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After Discrediting McCain, Williams Again Cozies Up to Obama --10/31/2008


1. After Discrediting McCain, Williams Again Cozies Up to Obama
A week after NBC's Brian Williams spent his time with John McCain and Sarah Palin in Ohio discrediting the accuracy of their claims and pushing for assurance their campaign wouldn't mention Jeremiah Wright, Williams on Thursday night in Florida returned to the same cozy approach with Barack Obama, though without the memories of mom, he employed in earlier interviews with the Democratic candidate. After declaring Obama's campaign is "fueled by the urgent fight to fix the economy," Williams cited fresh bad economic news before cuing up Obama: "How do you tailor your message to this crowd? Is there more pain before there's a gain?" His other three questions in the first excerpt run on Thursday's NBC Nightly News also didn't challenge any of Obama's claims or attacks, nor raise any detracting information: "Why did it take so long for Bill Clinton to join you for a rally like the one we saw here in Florida last night?" Then two questions which seemed to presume Obama will soon take office: "Does America need American car companies? Is three too many? Two too few? And on top of the billions already spent, what's it worth to you, if the answer is yes?" And lastly, a long question about litmus tests for Supreme Court nominees and if you don't apply one "how then do you also avoid surprises?"

2. Chris Matthews 'Overwhelmed' by Sight of Obama with Bill Clinton
On Wednesday night Chris Matthews' beloved Phillies won the World Series, and perhaps more importantly to Matthews, Bill Clinton "passed the torch" to Barack Obama. Decked out in his Phillies red with a team cap, the giddy Matthews found the whole thing, well, overwhelming, as he exclaimed on Thursday's Hardball over video of Obama with Clinton: "That is a sight for the ages! That, I am overwhelmed by it. It is something to watch! Look at 'em! They are, look at the two winners there together. Bill Clinton said, 'He's the future,' Barack Obama last night. He, he passed the torch like Kennedy did to him once, figuratively speaking."

3. Round & Round Candidates Go, It's 'Conservative' Wherever They Go
At least on the CBS Evening News. On Thursday's newscast, reporter Chip Reid explained that John McCain campaigned in northern Ohio towns Reid described as "conservative areas" while CBS colleague Dean Reynolds, with Barack Obama in Sarasota, Florida, marveled at how he's "not just concentrating on Republican states now. He's stumping in their most conservative strongholds." Over the past few weeks Reid has referred to how Sarah Palin campaigned "in conservative rural Pennsylvania," how Obama in Roanoke "drew a crowd of more than 8,000 in this conservative corner of Virginia" and how a McCain rally in Waukesha, Wisconsin put him in a "deeply conservative suburb of Milwaukee."

4. Elizabeth Vargas Grills Palin on Competence and Obama's Patriotism
ABC reporter Elizabeth Vargas grilled Sarah Palin on Thursday's Good Morning America over the issues of competence and whether or not Palin believes that Senator Barack Obama is "un-American" and "dangerous." Vargas chided Palin on her remarks about the Democratic candidate: "But, when you used words like socialism or say he's palling around with terrorists or hanging around with a Palestinian professor...you seem to be saying that he's un-American somehow or might be dangerous somehow." When Palin assured the journalist that she was not insinuating any such thing, Vargas skeptically followed-up: "Do you think Senator Obama is as patriotic, as American, as honorable as John McCain?" She then proceeded to repeatedly ask, four times in total, questions related to competence and why less women now support Palin. "Today, polls show that 60 percent of women have an unfavorable opinion of you. Why do you think you've lost that connection," she wondered. Referring to conservatives such as Peggy Noonan and Republicans like Colin Powell, Vargas insisted that "a chorus of voices from the Republican Party, stalwart Republicans" don't believe she's qualified.

5. Schieffer: Obama Infomercial Like Reagan's 'Morning in America'
On Thursday's CBS Early Show, co-host Maggie Rodriguez talked to Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer about Obama's Wednesday night campaign infomercial and Schieffer offered rave reviews: "...this was something we haven't seen the like of in American Politics...It reminded me so much of the commercials that Ronald Reagan ran in 1984, the 'Morning in America'...What Barack Obama's message was last night, 'things are not so good, but take heart, because we can make it okay.' I thought it was very, very effective...it was a very effective piece of campaign advertising."

6. WaPost: Infomercial 'Poetic and Practical, Spiritual & Sensible'
Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales offered his own endorsement of Obama for President with an oozy review of Obama's half-hour infomercial, which he called "Obamavision." That certainly was supposed to carry more than one meaning, including a tribute to Obama's visionary politics. It wasn't hidden in tiny type on the home page like yesterday's sleaze-Internet-cash story. It stood out in bold lettering: "An Appeal to the Masses: Poetic and practical, Obama's paid political broadcast was a montage of montages." Shales was more syrupy than that in the full text: "Somehow both poetic and practical, spiritual and sensible, the paid political broadcast, which aired on seven major cable and broadcast networks (on Univision, it was identified as 'Historias Americanas'), was a montage of montages, a series of seamlessly blended segments interweaving the stories of embattled Americans with visions of their deliverer, Guess Who."

