While Covering Lies by Hillary and Obama, Couric Smears McCain

Congratulations to CBS Evening News for running a story Wednesday night about the character of the presidential candidates, in this case trustworthiness and lying.  Too bad CBS tainted the story by telling a bias-inspired lie of its own.

Couric cited or played clips of a number of famous lies by candidates:

    Democrat Hillary Clinton on Bosnia, “I remember landing under sniper fire.” Democrat Barack Obama claiming the 1965 civil rights march on Selma inspired his parents to fall in love, even though Obama was born in 1961. Democrat Al Gore claiming, “I took the initiative in creating the Internet.” Democrat Bill Clinton telling 60 Minutes his relationship with Gennifer Flowers, with whom he had a lengthy affair, was “very limited.”

The only clear examples of outright lies CBS could find during the current campaign were served up by Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.  Rather than leave the impression that the Democrats have a corner on lying, Couric bent over backwards to depict current GOP presidential candidate John McCain as a liar as well. 

Couric said, “John McCain's rhetoric doesn't always pass the smell test, either,” and played a clip of McCain assessing the possible outcome of a premature U.S. withdrawal from Iraq:

McCain: It's called al Qaeda in Iraq. And, my friends, they wouldn't... if we left, they wouldn't be establishing a base, they wouldn't be establishing a base, they'd be taking a country.

No obvious lie here, so Couric brought in an “expert” to explain why McCain was “exaggerating.”  The expert?  TIME Magazine political columnist Joe Klein!

Klein: John McCain doesn't need to exaggerate his biography. It's a spectacular biography. But he does exaggerate the threat of al Qaeda in Iraq, which is a small Sunni group in a majority Shiite country. He says they could take over if we leave. That's an exaggeration.

Can't Katie Couric distinguish between a prediction and a deliberate whopper told to make oneself more appealing to voters?

Couric's choice of Klein to establish McCain as a liar is exceptionally ironic.  Klein, one of the most partisan liberals in the press corps, has no military or foreign policy expertise, but he does have extensive experience in covering up lies by Democratic presidential candidates.

As a campaign reporter for Newsweek in 1992, Klein rode with Bill Clinton's campaign, and neglected to report on Clinton's lies and scandals throughout the election.  Once Clinton was safely in office, Klein cashed in with Primary Colors, a book all about those very Clinton lies. Had the public known the truth, Clinton probably never would have made it to the White House.

Klein also appeared in the movie Going Upriver: The Long War of John Kerry, a desperate attempt to defend the 2004 Democratic presidential candidate's highly imaginative rendition of his Vietnam War exploits that were exposed by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth.

Even Klein's assessment of Iraq betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of the country.  For one thing, the people who run Iraq will be those who control the turf militarily.  If al Qaeda is the strongest military force, they'll take the country whether they are Shiite or Sunni.  Case in point: Saddam Hussein was not a Shiite, and probably not even a Muslim.  He was a secular socialist from a Sunni tribe.   The Sunnis have dominated Iraq for centuries even though they're a minority.

For CBS to use Klein as an expert character witness shows a lack of … judgment. 

Brian Fitzpatrick is senior editor at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.