"Then there are the absurd lengths to which some reporters are willing to go to protect Obama and attack McCain. Last week, the McCain campaign released an ad accusing Obama of being too close to Fannie Mae executives. In particular, it claims Obama took advice on housing and finance issues from former Fannie Mae chairman Franklin Raines. The Obama campaign protested, saying that Raines was not an adviser and had not given Obama counsel in any capacity. The McCain campaign defended the claim by citing an article that ran in the Washington Post on July 16, 2008. That article noted that Raines had "taken calls from Barack Obama's presidential campaign seeking his advice on mortgage and housing policy matters."
Last Friday, the Washington Post 'factchecked' the McCain ad and concluded that the campaign had been "clearly exaggerating wildly" in order to link Obama to Raines and that the "latest McCain attack is particularly dubious."
Factchecker Michael Dobbs wrote that McCain's evidence that Raines had advised Obama was "pretty flimsy"--not a description that probably endeared him to Anita Huslin, the reporter who wrote the story this summer. But Dobbs did talk to Huslin. Here is his account of their conversation:
'Since this has now become a campaign issue, I asked Huslin to provide the exact circumstances of the quote. She explained that she was chatting with Raines during the photo shoot, and asked if he was engaged at all with the Democrats' quest for the White House. He said that he had gotten a couple of calls from the Obama campaign. I asked him about what, and he said "oh, general housing, economy issues." ("Not mortgage/foreclosure meltdown or Fannie-specific," I asked, and he said "no.")'
By Raines's own account, he took a couple of calls from someone on the Obama campaign, and they had some general discussions about economic issues.
Got that? Huslin stands by her reporting--that Raines had given advice to the Obama campaign about mortgage and housing policy matters--and yet the McCain campaign is faulted by the Washington Post for relying on information that comes from the Washington Post.
More amusing, though, is that in the rush to accuse the McCain campaign of lying, Dobbs glosses over a major discrepancy between the story that appeared in his paper and that of the Obama campaign. Obama spokesman Bill Burton claims that the campaign 'neither sought nor received' advice from Raines 'on any matter.' It is possible, of course, that Raines simply made up the conversations he described to the Post reporter. But it seems more likely, given the toxicity of Raines, that the Obama campaign would simply prefer that those conversations had never taken place.
Dobbs concludes: 'I have asked both Raines and the Obama people for more details on these calls and will let you know if I receive a reply.'
That's reassuring, since Dobbs has already decided that the McCain campaign has been dishonest. Two things are clear with six weeks left in the presidential race. Barack Obama will practice the old-style politics that he lamented throughout the Democratic primary. And the media will give him a pass."