7. Diane Sawyer Touts More Taxes for 'Disproportionately Advantaged'
While interviewing three generations of voters in one Florida family, Good Morning America host Diane Sawyer on Thursday pushed back when the mother of the household assailed Senator Joe Biden's claim that paying higher taxes is patriotic. After Marylee Gizzi described the "great offense" she took at Biden's remarks, Sawyer parroted Obama talking points and retorted: "He argues, you know, he's just going back to the Reagan tax cuts. It's not a penalty." Continuing to defend the Democratic ticket's economic plan, she haltingly added, "He would argue disproportionately advantaged, the wealthy in this country, who have increased their share, more than the middle class has increased its share." After Gizzi lauded the "incredible" accomplishments of Sarah Palin, Sawyer looked for some kind of negative assessment: "There were a lot of people who brought a lot to the table. You must have a sense of whether you'd like her to be president, should something happen to him [McCain]." At no point did Sawyer attempt to grill the Obama-supporting daughter into saying something negative about her choice for president.

8. Today Show Features Cher Endorsing Obama and Bashing Bush
NBC's Today show, on Thursday, aired an Access Hollywood clip of Cher wearing a "Barack the Vote" T-shirt as she actually bashed George W. Bush, to his first cousin's face. The President's first cousin, Access Hollywood host Billy Bush, conducted the interview in which Cher declared: "I've been alive for 11 Presidents and I feel that this is the worst time I've ever seen," and called the current President, "The Big Divider." Cher also claimed the only way she would be seen at a Sarah Palin rally would be "in my nightmares."


After Discrediting McCain, Williams Again
Cozies Up to Obama

A week after NBC's Brian Williams spent his time with John McCain and Sarah Palin in Ohio discrediting the accuracy of their claims and pushing for assurance their campaign wouldn't mention Jeremiah Wright, Williams on Thursday night in Florida returned to the same cozy approach with Barack Obama, though without the memories of mom, he employed in earlier interviews with the Democratic candidate. After declaring Obama's campaign is "fueled by the urgent fight to fix the economy," Williams cited fresh bad economic news before cuing up Obama: "How do you tailor your message to this crowd? Is there more pain before there's a gain?"

His other three questions in the first excerpt run on Thursday's NBC Nightly News (with more to come Friday night) also didn't challenge any of Obama's claims or attacks, nor raise any detracting information: "Why did it take so long for Bill Clinton to join you for a rally like the one we saw here in Florida last night?" Then two questions which seemed to presume Obama will soon take office: "Does America need American car companies? Is three too many? Two too few? And on top of the billions already spent, what's it worth to you, if the answer is yes?" And lastly, a long question about litmus tests for Supreme Court nominees and if you don't apply one "how then do you also avoid surprises?"

[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted Thursday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

(ABC's Charles Gibson managed to raise a broken Obama promise, as he set up a brief interview excerpt on Thursday's World News: "Last night's broadcast of Barack Obama's 30-minute infomercial, that was on three networks and four cable outlets, it drew an audience of more than33 million viewers. The ad reportedly cost $3 million, and I asked Obama yesterday when we spoke whether he was able to afford that ad because he broke his promise to take public campaign financing.")

In contrast to how Williams treated Obama, last week with McCain and Palin he hit them with hostile questions, such as:

# Did this campaign get out of your control? And here's what I mean: A lot of people who know you well saw you take that microphone from that woman in Wisconsin and for the first time in a long time they said, "there, that's John McCain."

# You mention Senator Biden's comment the other day about, a new President and a test of the new President's mettle, one of your very closest friends in the Senate, Joe Lieberman said on Face the Nation quote, "our enemies will test the new President early. And it has happened throughout modern history."...When he says the new President will be tested, though, I'm missing how that's different from Senator Lieberman saying quote "our enemies will test the new President early."

# Let me ask you both about what must have been a hurtful Sunday for you especially, you Senator McCain, Colin Powell's endorsement of Barack Obama and Governor, respectfully, the heart of his quote, about Governor Palin, Senator McCain, "I don't believe she's ready to be President of the United States which is the job of Vice President. And so that raised some question in my mind as to the judgment that Senator McCain made." When you heard those words from a man you've known for a long time, what was your reaction, saying basically we have little to judge these future leaders on except for the big decision of picking a running mate?

# Are we changing the definition? Are the people who set fire to American cities during the '60s terrorists under this definition? Is an abortion clinic bomber a terrorist under this definition, Governor?

# Are you going to keep your promise not to involve Reverend Wright in the campaign?

For more on those interviews, check: "Williams Hits McCain & Palin with Powell's Charge She's Unqualified," at: www.mrc.org

And: "Williams Pushes McCain & Palin on Ayers, Avoid Wright, Define 'Elite,'" at: www.mrc.org

Compare the tone of his McCain interview session with his approach to Obama earlier this year, as recounted in "Williams Tosses Softballs to Obama, Empathizes Over Elitist Image," the May 9 CyberAlert item:

Brian Williams, who slobbered over Barack Obama in their last interview in early January, did so again in a Thursday session conducted at Washington, DC's Newseum and excerpted on the NBC Nightly News. Back on January 7, Williams handed Obama a Newsweek with "Inside Obama's Dream Machine" as the cover story and wondered: "How does this feel, of all the honors that have come your way, all the publicity? Who does it make you think of? Is there, is there a loved one?" On Thursday, Williams didn't pose a single challenging question nor mention Jeremiah Wright in any of the ten questions aired, but pulled the same magazine stunt, this time holding up the new Time with a smiling Obama on the cover by the words, "And the Winner* Is..." Williams fondly recalled: "Last time we were together, I handed you a copy of Newsweek, it was the first time you'd held it in your hands with you on the cover. Have you yet held this in your hands?"

