Political Wrap-Up: McCain, Obama and Russert Host Steve Inskeep talks to NPR's Scott Horsley about the latest controversy involving John McCain's campaign, Barack Obama's Father's Day speech, and the death of Tim Russert, host of NBC's Meet the Press.
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Political Wrap-Up: McCain, Obama and Russert

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Political Wrap-Up: McCain, Obama and Russert

Political Wrap-Up: McCain, Obama and Russert

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

This is the time we normally get analysis from NPR's Cokie Roberts. For those who've written and asked, Cokie's fine. She's back soon. And while she's off, her replacements include NPR's Scott Horsley, who has covered John McCain's campaign much of this year. Scott, good morning.

SCOTT HORSLEY: Good to be with you, Steve.

INSKEEP: I guess John McCain is making news for an event he will no longer be having this week.

HORSLEY: That's right. There was supposed to be a fundraiser in Midland, Texas, at the home of oilman Clayton Williams, but the McCain campaign cancelled that after being reminded of some very offensive, misogynistic comments that Williams had made back in 1990 when he was running for governor against Ann Richards.

For McCain, who's been trying to attract women voters and who spent the weekend reaching out to disgruntled Hillary Clinton supporters, that was not a message that they want to be associated with.

Now McCain's people said they were unaware of Williams' remarks, even though a simple Google search probably would have turned them up. It's a little like what happened with Pastor John Hagee in San Antonio, when McCain courted his endorsement, only to have to disavow some of Hagee's more firebrand statements. The McCain campaign seems to have some trouble doing its homework when it comes to people in Texas.

INSKEEP: Well, you get a reminder there of all the different demographic groups that these presidential candidates are trying to appeal to at different times, and I suppose at the same time that John McCain is doing that, Barack Obama is also speaking to different kinds of groups. Let's listen to what he had to say over the weekend in a speech.

Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois; Democratic Presidential Candidate): Too many fathers are MIA. Too many fathers are AWOL, missing from too many lives and too many homes. They've abandoned their responsibilities. They're acting like boys instead of men, and the foundations of our family have suffered because of it.

INSKEEP: Scott Horsley, why choose that subject for a Father's Day speech?

HORSLEY: Barack Obama was speaking in one of the biggest black churches in Chicago, with a congregation some 20,000 strong. But he really wasn't speaking just of that congregation or even to African-Americans only, but also to conservative white voters when he said government needs to do its part, but so do African-American fathers.

He noted that his own father was largely absent, but he said that a lot of black youngsters don't have the same opportunities he did. And in a way, this was again to Bill Clinton's Sister Souljah moment. It was a chance to play against type for Barack Obama and to say yes, it takes a village to raise a child, but it also takes two parents, and one of those parents is missing in a lot of black households.

INSKEEP: How strong was that speech?

HORSLEY: It was a fairly strongly worded speech. He didn't pull any punches. And it was well received by the people who were listening in the church. It'll be interesting to see how it's received by the wider black community and by conservative white voters.

INSKEEP: Scott Horsley, I want to ask about one other news event that will affect the campaign in some way: Tim Russert of NBC's "Meet the Press," one of the noted questioners of the presidential candidates and others, died a few days ago. How will you remember him?

HORSLEY: So many Monday morning stories were informed by the newsmakers he interviewed on Sunday, but the memory that sticks with me is being on an elevator with Tim Russert in Iowa last year, when I got to see how so many viewers viewed him.

A couple of tourists got on the elevator, and, of course, they immediately recognized Russert, but they weren't star-struck. They treated him as comfortable and familiar, which is how so many viewers saw him. And I remember they didn't ask about politics or the campaign. They asked where should they get a good meal in Des Moines that night.

(Soundbite of laughter)

INSKEEP: I hope he had an answer for them.

HORSLEY: He sure did, and it was the kind of question that I think you might ask an old friend, which I guess for so many people he was. It reminded me of the refrain in his book about his dad: You've got to eat. And I'll tell you, I hung on his restaurant recommendations just as much as I did all those Sunday morning interviews.

INSKEEP: NPR's Scott Horsley, thanks for the analysis.

HORSLEY: My pleasure, Steve.

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