William Katz:  Urgent Agenda




Posted at 7:35 p.m. ET

Rich Lowry has a perceptive piece on the press and John McCain, and the divorce between them.  I think Lowry has a point - the press loved the conservative McCain when they thought he was going to lose.  Now that he's got a solid shot, other factors intervene:

A crucial turning point in the presidential race came when the McCain campaign ended its candidate's habitual informal interactions with the press. The area of the McCain campaign plane where a couch had been installed so the Arizonian could hold court with journalists was cut off with a dark curtain, marking the end of an era.

Since 2000, John McCain had thrived on his irrepressible chattiness with the press, talking about anything reporters wanted for as long as they would listen. The press loved the access and avoided "gotcha" coverage, letting McCain explain any seeming gaffes. The arrangement worked beautifully for both sides -- until McCain became the Republican presidential nominee.

Yeah.  I think a lot of people figured out what was happening.

The enduring scandal of the McCain campaign is that it wants to win. The press had hoped for a harmless, nostalgic loser like Bob Dole in 1996.

This man McCain - he didn't know his place.  Just an old Navy guy; never went to Harvard.

The press turned on McCain with a vengeance as soon as he mocked Barack Obama as a celebrity. Its mood grew still more foul when the McCain campaign took offense at Obama's "lipstick on a pig" jab...

...The lipstick controversy indeed represented a silly bit of grievance-mongering. But had the Obama camp's tendentious interpretation of Bill Clinton's "fairy tale" put-down as a racial slight generated similar push-back from the media? Had Obama's ridiculous depiction of Geraldine Ferraro as a quasi-racist? Had Obama's repeated contention -- with no evidence -- that Republicans were attacking him for looking different?

Go at it, Rich.  You're onto something here.

When Obama distorted a McCain remark about staying in Iraq for 100 years -- if we were taking no casualties -- into an endorsement of endless war, the media generally tsk-tsked that McCain should be more careful about what he says. Obama just ran an ad saying McCain would cut education funding -- with no evidence.

But how can the media question the campaign of a saint?

What has truly driven the media batty is McCain's selection of Sarah Palin. The first days after her announcement brought gross misreporting and personal smears; followed by a Charlie Gibson interview during which the newscaster appeared disgusted that he even had to talk to such a lowly and unworthy personage; followed by front-page Washington Post and New York Times reports on her tenure in Alaska that were so hostile they left it a mystery why she has an 86 percent approval rating as governor.

But that would mean respecting the views of the common folk.  And, after all, what kind of civilized wine drinker and tofu eater would live in Alaska?  Really.

Palin will forever be a target. A pro-life, pro-gun evangelical with five kids, Palin has made the election even more into a culture war than it was before...

...Whatever affection they still have for McCain is now expressed in self-interested yearning: Where is the McCain of old, the one who could be reliably counted on to lose?

Ouch.  Very good.  And very true.  And don't forget the careerism that goes with this.  You're not going to get very far in the MSM, which is run by the sixties crowd, by being pro-McCain.  For too many in the media, an election campaign is about them, not about the presidency.  It's a far fall from the time, decades ago, when the press refused to photograph FDR in a wheelchair because it was disrespectful to his office.  At least then the media knew who the people had elected.

September 16, 2008.