Obama said he had not, prompting Williams to remind him: "Last time you looked at it and you thought instantly of your mom." Obama effused: "She'd like that picture. She always encouraged me to smile more." Proceeding to cue up Obama for a long recitation on how he's not an elitist, Williams empathized: "You end up with people talking about your bowling score, gutter balls, wearing a tie, wearing a tie with farmers. And how have you dealt with that? Is there an operating theory that guides your life these days?"

Full rundown: www.mrc.org

Now, all of the questions from Williams to Obama in the interview excerpt aired on the Thursday, October 30 NBC Nightly News (with a second part to run on Friday's newscast):

BRIAN WILLIAMS: And because these days it all comes back to the presidential campaign and the election five days from now, that brings us to the campaign trail. We're on the warning track here at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, Florida. This was one of Barack Obama's stops in Florida today. Democrats are in the minority in this region, but Obama is looking for votes. His campaign fueled by the urgent fight to fix the economy these days. Some of that corporate news had just broken when I met up with him in a tent before he took the podium here this morning.

# WILLIAMS TO OBAMA: This morning's news, 7,000 layoffs worldwide, American Express. There's another financial headline every day. How do you tailor your message to this crowd? Is there more pain before there's a gain?

WILLIAMS: And with that he was greeted by the cheers of a crowd estimated at 13,000. He delivered his latest stump speech here today. It's been called his closing argument. He came off the rope line afterwards. We joined up with him again. And during our seated interview later, we talked about last night's rally here in Florida with Bill Clinton.

# WILLIAMS TO OBAMA: Why did it take so long for Bill Clinton to join you for a rally like the one we saw here in Florida last night?

# An American industrial question, does, does America need American car companies? Is three too many? Two too few? And on top of the billions already spent, what's it worth to you, if the answer is yes?

# Senator, a question about the Supreme Court. Everyone running for President always says, especially on the narrow issue of abortion rights, no litmus test. It's said on both sides of the issue. And if that's true, if you're not going to call a future justice into the oval office, if you're successful in this endeavor and bring up the subject, how then do you also avoid surprises? I don't think George H.W. Bush 41 ever dreamed that in Justice Souter he was appointing a dependable liberal vote. And Eisenhower for years called Justice Brennan his biggest mistake in office. Two surprises that just come to mind.

Chris Matthews 'Overwhelmed' by Sight
of Obama with Bill Clinton

On Wednesday night Chris Matthews' beloved Phillies won the World Series, and perhaps more importantly to Matthews, Bill Clinton "passed the torch" to Barack Obama. Decked out in his Phillies red with a team cap, the giddy Matthews found the whole thing, well, overwhelming, as he exclaimed on Thursday's Hardball over video of Obama with Clinton: "That is a sight for the ages! That, I am overwhelmed by it. It is something to watch! Look at 'em! They are, look at the two winners there together. Bill Clinton said, 'He's the future,' Barack Obama last night. He, he passed the torch like Kennedy did to him once, figuratively speaking."

This item, by the MRC's Geoffrey Dickens, was posted Thursday evening on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

It was all a bit too much for former Republican Congresswoman Susan Molinari, as she couldn't help but make fun of Matthews' excitement, as she sarcastically quipped: "It's bringing tears to my eyes."

The following exchange occurred on the October 30 edition of Hardball:

CHRIS MATTHEWS OVER CLIP OF OBAMA AND CLINTON APPEARANCE: Look at 'em! That is a sight Susan Molinari. That is a sight for the ages! That, I am overwhelmed by it. It is something to watch! Look at 'em! They are, look at the two winners there together. Bill Clinton said, "He's the future," Barack Obama last night. He, he passed the torch like Kennedy did to him once, figuratively speaking.
SUSAN MOLINARI: Uh huh.
MATTHEWS: You are so sarcastic in your silence!
MOLINARI: Yes, yes, yes, yeah!
MATTHEWS: Well look at him, look at him build him up there. Look at that!
MOLINARI: It's just amazing.
MATTHEWS: That's Bubba and Barry!
MOLINARI: It's bringing tears to my eyes.

Round & Round Candidates Go, It's 'Conservative'
Wherever They Go

At least on the CBS Evening News. On Thursday's newscast, reporter Chip Reid explained that John McCain campaigned in northern Ohio towns Reid described as "conservative areas" while CBS colleague Dean Reynolds, with Barack Obama in Sarasota, Florida, marveled at how he's "not just concentrating on Republican states now. He's stumping in their most conservative strongholds."

Over the past few weeks Reid has referred to how Sarah Palin campaigned "in conservative rural Pennsylvania," how Obama in Roanoke "drew a crowd of more than 8,000 in this conservative corner of Virginia" and how a McCain rally in Waukesha, Wisconsin put him in a "deeply conservative suburb of Milwaukee."

From my memory, and a check of Nexis, only once in October did a CBS Evening News story describe any area of the nation as liberal -- and that came in tandem with a conservative tag. In a Friday, October 17 story, Kelly Cobiella described how in Florida "Obama has the southeast and its large number of African-American, Jewish and liberal white voters. McCain is the favorite among military and socially conservative voters in the southwest and north."

[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted late Thursday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

Fuller versions of the labels:

# Thursday, October 30, Chip Reid on McCain in Ohio: "Traveling from the northwest corner of the state, along Lake Erie, to Mentor in the northeast, the stops were in small towns where McCain found passionate fans at every turn. The purpose in these conservative areas is not so much to find new supporters as it is to make sure the already-converted get to the polls."

# Same night, Dean Reynolds on Obama in Sarasota: "Barack Obama is not just concentrating on Republican states now. He's stumping in their most conservative strongholds. Today it was Sarasota, Florida, which George Bush won by eight points four years ago."

