"Objective Sources" Like WP, NYT Say McCain Ads "Over the Top & Unfair"

Times reporter Sam Roberts hosted the July 31 edition of "Political Points," the New York Times' political podcast, a roundtable discussion about the 2008 presidential race featuring chief political reporter Adam Nagourney and reporters Michael Luo, Larry Rohter, and Mary Ann Giordano. Freed from the confines of the four corners of the daily newspaper, the reporters loosentheir tonguesto revealing effect: Ahuge chunk of the 15-minute discussion consists of Times reporters nodding along to each other that John McCain'scampaign adsare unfair and that his possible vindication on the troop surge wouldn't help him in November.

Chief political reporter Adam Nagourney tut-tutted John McCain's recent attack ads against Barack Obama: "And he has over the past couple of days engaged in a number of attacks, including ads, that have been called out or adjudicated by, you know, I would say supposedly pretty objective sources, Washington Post, New York Times, even [chuckles] the media organizations, as being over the top and unfair."

Host Sam Roberts later asked Nagourney: "When does criticism become negative campaigning? What is the line that has to be crossed between legitimate criticism of Obama's positions, his record, his attitude, his personality, and something that becomes negative campaigning that potentially rubs off on McCain himself?"

Nagourney wouldn't let up on McCain: "You know ordinarily I would hem and haw with you on this, because normally it's like, you know, there's nothing wrong with drawing comparisons, and you know saying stuff about their qualifications, and I think all that stuff is fair game. I think what's happened here, which is why there's less fear about whether this is negative or not, are that there are assertions being made in some of these ads that appear to be demonstrably wrong. You have for example the Washington Post, in a front-page story, saying that something that McCain is saying in his ad is flat-out wrong, and that just rarely happens when something is so black and white."

Later in the segment, Nagourney opined that the success of the troop surge in Iraq wouldn't help McCain much, arguing people were overthe war (how convenient for the anti-war Times)"Don't you think that people are thinking about different things right now?"

Reporter Larry Rohter readily agreed, with a shot of overcompensating populism: "When the value of your house is going down and you can't afford to drive to the mall."

Nagourney replied: "Absolutely."