Following the McCain campaign conference call with reporters this morning, in which senior campaign adviser Steve Schmidt lashed out at the media — specifically The New York Times — for being “completely, totally, 150 percent in the tank for Obama,” Politico’s Ben Smith went to work fact-checking Schmidt’s myriad claims.
It turns out Schmidt, who complained that, “any time the Obama campaign is criticized at any level, the critics are immediately derided as liars,” wasn’t telling the truth — about pretty much anything.
But the call was so rife with simple, often inexplicable misstatements of fact that it may have had the opposite effect: to deepen the perception, dangerous to McCain, that he and his aides have little regard for factual accuracy.
The errors in McCain strategist Steve Schmidt’s charges against Obama and Sen. Joe Biden were particularly notable because they seemed unnecessary. Schmidt repeatedly gilded the lily: He exaggerated the Biden family’s already problematic ties to the credit card industry; Obama’s embarrassing relationship with a 1960s radical; and an Obama supporter’s over-the-top attack on Sarah Palin when — in each case — the truth would have been damaging enough.
A brief summary of the untruths: Schmidt said Biden’s son was a lobbyist for the credit card and banking industry; the truth is Hunter Biden works for MBNA, but was never a lobbyist. Schmidt said Obama adviser Robert Wexler called Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin a “Nazi sympathizer,” the truth is Wexler called former GOP presidential candidate Patrick J. Buchanan a “Nazi sympathizer,” and said Palin supported him in 2000 — which appears to be untrue. Schmidt said “Obama began his political career in its early stages raising money at [former Weatherman William] Ayers’ house”; the truth is that Ayers did host a campaign event for Obama at his home when Obama first ran for the Illinois state senate, but it was not a fund-raiser, and Ayers “did not contribute money to Obama’s first campaign, according to Illinois records.”
One McCain aide, Michael Goldfarb, said Politico was “quibbling with ridiculously small details when the basic things are completely right.”
The problem is, Schmidt’s transgressions might be forgivable if they didn’t fit so neatly into the McCain campaign’s apparently compulsive inability to be honest and forthcoming with the facts.
The real kicker: when Smith contacted the McCain campaign spokesman Brian Rogers, to comment on all of Schmidt’s false information, what was the response?
“You are in the tank,” he e-mailed.
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