# Friday, October 17, Reid on how Obama in Roanoke "drew a crowd of more than 8,000 in this conservative corner of Virginia today."

# Tuesday, October 21, Reid: "Running mate Sarah Palin, still popular with the party's base, was in conservative rural Pennsylvania this weekend."

# Thursday, October 9, Reid on McCain in Waukesha, Wisconsin: "Many in this deeply conservative suburb of Milwaukee are in a state of disbelief that Obama could actually win."

Elizabeth Vargas Grills Palin on Competence
and Obama's Patriotism

ABC reporter Elizabeth Vargas grilled Sarah Palin on Thursday's Good Morning America over the issues of competence and whether or not Palin believes that Senator Barack Obama is "un-American" and "dangerous." Vargas chided Palin on her remarks about the Democratic candidate: "But, when you used words like socialism or say he's palling around with terrorists or hanging around with a Palestinian professor...you seem to be saying that he's un-American somehow or might be dangerous somehow."

When Palin assured the journalist that she was not insinuating any such thing, Vargas skeptically followed-up: "Do you think Senator Obama is as patriotic, as American, as honorable as John McCain?" She then proceeded to repeatedly ask, four times in total, questions related to competence and why less women now support Palin. "Today, polls show that 60 percent of women have an unfavorable opinion of you. Why do you think you've lost that connection," she wondered. Referring to conservatives such as Peggy Noonan and Republicans like Colin Powell, Vargas insisted that "a chorus of voices from the Republican Party, stalwart Republicans" don't believe she's qualified.

[This item, by the MRC's Scott Whitlock, was posted Thursday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

After Palin responded that columnists such as Noonan should actually interview her before making such declarations, the network reporter persisted: "But what about the voters? I mean, why is there this lingering issue with you and this question about whether you have what it takes to be an effective vice president?" Before finally moving off the subject, Vargas queried, "If you could take a do-over in this campaign, what would it be?"

And when Palin asserted that she has faced sexism that male political candidates don't, Vargas adopted a skeptical tone. She first retorted, "But, is it a double-standard? I mean, reporters certainly mocked John Edwards a lot for his $400 hair cuts." Speaking of the controversy over the cost of the candidates clothing, the reporter added, "And when the report did come out about the wardrobe purchased for your whole family, it was a lot of money. $150,000." Vargas went on to cite previous candidates Hillary Clinton and Geraldine Ferraro and claimed they talked about double standards more often. She pressed, "Just give me one example."

Palin's reply referenced the journalists who wondered aloud if the Republican could be both a good mother and vice president, something that GMA weekend anchor Bill Weir did on August 30, 2008. Speaking to a McCain's political director, he fretted, "Adding to the brutality of a national campaign, the Palin family also has an infant with special needs. What leads you, the Senator, and the Governor to believe that one won't affect the other in the next couple of months?" See a September 2 CyberAlert posting for more: www.mrc.org

In fairness to Vargas, she did compliment Palin quite freely at the close of the interview. Speaking of the vice presidential candidate's talents to co-host Robin Roberts, she lauded: "I must tell you, when we were on the campaign trail with her yesterday, she has a phenomenal ability to connect with people" and praised "her personal skills in connecting with voters." But, that was after an interrogation about competence and being too mean to Senator Obama.

A partial transcript of the October 30 interview follows:

7:13
ROBIN ROBERTS: And one of Barack's- Barack Obama's toughest critics lately has been Governor Sarah Palin. And ABC's Elizabeth Vargas had a chance to sit down with Sarah Palin and asked her about the tone of this campaign.
ELIZABETH VARGAS: But, when you used words like socialism or say he's palling around with terrorists or hanging around with a Palestinian professor, which you just said in the rally, you seem to be saying that he's un-American somehow or might be dangerous somehow.
PALIN: Not at all. Not calling him un-American. There is nothing wrong, though, with calling someone out on their record, their associations. The association issue here, it's not mean-spirited. It's not negative campaigning. It's important and fair to the electorate.
VARGAS: Do you think Senator Obama is as patriotic, as American, as honorable as John McCain?
PALIN: I'm sure that Senator Obama cares as much for this country as McCain does. Now, McCain has a strong, solid track record of his- I think some manifestations of the opportunities that he's had to prove that patriotism. And that love for country. But, no. I'm, for the record stating, no that I'm not calling someone out on their love of country or level of patriotism.

