Today, outside a Starbucks in Arlington, Virginia, I found the first draft of Ben Smith’s piece about today’s conference call with Steve Schmidt and other McCain aides:
McCain camp criticism rife with errors
Sen. John McCain’s top campaign aides convened a conference call today to complain of being called “liars.” They pressed the media to scrutinize specific elements of Sen. Barack Obama’s record.
But the call was so rife with simple, often inexplicable misstatements of fact that it may have had the opposite effect: to deepen the perception, dangerous to McCain, that he and his aides have little regard for factual accuracy.
The errors in McCain strategist Steve Schmidt’s charges against Obama and Sen. Joe Biden were particularly notable because they were trivial compared to the charges leveled at Obama. Neverthless, this post will concentrate on the trivial errors made by McCain’s staff, and gloss over the truth of the charges against Obama.
“Any time the Obama campaign is criticized at any level, the critics are immediately derided as liars,” Schmidt told reporters. Indeed: because they are.
Proving my point, Schmidt went on to list a series of stories he thought reporters should be writing about Obama and Biden. In almost every instance, he got the details wrong.
Schmidt criticized the press for the relatively sparse coverage of the fact that the Obama campaign accused John McCain of personally planning the September 11, 2001 attacks on America.
“He actually told a group of people at a fundraiser in San Francisco that McCain planned, not only the initial attack on the South Tower, but also the second attack on the North Tower,” Schmidt said.
But Schmidt reversed the order of the attacks. In fact, the attack on the North Tower took place first, and Obama’s accusation accurately stated the order of the attacks, unlike Schmidt’s misstatement today.
“Steve Schmidt lied — or just got it flat wrong,” said Obama spokesman David Wade. “Apparently he has no idea which tower his boss ordered destroyed first.”
Schmidt attacked Obama for his ties to Unabomber Ted Kaczynski, who killed three people and injured almost two dozen others in numerous bombings carried out between 1978 and 1995.
“What we know for sure, and is beyond debate and argumentation is this: Senator Obama said that he admired Kaczynski, and wished he’d killed more than just three people. There is a videotape showing him smoking crack cocaine and saying this to numerous friends, and the media won’t report it. It’s the biggest political story of the past 100 years, and you guys treat it like it never happened,” Schmidt said.
Obama did express agreement with Kaczynski’s methods and goals, but on that videotape he is clearly seen injecting himself with a mixture of heroin and cocaine, not smoking crack as claimed by Schmidt.
Schmidt also complained of Obama backers’ attacks on McCain’s running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.
“As soon as Gov. Palin was nominated, one of … Obama’s chief campaign surrogates, David Axelrod, went out and accused her of being a ‘hick prostitute who has no business outside the kitchen,’” Schmidt said. “Where is the outrage to that aspersion on the part of some of the biggest newspapers in the country?”
But Axelrod didn’t call Palin a “prostitute.” He called her a “whore,” and called Cindy McCain a “prostitute.”
“John McCain’s decision to select a vice presidential running mate who is a hick whore who has no business outside the kitchen is a direct affront to all women, especially prostitutes, like McCain’s own wife Cindy,” Axelrod said.
(Axelrod was apparently wrong: Though numerous pundits from online magazines like the Atlantic have claimed that Palin and McCain are prostitutes, supporters say their promiscuous sexual habits do not have a financial component, and no evidence has emerged to the contrary.)
Asked about the series of errors, McCain aides could not provide evidence to back up Schmidt’s assertions.
One McCain aide, Michael Goldfarb, said Politico was “quibbling with ridiculously small details when the basic things are completely right.”
Another, Brian Rogers, responded more directly:
“You are in the tank,” he e-mailed.
What a tool.
As you can see, it wasn’t edited much before publication.