Larry Rohter Rides to Obama's Defense Once Again

This time, Rohter defends Obama against a McCain ad that blames him for rising gas prices: "'Pump' is misleading on nearly every substantive point."

Reporter Larry Rohter again rides to Barack Obama's defense in Tuesday's "Ad Campaign" watch, a review of John McCain's latest TV ad accusing Obama of letting gas prices rise. In "McCain Links Obama and High Gas Prices," Rohter eviscerated McCain's ad for daring to blame Obama for rising gas prices. From the script of the ad, quoted by Rohter:

Gas prices. $4, $5, no end in sight. Because some in Washington are still saying no to drilling in America. No to independence from foreign oil. Who can you thank for rising prices at the pump? (chant) Obama, Obama.

A clearly displeased Rohter rushed to Obama's aid:

ACCURACY Mr. Obama is not against all drilling for oil and gas, only drilling offshore, a crucial word in the debate on energy policy but one never mentioned here. Increasing domestic oil production is also by no means the only or even main road to long-term energy independence, as both candidates have emphasized on the campaign trail by endorsing alternatives like solar and wind power and corn-based ethanol (in Mr. Obama's case) and nuclear energy (Mr. McCain). Mr. Obama, who has proposed a $150 billion decade-long government-backed effort to help develop clean-energy sources, does oppose the temporary gasoline tax rebate that Mr. McCain favors, calling it an election-year gimmick that does not bring meaningful relief to ordinary Americans. But that is a position many economists and energy experts share. Finally, even before the recent spike, oil prices had been rising for a decade, the result of a variety of political and economic factors in places as far afield as China, India, Venezuela and Nigeria. So it is difficult to understand how Mr. Obama, a first-term senator, can be held responsible for that phenomenon.

Since offshore drilling is the kind that's been in the news lately (Bush recently lifted the ban), it's pretty clear that's what the ad is talking about. You can only squeeze so much into 30 seconds, after all. Rohter also pushes the usual "many economists and energy experts" to the front to provide cover for Obama's position against a gas tax rebate. Then Rohter made the true but unhelpful point that gas prices have been rising for a decade. If that's the case, then why has the media only making a big deal of it in the past year or so?

Rohter concluded that the totally "misleading" ad just might work, if only because most people are ignorant about the real reason gas prices are rising:

SCORECARD Aside from correctly stating current gasoline prices, "Pump" is misleading on nearly every substantive point. But it is shrewdly conceived and may prove to be effective with undecided voters upset about having to pay as much as $100 to fill their gas tanks, yet uncertain as to the causes of the squeeze on their budgets.

Rohter has experience passionately defending Obama against what he considers unfair conservative attacks, as he did in a July 11 Times feature "Check Point," after Obama had come under attackfor promoting bilingualism for U.S. citizens:

"Instead of worrying about whether immigrants can learn English - they'll learn English - you need to make sure your child can speak Spanish," [Obama]said. "You should be thinking about how can your child become bilingual. We should have every child speaking more than one language."

Conservative and "official English" groups immediately interpreted Mr. Obama's statement as an endorsement of the idea that "Americans should be forced to learn to speak Spanish," in the words of the Americans for Legal Immigration PAC. But that not only misrepresents what Mr. Obama said, it also ignores the views he has expressed in the past on the proper role of English and foreign languages in American life.