7:31
ROBERTS: But Elizabeth Vargas had a chance to talk with his running mate, Governor Sarah Palin.
ELIZABETH VARGAS: I did. I did, Robin. Yesterday, met up with Sarah Palin in Toledo, Ohio. We had a wide-ranging conversation about the strains of this campaign on her family life. About whether or not she's been a victim of sexism. And about the rough ride she's had since John McCain stunned nearly everyone by naming her his running mate. A lot of women were really, really excited when you were-- and intrigued by your candidacy- when you were named to the ticket. Today, polls show that 60 percent of women have an unfavorable opinion of you. Why do you think you've lost that connection?
PALIN: I don't look at polls. So, I would not be able to answer that. You would have to poll one of those females, ask them why anything has changed there. But you have to consider, though, that when there has been the constant barrage of A kind of a spin on my record, or my positions, and there has been much of that negative spin, then perhaps it would change someone's perception, if they had not met that person. I don't care what the polls say, though. I honestly don't.
VARGAS: There have been a chorus of voices from the Republican Party, stalwart Republicans, who have come out and said they don't think you're qualified to be vice president.
PALIN: And I have never met any of those who I have heard to have written something or said something negative. I would love to meet these people, have a conversation instead of them just superficially making a statement like that. It would be nice if they would take it a step further and at least interview me.
VARGAS: Perhaps some of those people like Colin Powell or Peggy Noonan or Ken Adelman, should have come out and many met you first before coming out publicly and saying you were unqualified.
PALIN: That would have been nice.
VARGAS: But what about the voters? I mean, why is there this lingering issue with you and this question about whether you have what it takes to be an effective vice president?
PALIN: I don't know. But there have been many underestimated persons who have been elected to office, and have really been, then, provided the opportunity to prove the pundits wrong. Again, it's motivating for me to work that much harder. But I can't speak to the negative perception that somebody would have because, again, when I know who I am. And I know the truth. And I know my record. It's going to have to be me walking the walk. Not just talking the talk, trying to correct it. But to prove who I am and what I stand for.
VARGAS: If you could take a do-over in this campaign, what would it be?
PALIN: I can't think of anything. I would just-
VARGAS: Really? Nothing?
PALIN: I would have just desired to have more hours in the day, to able to accomplish more, in terms of getting John McCain's message out.
ELIZABETH HASSELBECK: Governor Sarah Palin!
VARGAS: This past weekend when Elisabeth Hasselbeck was campaigning with you, she said that the campaign coverage of you had been deliberately sexist. And you seemed to agree. I want to ask you, do you think the campaign coverage of you has been sexist?
PALIN: Oh, I think there's been double-standards there. I mean, talk about my wardrobe. And never talking about the male candidates' wardrobe. Or the questions posed to me of how will I be able to serve in office and still raise a family? I've never heard that asked of a male candidate. But I'm not going to complain about that because if my- if my skin isn't think enough to take that as a candidate, I shouldn't even be thinking of serving this nation as vice president.
VARGAS: But, is it a double-standard? I mean, reporters certainly mocked John Edwards a lot for his $400 hair cuts. And when the report did come out about the wardrobe purchased for your whole family, it was a lot of money. $150,000.
PALIN: Well, double-standard or not, this is what we're dealing with. And I would much rather be talking about the issues that are important to Americans not that-. And it wasn't $150,000. I never saw a final bill. But what the RNC purchased, with staging, lighting, and wardrobe for the family. And it's not our property. Just like the staging and the lighting. It's not our property. That's returned. Or it's in the belly of an airplane. That's not who we are, even. It was convenient because we showed up for the convention with overnight bags. So, it was convenient to have some tools there to be able to borrow.

Schieffer: Obama Infomercial Like Reagan's
'Morning in America'

On Thursday's CBS Early Show, co-host Maggie Rodriguez talked to Face the Nation host Bob Schieffer about Obama's Wednesday night campaign infomercial and Schieffer offered rave reviews: "...this was something we haven't seen the like of in American Politics...It reminded me so much of the commercials that Ronald Reagan ran in 1984, the 'Morning in America'...What Barack Obama's message was last night, 'things are not so good, but take heart, because we can make it okay.' I thought it was very, very effective...it was a very effective piece of campaign advertising."

Following Rodriguez's discussion with Schieffer, co-host Harry Smith talked with Washington Post media critic and CNN contributor, Howard Kurtz, about the commercial. Kurtz's review was a bit more mixed: "This wasn't a 60-second ad. It wasn't a Morning America ad by Reagan, it was a show, and as a show it had to draw people in. I think it did a pretty good job of that, but as I said, at times it was a bit over the top." Earlier, Smith asked Kurtz: "What did you not like?" and Kurtz replied: "Well, for example, Maggie mentioned the faux Oval Office at the beginning, a lot of people, I think are going to find that a tad presumptuous-" Smith interrupted: "The Oval Office is not brown. It doesn't -- I don't think the Oval Office is brown, but go ahead." Kurtz pointed out: "Look at that tree in the window, it looks just like the South Lawn, he's got the flag." As Kurtz mentioned, in her discussion with Schieffer, Rodriguez observed: "...it opens with him standing in an office that some people thought looked like the Oval Office."

[This item, by the MRC's Kyle Drennen, was posted Thursday afternoon, with video, on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

Following Smith's interruption, Kurtz continued his critique: "But also, and then the politicians coming on at various moments that say -- talk about what a great guy Obama is. Well, you know, that seems like a standard canned political commercial. Where I thought the biggest mis-step was, was at the end. The whole point of this infomercial, Harry, was to bring Barack Obama out of the clouds to show that he is somebody who can relate to average people, working people, the railroad worker, the widow working two jobs, and then suddenly...they cut to the big stadium and the big rally and you're back to the Obama who gave the speech in Berlin."

The Early Show coverage also included mentions of Obama breaking his promise to accept public campaign financing, providing the money for such a prime time ad. In a report at the top of the show, correspondent Jeff Glor explained: "Flush with cash, the Obama campaign reportedly paid three million for the prime time rights. Money they have thanks to Obama's June decision not to use the public financing system. A troubling flip-flop, says John McCain." Later, Smith remarked to Kurtz: "Yeah, but McCain called it 'a gauzy feel-good commercial, paid for with broken promises.' That's a pretty good line." Kurtz replied: "It is a good line, I'm sure his speech writers worked a long time on that and McCain has a point in that Obama did flip-flop on the promise to accept public financing. Had he done that he couldn't have afforded to buy all of this time on the networks."

