Howard Kurtz issues a rather amazing analysis of John McCain’s ad connecting Franklin Raines to Barack Obama. The Washington Post media analyst calls the basis of the McCain ad a “disputed premise” — despite his own newspaper’s reporting on the Raines-Obama relationship:
Analysis: This John McCain ad is based on a disputed premise.
There’s no dispute that Obama has no background in economics — but then, neither does McCain, which makes this an odd charge for the Arizona senator to hurl.
Fannie Mae did collapse, requiring a government takeover, and Raines, its former chairman, paid $25 million in April to settle a case brought by federal authorities investigating his role in the agency’s accounting problems. But he has never been a close adviser to Obama.
I’m going to start this post by noting that I avidly read Kurtz’ media blog, and consider it one of the best continuing analyses of both traditional and new media. I believe that Howard usually tries to approach this task without bias, and mostly succeeds, although he has certainly laid more that a few eggs (and who among us has not?). So when I tell you that Howard is talking out of his hat, I say it with respect and affection.
Why do I say that? His own newspaper has twice reported the relationship between Raines and Obama, and on one of those occasions, Raines was their source:
- 7/16/08: “In the four years since he stepped down as Fannie Mae’s chief executive under the shadow of a $6.3 billion accounting scandal, Franklin D. Raines has been quietly constructing a new life for himself. He has shaved eight points off his golf handicap, taken a corner office in Steve Case’s D.C. conglomeration of finance, entertainment and health-care companies and more recently, taken calls from Barack Obama’s presidential campaign seeking his advice on mortgage and housing policy matters.”
- 8/28/08: “In the current crisis, their biggest backers have been Democrats such as Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher J. Dodd (Conn.) and House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (Mass.). Two members of Mr. Obama’s political circle, James A. Johnson and Franklin D. Raines, are former chief executives of Fannie Mae.“
Howard never mentions these articles. What are we to make of this omission, and of Howard’s declaration of the relationship as a “disputed premise”? It seems that the lesson is that readers shouldn’t trust the reporting at the Washington Post. After all, these articles contain no corrections and have not been retracted, and more to the point, never raised an objection from Barack Obama until now.
Howard needs to rethink his analysis, or the Post needs to start issuing retractions.
Addendum: Even TNR scoffs at the “dishonorable lie” response from Obama. At worst, McCain relied on undisputed reporting in the Post. I guess Obama is also saying that the Post can’t be trusted.