Times Loses Its Mind Over McCain Ad, Parts One & Two

Plus Ruth Bader Ginsburg's not liberal, Swift Boat Vets an "ugly chapter" in history
Times Loses Its Mind Over McCain Ad,Part 1

"The ad gave us an uneasy feeling that the McCain campaign was starting up the same sort of racially tinged attack on Mr. Obama that Republican operatives ran against Harold Ford, a black candidate for Senate in Tennessee in 2006. That assault, too, began with videos juxtaposing Mr. Ford with young, white women." - From a July 31 post on the paper's editorial board blog criticizing John McCain's ad comparing Barack Obama to Paris Hilton and Britney Spears.

Times Loses Its Mind Over McCain Ad,Part 2
NYT columnist Bob Herbert: "You guys have seen the ad a number of times, I am sure, and you have it here in-house.First thing you see are a couple of images of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, right?And we see an image of Barack Obama right after that, comes quickly right at the beginning of the ad, you remember that, right?Do you remember any other startling images right there at the beginning? [Two-second pause] Alright. There is an image right there in that very beginning of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and there is an image of the Washington Monument. Look at the beginning of that ad again. And you tell me why those two phallic symbols are placed there [snaps fingers] - pow! - right at the very beginning of that ad." - Bob Herbert discussing the Obama-Britney-Paris ad on the August 4 edition of MSNBC's talk show "Morning Joe." The images in the ad were not of the Leaning Tower or Washington Monument but the Victory Column in Tiergarten Park in Berlin, where Obamagave his speech.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg Not Liberal?

"Nominations get in trouble when the President tries to use them to push beyond the boundaries of the existing political consensus. That was the Bork nomination problem. It was also the first Bush administration's problem with the Clarence Thomas nomination - which of course succeeded, unlike the Bork nomination, but succeeded only barely and after a rough fight. By contrast, President Clinton played to the center, not the left, in selecting Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer, nominations that were well received in the country and that were confirmed unanimously or nearly so." - Retiring Supreme Court reporter Linda Greenhouse in an online Q&A, posted July 14.

Ruling on "So-Called" Partial-Birth Abortion "Patronizing" to Women

"I'm considerably less confident that I have a handle on Justice Kennedy's jurisprudence. Speaking personally, it's hard to reconcile his capacious understanding of the human condition in his majority opinion in Lawrence v. Texas, the 2003 gay rights case, with the patronizing and counter-factual attitude toward women that suffuses his majority opinion in Gonzales v. Carhart, last year's so-called partial-birth abortion case." - Retiring Supreme Court reporter Linda Greenhouse in an online Q&A posted July 14.

Schmoozing with the Speaker on Feminism and Bush Impeachment

Elisabeth Bumiller interviewing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: "I should say, you say in your book, that 22% of elected officials in the world are women, while in the United States it's only 17%. So what's been holding us back in this, this most advanced country in the world?...I'm going to ask you a question that you get asked all the time, I'll get it out of the way. Actually, I'm going to ask it in a different way. Do you think that the way that President Bush took the nation to war was an impeachable offense?" - Two of Elisabeth Bumiller's questions to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, in a July 28 event at the TheTimesCenter at Times headquarters in Midtown Manhattan.

More Opinion on the News Pages: "Rampant Development"
"But in the contest between trees and the area's rampant development, the bulldozers have often won. That may explain why many tree lovers were upset last week when Tom Coffin, 64, the city's senior arborist, was fired without explanation." - Robbie Brown in an August 6 "news" story about the firing of Atlanta's "senior arborist."

"Dr. No" Insults: OK for Me, But Not for You

"In recent days Senator John McCain has charged that Senator Barack Obama 'would rather lose a war in order to win a political campaign,' tarred him as 'Dr. No' on energy policy and run advertisements calling him responsible for high gas prices." - Opening to Matthew Cooper's July 30 story, headlined "McCain Goes Negative, Worrying Some in G.O.P."


"Democrats Try to Break Grip Of the Senate's Flinty Dr. No." - Headline to a July 29 front-page story about Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.

There They Go Again: Bush Sr. "Overly Impressed" at Grocery Scanner

"Mr. McCain's sense of wonder evoked the episode in the early 1990s when George H.W. Bush became overly impressed upon seeing a price scanner at a supermarket check-out counter. It suggested to some people that the president, who had spent four years in the White House after spending eight years as vice president, was out of touch with the lives of average Americans." - From Mark Leibovich's August 3 Week in Review story. The story is an urban legend that is debunked at snopes.com.

Swift Boat Vets "Ugly Chapter" in U.S. History
Times reporter Deborah Solomon: "You helped re-elect Bush in '04 when you gave $3 million to the Swift Boat campaign to discredit John Kerry's Vietnam service. Do you regret your involvement?"
Texas oil man T. Boone Pickens: "Why would I?"
Solomon: "Because it's such an ugly chapter in American political history."
Pickens: "Oh, I see. Well, it was true. Everything that went into those ads was the truth."
Solomon: "Really? I thought it was all invented."
Pickens: "I never did anything dishonest." - Exchange from the August 3 Q&A page of the New York Times Magazine.

