’t just to teach CBS a lesson, but to draw attention to the shocking error McCain made

    Comment by dansac | July 23, 2008 | Reply

  5. CBS is CREATING the news! WOW! I think we’re being BUSHED!

    Comment by sue | July 23, 2008 | Reply

  6. Sorry, I guess you’re commenters don’t care very much about what kind of country we live in. This isn’t a joke, and I’ll be adding my voice to those who wants serious answers from CBS.

    Comment by Kurt | July 23, 2008 | Reply

  7. Devasting blow to say the least. They’ve been going out of their way to hammer barack, misrepresenting and mischaracterizing him, including CNN, MSNBC (Andrea Mitchell especially), and FOX of course. It is as though they were on some kind of vendetta/hate mission. They completely neglect their duty to report facts to the American people. They have taken this to the utmost personal and unprofessional level. Now they are editing Mccain’s words to cover up more than just a gaffe. Mccain was wrong, absolutely dead wrong but CBS decided to right his false statements just to make him look good/presidential. This is more than just pulling the wool over the people’s eyes. This is the slow death to democracy. We send troops upon troops to go and instill and die for democracy in other countries while we slowly kill democracy here. The media wants to take control of picking our president. We must act now by demanding the truth from each and every news outlet.

    Comment by Nancy | July 23, 2008 | Reply

  8. John McCain noun, verb, POW, surge,surge,surge, my dear friends, my friends,surge, POW. I think I am going to be sick. When will he just GO AWAY.

    Comment by Dottie | July 23, 2008 | Reply

  9. All Democrats need to hammer CBS on this shameful incident until they explain themselves and fire Couric or who ever was responsible for the decision to edit the McCain interview. We need to protect an independent press that tells the truth and actually airs the real news – anything else is un-American. CBS News is running a propaganda campaign to sway the election towards the corporate friendly McCain and protect the old geezer from himself.

    Comment by Kate1149 | July 24, 2008 | Reply

  10. This is so bad, why has nothing been said or done about it, everyone seems to protecting McCain, WHY?

    Comment by John | August 13, 2008 | Reply

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