McCain Gaffe Machine Running Smoothly: Obama's Is Never Switched On

Not a word in the Times about Obama's "58 states" or confusing movies with reality at Mt. Rushmore.

Apparently, only Republicans misspeak on the campaign trail, while Barack Obama is gaffe-free. That's the impression Times' readers are getting.

On Saturday the Times leaped on an apparent McCain mistake about troop levels in Iraq with the same alacrity it did with his briefSunni-Shiite confusion at a Congressional hearing. (Obama made a similar gaffe at the hearing, but the Times didn't cover it at all.)

From "2 Campaigns Flare Up Over Iraq Troop Levels," Saturday's piece by Michael Luo and Sarah Wheaton:

A fierce debate erupted on Friday between Senators John McCain and Barack Obama over whether Mr. McCain misspoke at a town-hall-style meeting the previous day when he said that American troops in Iraq had been reduced to "pre-surge levels."

Mr. McCain has been hammering Mr. Obama on his judgment on national security and his comprehension of the situation in Iraq, noting that the Democrat last visited Iraq two and a half years ago.

The Obama campaign pounced Friday on Mr. McCain's statement on troop levels, arguing that the Republican candidate was the one who was out of touch with the facts in Iraq. In a conference call, Obama aides reviewed a series of what they said were gaffes Mr. McCain had made talking about the war.

At a news conference here on Friday, however, Mr. McCain asserted that he had not misspoken on Thursday.

The Obama campaign focused on what Mr. McCain said that day in Greenville, Wis., in response to a woman in the audience who pressed him on whether the conflict in Iraq was damaging the American economy.

Mr. McCain listened patiently to the woman and then pushed back vigorously, arguing that President Bush's troop escalation was yielding results.

"I can tell you it is succeeding," he said. "I can look you in the eye and tell you it is succeeding. We have drawn down to pre-surge levels. Basra, Mosul and now Sadr City are quiet."

Mr. McCain's remarks, however, differ from the numbers available. There were 132,000 troops in Iraq before Mr. Bush dispatched an additional 21,500 combat troops early last year, including five Army brigades, making up what is commonly referred to as the surge. In addition, some 8,000 support forces were sent to Iraq as part of the buildup.

By contrast, the Times has ignored Obama's gaffes, like seeing fallen heroesin a Memorial Day audience, or counting up 58 states (the only mention being a quote from an anti-Bush joke made on the Jimmy Kimmel show), or most recently, his belief that the climactic scene in Alfred Hitchcock's "North by Northwest" (in which Cary Grant hangs off Mt. Rushmore) was actually shot on Mt. Rushmore.

Times reporter Michael Powell even trailed Obama to South Dakota and mentioned on Tuesday his recent late night visit to the national landmark without bringing up Obama's apparent confusion (noted but not played up in an Associated Press story):

[Obama] did express curiosity about the filming of a chase scene in "North by Northwest," Alfred Hitchcock's 1959 classic starring Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint that included a death-defying scramble over Rushmore's presidential faces.

"How did they get up there in the first place?" he asked ranger Wesley Jensen.

"They didn't. It was a movie set," Jensen told him.

"Pretty spiffy, isn't it," said the Illinois senator, summing up his overall impressions.

That even sounds like a natural Dan Quayle joke (confusing movies with reality), but since this is Barack Obama we're talking about, the media tosses the incident aside, like a puzzle piece that doesn't fit its narrative.