By: Greg Mitchell
Apart from Sen. Barack Obama’s trip abroad, the top political campaign story of the past two days has been the accuracy of a claim by Sen. John McCain concerning the “surge” in Iraq, which he supported from the start and Obama did not. McCain accused Obama of not knowing his history on this subject — but Obama forces and some media outlets quickly charged that it was McCain whose account of the timing of the “Anbar awakening” was false.
It then became a TV story when it was revealed that CBS had edited an interview with McCain on this subject, substituting his answer to the key question (where he allegedly got his facts wrong) with his reply to another one (an attack on Obama). It’s all out there online to find, if you wish.
But The New York Times’ summary today, in seeking balancing quotes, did not reveal the background of its key pro-McCain source.
Reporter Michael Cooper, halfway through the recounting, wrote, “The National Security Network, a liberal foreign policy group, called Mr. McCain?s explanation of the surge?s history ‘completely wrong.’?
Cooper then added: “But several foreign policy analysts said that if Mr. McCain got the chronology wrong, his broader point ? that the troop escalation was crucial for the Awakening movement to succeed and spread ? was right.” He then quoted Michael O’Hanlon: ?I would say McCain is three-quarters right in this debate,? identifying him only as a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
This seemed odd, in that Cooper had clearly identified the background of the National Security Network as “liberal” without acknowledging that O’Hanlon was, and remains, one of the key proponents and defenders of the surge from the beginning — even before the beginning, in op-eds in The New York Times and elsewhere.
Cooper even returned to O’Hanlon for a second visit: “Mr. O?Hanlon, of the Brookings Institution, said he did not understand why Mr. Obama seemed to want to debate the success of the surge. ‘Any human being is reluctant to admit a mistake,? he said, noting that it takes on added risk in a political campaign.”