From the October 30 show:

7:00AM TEASE:
JULIE CHEN: Obama's prime time pitch.
BILL CLINTON: Barack Obama represents America's future.
CHEN: And McCain's rebuttal.
JOHN MCCAIN: Just remember, that it was paid for with broken promises.
CHEN: With the race so unpredictable, should you believe the polls?

7:02AM SEGMENT:
JULIE CHEN: But first, with only five days to go, Barack Obama pulls out all the stops as he goes prime time, while John McCain relishes playing the role of the underdog. Early Show national correspondent Jeff Glor is in Orlando, covering the campaigns. Jeff, good morning.

JEFF GLOR: Julie, good morning to you. If you were watching television last night, it was tough to miss. Barack Obama, as he used both his money and connections, to make another pitch and John McCain responded. As if Barack Obama needed more help.
BARACK OBAMA: In case all of you forgot, this is what it's like to have a great president. [pointing to Bill Clinton]
GLOR: Last night, he got a boost from Bill Clinton.
BILL CLINTON: I think it's clear the next President of the United States should be and, with your help, will be Senator Barack Obama!
GLOR: In Orlando, their first campaign appearance together, which came shortly after a half hour-long Obama prime time commercial, that ran on three TV networks, including CBS.
OBAMA: This election's a defining moment, a chance for our leaders to meet the demands of these challenging times and keep faith with our people.
GLOR: Not to mention an appearance on the Daily Show.
JON STEWART: Tell me about this half-hour special.
OBAMA: This is the Obama infomercial.
GLOR: Flush with cash, the Obama campaign reportedly paid three million for the prime time rights. Money they have thanks to Obama's June decision not to use the public financing system. A troubling flip-flop, says John McCain.
JOHN MCCAIN: What's disturbing about it is that he signed a piece of paper back when he was a long-shot candidate and he signed it. It said I won't -- I will take public financing for the presidential campaign if John McCain will.
GLOR: On Larry King, McCain said Obama was not a socialist but that he was on the far left and the republican nominee acknowledged the uphill climb.
MCCAIN: I think, obviously, I know we're still the underdog. You know, I love the underdog status. I just want to leave that status about the time the polls close.
GLOR: McCain will concentrate on Ohio today, with four stops there, while Barack Obama goes from Florida to Virginia to Missouri. Maggie.

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: CBS's Jeff Glor in Florida, thank you, Jeff. Joining us now, Bob Schieffer, CBS News chief Washington correspondent and host of Face the Nation. Good morning, Bob.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Good morning, Maggie.
RODRIGUEZ: Let's talk about Barack Obama's infomercial, it opens with him standing in an office that some people thought looked like the Oval Office, then he goes on to feature profiles of people struggling in America. And here's what I noticed, Bob, the first profile was of a family in Missouri, then a family in New Mexico, then Kentucky, then Florida. Three battleground states and one red state. Was this his effort to go after undecideds and do you think it worked?
BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, I think there's no question he was going after undecided votes, but this was something we haven't seen the like of in American Politics. I mean, the fact that he had the money to buy a half hour on three networks and a bunch of other cable outlets last night, in itself, is simply remarkable. It was hard to miss this. It reminded me so much of the commercials that Ronald Reagan ran in 1984, the 'Morning in America.' You saw a lot of sunrises, you saw families, you saw a smooth kind of heart-chugging reassuring music in the background, and those ads were very, very successful. Ronald Reagan was telling people everything has gotten really good and, you know, 'reelect me and we'll keep it good.' What Barack Obama's message was last night, 'things are not so good, but take heart, because we can make it okay.' I thought it was very, very effective. This was for undecided voters. He's not going to convince anybody who was going to vote for John McCain to change, but I think it was very -- a very strong message for undecided voters. Did it work? We'll find out. But I thought that as these things go, it was a very effective piece of campaign advertising.
RODRIGUEZ: After such an effective piece of campaigning, what does John McCain need to do? What will his closing argument be in the last days?
SCHIEFFER: Maggie, I think the argument you're going to hear, you're hearing it now, and you're going to hear it even more, is John McCain is going to say 'I'm the guy standing on the ramparts. I'm the one thing that is standing between you and a big increase in taxes.' He's going to say over and over, 'I am not going to raise your taxes and Barack Obama wants to and he's going to have a Democratic Congress, heavily Democratic, that's going to help him do it. You've got one chance to escape a tax raise and that is to elect me.' That, of course the Obama people say, is a bogus argument, but that's the argument that John McCain is going to make.
RODRIGUEZ: Bob Schieffer, as always, thanks a lot.
SCHIEFFER: You bet.

WaPost: Infomercial 'Poetic and Practical,
Spiritual & Sensible'

Washington Post TV critic Tom Shales offered his own endorsement of Obama for President with an oozy review of Obama's half-hour infomercial, which he called "Obamavision." That certainly was supposed to carry more than one meaning, including a tribute to Obama's visionary politics. It wasn't hidden in tiny type on the home page like yesterday's sleaze-Internet-cash story. It stood out in bold lettering: "An Appeal to the Masses: Poetic and practical, Obama's paid political broadcast was a montage of montages."

Shales was more syrupy than that in the full text: "Somehow both poetic and practical, spiritual and sensible, the paid political broadcast, which aired on seven major cable and broadcast networks (on Univision, it was identified as 'Historias Americanas'), was a montage of montages, a series of seamlessly blended segments interweaving the stories of embattled Americans with visions of their deliverer, Guess Who."