How Convenient: McCain Vindicated by Surge, Voters No Longer Care About War

Reporter Adam Nagourney: "Don't you think that people are thinking about different things right now?"
Reporter Larry Rohter: "When the value of your house is going down and you can't afford to drive to the mall."
Nagourney: "Absolutely." - Exchange from the New York Times July 31 "Political Points" podcast, hosted by Sam Roberts.

Sen. Coburn Is an "Archconservative," but Sen. Ted Kennedy Just a Dem

"Even some Democrats have a grudging admiration for [Sen. Tom] Coburn's determination, and they distinguish him from other Senate archconservatives whom they see as more interested in gumming up the works. They point out that he has shown an occasional willingness to make concessions, as he did after months of effort with Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., on a genetic nondiscrimination law." - From the initial Times filing by Carl Hulse, July 28. The description of Sen. Coburn as an "archconservative" was deleted from later versions.

The Myth of Sen. Max Cleland Continues

"As a surrogate for Senator John Kerry during the 2004 presidential campaign, [former Democratic Sen. Max] Cleland often got marquee billing at campaign events, even landing a coveted speaking role at the Democratic National Convention. He lost his bid for a second term in 2002 after a Republican television advertisement depicted him as unpatriotic." - Reporter Michael Falcone, from a July 18 post on the Times "Caucus" blog. The ad said nothing challenging Cleland's patriotism.

McCain Drops Civility, Spreading "Misleading" Attacks on Obama
"Mr. McCain's more focused assault comes after one of his worst weeks of the general election campaign, when he seemed to fumble for a consistent, overarching critique of Mr. Obama, who winged around the Middle East and Europe. Mr. McCain's advisers continue to look for ways to bring more discipline to his message, and are being urged by some supporters to cut back the frequency of his question-and-answer sessions with reporters, a staple of his campaign but one that occasionally yields unscripted moments, misstatements and off-the-cuff pronouncements that divert attention from the themes he is trying to promote....The intensity of the recent drive - which has included some assertions from the McCain campaign that have been widely dismissed as misleading - has surprised even some allies of Mr. McCain, who has frequently spoken about the need for civility in politics." - Reporter Jim Rutenberg, July 31.

Gloating Over the Demise of "Cutthroat" Capitalism

"In the narrative that has governed American commercial life for the last quarter-century, saving companies from their own mistakes was not supposed to be part of the government's job description. Economic policy makers in the United States took swaggering pride in the cutthroat but lucrative form of capitalism that was supposedly indigenous to their frontier nation....Whatever the dent to national bravado, or to the free-enterprise ideology, the phrase "too big to fail" suddenly carried an American accent." - Economics reporter Peter Goodman, July 20.

Pro-Obama Bias? What Pro-Obama Bias?
"But it's not pro-Obama bias in the news media that's driving the effusion of coverage, it's the news: Mr. Obama's weeklong tour of war zones and foreign capitals is noteworthy because it is so unusual to see a presidential candidate act so presidential overseas. Mr. Obama looks supremely confident and at home talking to generals and heads of state, so much so that some viewers may find the pose presumptuous - as if Mr. Obama believes that not only is his official nomination at the Democratic convention in August a mere formality, so is the November election....Touring ruins of the Citadel in Amman, Mr. Obama strode confidently with his jacket crooked over his shoulder in classic Kennedy style. He also practiced statesmanly restraint, telling reporters in Amman that he wouldn't criticize his opponent while abroad." - TV beat reporter Alessandra Stanley, July 23.

"Hapless" McCain Can't Do Anything Right
"But at the public forum at the Opera House here [in Maine], Mr. McCain also displayed the bumpy and sometimes hapless nature of his own effort to prove that he is the candidate with the sterling foreign policy credentials. While he calmly fielded angry questions about his Iraq policy from a member of the audience - and invited her twice to follow up as the audience booed her - he also referred, for the third time this month, to Czechoslovakia, a country that has not existed since 1993 when it was split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia." - Reporter Elisabeth Bumiller, July 22.

"Grumpy" Old McCain vs. Obama's Berlin "Tone Poem"

"On Thursday evening in a glittering Berlin, cheered by as many as 200,000 people, Mr. Obama delivered a tone poem to American and European ideals and shared history. In contrast, just before he spoke, Mr. McCain, was sitting in Schmidt's Sausage Haus und Restaurant in Columbus, Ohio, having a bratwurst, and saying grumpily that he would prefer to speak to Germans when he is president, not before." - Stephen Erlanger in a July 26 filing from Paris while covering Barack Obama's world tour.

Words from the Wise on President Bush

"Maybe what John Kerry...called the 'stubbornness' and 'rigidity' of the Bush administration has changed all that. The alienation of allies; the go-it-alone strategy in Iraq; and the lack of immigration reform and a new energy policy; the rise in gas prices and health care costs have left many Americans in a dyspeptic mood." - Reporter Patrick Healy from his July 27 story in the Times Week in Review.