From NBC/NJ's Adam Aigner-Treworgy
CINCINATTI, Ohio -- Before McCain took the stage this morning at the Hamilton County Memorial Hall, conservative radio host Bill Cunningham had already created the news of the day. In his efforts to rally the crowd before McCain's arrival, Cunningham went after the mainstream media and their treatment of Obama, who he called a "hack, Chicago-style, Daley politician."
"At some point in the near future the media -- the stooges from the New York Times, CBS the Clinton Broadcasting System, NBC the Nobody But Clinton network, the All Bill Clinton channel ABC, and the Clinton News Network -- at some point is going to peel the bark off Barack Hussein Obama," Cunningham said. "That day will come, then you'll know the truth about his business dealings with Rezko, when he got sweetheart deals in Chicago and the illegal loans that he received."
Using Obama's middle name is a tactic employed by many conservative pundits to connect the Democrat with Sadam Hussein and Islamic terrorism and to paint him as a Muslim. Speaking to reporters after the rally, McCain repudiated the tactic and distanced himself from both Cunningham and his comments.
"I have repeatedly stated my respect for Sen. Obama and Sen. Clinton, that I will treat them with respect," McCain said before any questions were asked. "I will call them senator, that we will have a respectful debate, as I have said on hundreds of occasions. I regret any comments that may be made, about these two individuals who are honorable Americans.
"We just have strong philosophical differences, so I want to disassociate myself with any disparaging remarks that may have been said about them…I did not set up the program but I take full responsibility."
Of the apology, the Obama campaign said, "We appreciate Senator McCain's remarks. It is a sign that if there is a McCain-Obama general election, it can be intensely competitive but the candidates will attempt to keep it respectful and focused on issues."
McCain also seemed to distance himself slightly from his comments yesterday that the Iraq war would "over soon," by refusing to specify how soon he was talking about.
"[The comment] means soon. It means the word soon, S-O-O-N," McCain joked. "It's an important question, and I don't mean to make light of it. I think in the coming months that we will continue to reduce our casualties and gain more and more control of the country."
Several videos released by the Democratic Nation Committee outline the Democrats' likely line of attack against McCain during this election by showing the Republican underestimating the projected length of the Iraq war over the years since the war began. He might have given them some more video fodder yesterday.