[This item, by the MRC's Tim Graham, was posted Thursday morning on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

For Shales' October 30 piece in the Washington Post, "ObamaVision: An Appeal to the Masses," go to: www.washingtonpost.com

For more on the Post's shruken October 29, 2008 item about Obama's questionable online donations, see the October 30, 2008 CyberAlert item, "WaPost Puts Obama's Sleazy Online-Donor Security Avoidance on Page...2" at: www.mrc.org

While there was some rhetoric about the horrid last eight years, Shales later admitted, "Most of the talk was conversational in that laid-back, not-to-worry, calmly passionate, defiantly hopeful Obaman way."

Meanwhile, the Style-section front pager trashed the opposition. Obama was effective in being the anti-McCain, the polar opposite of Cranky Grandpa:

Although McCain was not seen during the half-hour, one could easily summon the contrasting image of the Republican while watching Obama. McCain has come across on television as relatively worried, whiny, fusty and falsely folksy. He brought bad news; he has come to epitomize and personify it. Obama brings you medication along with the list of symptoms; he has developed a great bedside, as well as fireside, manner.

It was the easiest thing in the world, watching the skillfully edited hodgepodge put together by his campaign, to picture Obama as president. That's one thing the film was designed to do, especially for the doubters and those scared, "undecided" voters out there.

SUSPEND Excerpt

Shales was so hopelessly devoted to "Obamavision" that he started comparing Obama's image-making to Reagan's "Morning in America" ads, but Obama's ad was in no way positive about America's present condition. Shales even compared the Democratic convention to a....Biblical pageant?

The tone and texture recalled the "morning in America" campaign film made on behalf of Ronald Reagan, a work designed to give the audience a sense of security and satisfaction; things are going to be all right. Obama was narrator of his film, but also its star, appearing in excerpts from speeches delivered before tremendous crowds (including the finale to the Democratic convention, a nearly biblical pageant), sitting or standing in a flag-bedecked office that looked comfortable and White Housey, and in campaign footage out amongst the folks, the people, the faithful, the huddled masses.

SUSPEND Excerpt

So the Obama film was a little bit of Cecil B. DeMille's Ten Commandments? Or maybe it's a Frank Capra movie about Washington remade by an idealist:

The half-hour was underscored with music in a kind of elegiac, Aaron Copland mode -- sorrow and stature. Obama seemed as heroic a figure as Henry Fonda's Tom Joad in "The Grapes of Wrath," but with more of a Jimmy Stewart personality. He has come, the film said, to show us all the way, and if we don't know it by now, and after all those millions spent to tell us, it's our fault.

...Now it seemed to be turning into a Frank Capra movie; after all, "Grapes of Wrath" did not have a happy ending, but, according to last night's multicast -- in spectacular ObamaRama -- this movie will.

END of Excerpt

Spectacular ObamaRama? Shales did make an error in his review, mistaking Obama's mom for Grandma in the overworked early-morning homework story: "For the umpty-umpth time, he told the story of how Granny woke his 8-year-old self up at 4:30 a.m. to go over homework and how, when he grumbled about it, she'd respond with, 'Well, this is no picnic for me, either, buster.'" Shales didn't suggest that this story is odd, considering Obama's wandering mother left him for years at a time with the grandparents, which contrasts sharply with the task-master image.

The only sour spot for Shales was "a weirdly retro reference at one point to curbing 'Russian aggression.'" Doesn't Obama know that liberals like Shales think it's not "retro" to root for some Barney the Dinosaur foreign policy? Enemies, what enemies?

Diane Sawyer Touts More Taxes for 'Disproportionately
Advantaged'

While interviewing three generations of voters in one Florida family, Good Morning America host Diane Sawyer on Thursday pushed back when the mother of the household assailed Senator Joe Biden's claim that paying higher taxes is patriotic. After Marylee Gizzi described the "great offense" she took at Biden's remarks, Sawyer parroted Obama talking points and retorted: "He argues, you know, he's just going back to the Reagan tax cuts. It's not a penalty."

Continuing to defend the Democratic ticket's economic plan, she haltingly added, "He would argue disproportionately advantaged, the wealthy in this country, who have increased their share, more than the middle class has increased its share." After Gizzi lauded the "incredible" accomplishments of Sarah Palin, Sawyer looked for some kind of negative assessment: "There were a lot of people who brought a lot to the table. You must have a sense of whether you'd like her to be president, should something happen to him [McCain]." At no point did Sawyer attempt to grill the Obama-supporting daughter into saying something negative about her choice for president.

[This item, by the MRC's Scott Whitlock, was posted Thursday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

A transcript of the segment, which aired at 8:16am on October 30:

