CNN, Obama camp misled on Palin robocall statement

I received a press release last night from Barack Obama’s Colorado Press Secretary Matt Chandler at 10:08 p.m. The timing didn’t surprise me because working late on a Sunday is standard operating procedure as Election Day nears — but the headline caught my eye: “CNN: Sarah Palin speaks out against John McCain’s robo calls.” Whoa! Heavy stuff, and it certainly got me to read the rest of the release. Unfortunately, the quote from Palin doesn’t at all fit the headline, and the Obama campaign should know better.

In the heat of a campaign, staffers can start seeing shadows everywhere. I remember a particular press release I sent out a few years ago on the eve of Election Day that quoted some of our opponent’s sign-stealing loyalists using language that should never appear in a public release. Thankfully the story went unreported.

Yesterday, the Obama campaign sent out an inaccurate interpretation of a quote from Palin that supposedly repudiates a series of incredibly nasty robocalls by the McCain campaign. Here’s the quote, from Obama’s release citing a CNN Politics story:

KEY POINT: “If I called all the shots, and if I could wave a magic wand,” Palin said, “I would be sitting at a kitchen table with more and more Americans, talking to them about our plan to get the economy back on track and winning the war and not having to rely on the old conventional ways of campaigning that includes those robocalls and includes spending so much money on the television ads that, I think, is kind of draining out there in terms of Americans’ attention span.

“They get a bit irritated with just being inundated,” she continued, “and you’re seeing a lot of that of course with the huge amounts of money that Barack Obama is able to spend on his ads and his robocalls also.”

To me this quote looks like inept sidestepping from a politician not so good at answering questions without a script. However, this quote certainly doesn’t disparage the McCain campaign’s nasty robocalls, which take listeners from Obama to William Ayers to terrorism in 30 seconds or less, any more than it does Obama’s TV ads. Palin merely said that if she had her way she’d sit down with every American family and explain to them face-to-face why they should vote for her. Despite my strong belief that this strategy would backfire for Palin, it’s a sentiment commonly expressed by candidates at all levels.

To the Obama’s campaign’s credit, CNN’s Political Ticker originally misinterpreted the quote, and because I didn’t attend the press conference in question I can only assume that Palin did not say anything more about the wildly misleading robocalls.

Palin certainly didn’t defend the calls the way Senate candidate Bob Schaffer did, but it would seem in this case that CNN’s reporter grossly misinterpreted Palin’s remarks — and the Obama campaign took it and ran with it.

It’s important to note, however, that the decision to seize on an error made by CNN pales in comparison to the McCain campaign’s desperate attempts to blow up this passing connection between Obama and Ayers. As the same CNN post notes, “Several top Republicans, including Senators Susan Collins and Norm Coleman, have condemned the [robocalls].” Comparing the two, Obama’s folks seem like a bunch of nuns looking to negotiate a fair deal at a used car lot. But seizing on a clear misrepresentation of Palin’s quote by CNN just makes them look silly, and unnecessarily so.

Colorado Independent’s blogumnist (blogger-columnist) Jeff Bridges has worked in Democratic politics for the last 10 years, serving as communications director for two congressional races in Colorado and two governors races in the Deep South. Bridges also worked as a legislative assistant in Washington, D.C., with a focus on military and small-business issues.

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