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Defending The Liberal Media!

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Jamie, below, derides my citation of a New York Times story about spats between John McCain's foreign policy advisors. His objection seems to be that the story lacks on-the-record quotes. Well, sure. The story would be better with quotes like that, but quotes like that are near-impossible to get. Campaign advisors are the most skittish people in the world about saying anything. As a general rule they're reluctant to be quoted describing what the candidate ate for lunch, let alone describing his intellectual limits. So, you simply need to rely on the reporter and her editors making a fair characterization of the off-the-record discussions the sources had with her. And it's possible Elizabeth Bumiller is just making it up when she writes:

One of the chief concerns of the pragmatists is that Mr. McCain is susceptible to influence from the neoconservatives because he is not as fully formed on foreign policy as his campaign advisers say he is, and that while he speaks authoritatively, he operates too much off the cuff and has not done the deeper homework required of a presidential candidate.

But being the liberal media dupe I am, I tend to assume fabulism by New York Times to be the exception rather than the rule.

Jamie thinks the real blockbuster quote was Barack Obama's advisor Susan Rice saying that Obama "is not ready to have that 3:00 AM phone call." Jamie kindly linked to a news account that had the full context of the quote, and if you didn't click through, here it is:

Q: I’m going to ask the same question to you. Where has Barack Obama been in a position where he has to make those kinds of decisions?

Ms. Rice: He hasn’t and he hasn’t claimed that he’s been in a position to have to answer the phone at 3 o’clock in the morning in a crisis situation. That’s the difference between the two of them. Hillary Clinton hasn’t had to answer the phone at 3 o’clock in the morning. And yet she attacked Barack Obama for not being ready. They’re both not ready to have that 3:00 a.m. phone call.

It seems pretty clear to me that Rice was not saying Obama is a lightweight. She was not even saying that both Obama and Clinton are lightweights. She was saying that neither of them have the experience of being president and responding to a 3:00 AM emergency. This is not the same thing as one's own advisors thinking you speak off the cuff and don't do your homework -- assuming, again, that Times didn't make that up.

--Jonathan Chait

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