DIANE SAWYER: There are battleground states. And there are battleground families who love each other a lot. But nonetheless divide on their voting, sometimes by generations. And I had a chance to go into a wonderful home and sit down with three women who are still talking it out. They welcomed us into the home. Three generations. Mother.
MARYLEE GIZZI (mother): Diane, I'm Mary Lee Gizzi.
SAWYER: Daughter and grandmother. So, you have 16 grand kids?
MARY LOU BURGESS (Grandmother): Yes, ma'am.
SAWYER: Two can vote.
BURGESS: Two can vote.
SAWYER: And how are they voting?
SHAINA ANDERSON (Daughter): Well, I'm a registered Democrat who is voting for Barack Obama.
SAWYER: And are you thinking, how did I go wrong?
BURGESS: No, I really don't. I believe that they can make up their own minds.
SAWYER: But you are voting-
BURGESS: I'm voting for McCain.
GIZZI: I'm voting for John McCain.
SAWYER: Now, what's the difference between the two of you and how you see the world that you're so sure you're for Obama? And you're so sure you're for McCain?
BURGESS: I think it's age, Diane.
SAWYER: But what part of age? What is-
BURGESS: I don't know. What is it, Shaina.
ANDERSON: I'm voting for Obama for my future. I think my grandmother is in a place where she's able to vote, yes, for her future. But I'm of the 18 to 24-year-old age bracket that has our entire lives ahead of us.
GIZZI: I'm a registered Democrat. I voted for Hillary Clinton in the primaries in the state of Florida. And we all know how that turned out. What I so liked about Hillary was the incredible coterie of women that she surrounded herself with.
SAWYER: Does this mean that Sarah Palin had brought you to John McCain?
GIZZI: No. No. I had definitely made up my mind about John McCain before Sarah Palin.
SAWYER: And how does she influence your decision?
GIZZI: She does not influence my decision. I am not going to ever disparage a working mother and a working woman. And a governor of such, you know- of a state of this country. I think she's incredible, what she's achieved. Was she the best choice that John McCain could have made? I don't know.
SAWYER: There were a lot of people who brought a lot to the table. You must have a sense of whether you'd like her to be president, should something happen to him.
GIZZI: I'm confident in John McCain's ability to create an environment of qualified advisers and cabinet members that will ease any transition she might experience, should anything happen to John McCain.
SAWYER: Marylee said a big factor, taxes.
GIZZI: When we hear Joe Biden make comments to the effect that he would consider it unpatriotic of Americans who made in excess of, I believe, it's $250,000, is his thing, he would consider them unpatriotic not to want to, really, pay more taxes and spread the wealth. I take great offense to that. I don't understand why one bracket of society needs to be penalized for working hard.
SAWYER: He argues, you know, he's just going back to the Reagan tax cuts. It's not a penalty. He would argue disproportionately advantaged, the wealthy in this country, who have increased their share, more than the middle class has increased its share.
GIZZI: But, Diane, I don't know anyone who is that wealthy. You know, we're not wealthy.
SAWYER: And something else. Marylee's father served in Vietnam. One of the most profound disagreements about the three women, across three generations, is the war in Iraq.
ANDERSON: I have friends who are married to military servicemen and who have served terms in Iraq. However, these women who are married to these servicemen, they support their husbands. But they do not support the war. And I can tell you that one of them I spoke to the other day, is voting Barack Obama. She wants her husband home.
GIZZI: I don't think McCain wants us to stay one day longer in Iraq than absolutely necessary.
ANDERSON: He does though.
GIZZI: I think he wants to leave with a completed job well done. And let's not just abandon the people in Iraq. And let's- let's leave with our heads held high.
ANDERSON: And that to you implies staying in until John McCain has tentatively set, 2013, when we will possibly have most of the men home.
GIZZI: Yeah, I don't think that's what he said.
ANDERSON: That's explicitly what he said.
GIZZI: No. I don't agree with that. I don't think that's his goal. We just need to find the best way- the best way to leave, where everyone- everyone has a chance at coming out with their heads held high here, Shaina.
SAWYER: Okay. [Laughs at the tension in the room.] And we're joined by their neighbor. A woman who says she's so undecided, she's kind of the swingest [sic] of the swing voters.
KIM DENBESTE: I actually went to the voting poll, to vote. Was standing in line. And could not cast my ballot.
SAWYER: She said she was going to watch Obama's paid 30-minute infomercial. We asked her if we could call. Was he speaking directly to her? Are you going to watch tonight?
DENBESTE: Yes.
SAWYER: Can we call you and see if you make up your mind tonight?
DENBESTE: All right. I'll see how I feel.
SAWYER: And we called her. We called her. Her name is Kim. She watched. She said she liked the half hour. But she needs one more day to make up her mind.

Today Show Features Cher Endorsing Obama
and Bashing Bush

NBC's Today show, on Thursday, aired an Access Hollywood clip of Cher wearing a "Barack the Vote" t-shirt as she actually bashed George W. Bush, to his first cousin's face. The President's first cousin, Access Hollywood host Billy Bush, conducted the interview in which Cher declared: "I've been alive for 11 Presidents and I feel that this is the worst time I've ever seen," and called the current President, "The Big Divider." Cher also claimed the only way she would be seen at a Sarah Palin rally would be "in my nightmares."

[This item, by the MRC's Geoffrey Dickens, was posted Thursday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]

The following exchange was aired on the October 30 Today show:

MATT LAUER: She is 62 and still going strong. Cher. But when she cancelled her Las Vegas show a little earlier this month a lot of people started speculating about her health.
MEREDITH VIEIRA: Now Cher is gonna put those rumors to rest and she also talks politics with Access Hollywood's Billy Bush.
BILLY BUSH: If you don't open that right side of the jacket it just says, "Rack The Vote."
CHER: Okay but now you can see what it says.
BUSH: Yes "Barack, Barack The Vote."
CHER: Yes.
BUSH: So not off to the Palin rally?
CHER: Oh no. No, that would, I would, that would only be in my nightmares.
BARACK OBAMA: And you and I together we are gonna change the country and change the world.
CHER: You know he's by far the best candidate. And, and the Republicans. I don't know I'm an independent but I just don't think I could ever vote for a Republican. I guess maybe it would depend on the person but I just think our views are diametrically opposed. I was telling someone, I've been alive for 11 presidents and I feel that this is the worst time I've ever seen. You know? And the, and the country is so divided. And it's still gonna be divided but I honestly think there are some people that are healing people and there are some people like this President we have right now, that are just, you know he says, he's the Big Decider, but I think he's the Big Divider.

-- Brent Baker