By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Not a great night for McCain

I wasn’t going to post during the debate. But I dozed off, and woke up to watch McCain and Romney going at it on the timetables McCain says Romney advocated to withdraw from the war in Iraq. McCain seems petulant and petty tonight, his contempt for Romney barely disguised. McCain’s not telling the truth about Romney, and he all but admitted it, justifying it by pointing to the millions of dollars Romney spent on negative ads aimed at McCain and Huckabee.

Responding to a question about whether Romney was qualified to be commander-in-chief, McCain made a crack about Romney’s experience selling and buying companies and eliminating people’s jobs.

Huckabee’s whining incessantly about not getting equal time. He’s lucky he’s up there. It’s not as if anyone has voted for him lately. And Ron Paul is even luckier.

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  1. Anonymous

    Dan, you sound like Emily Rooney. Huckabee deserves to be up there. He’s at least plausible, has won Iowa and will win Arkansas next week. He represents a chunk of the GOP. And I’m a Democrat who will vote for Clinton.

  2. Peter Porcupine

    DK – you’re a pro. A media, if not political, arbiter. I would appreciate your take on this negative ad crap..uh…controversy.Romney’s controversial ads all began – John McCain is a good man. But he took these votes – and proceeded to list them, with little teeny footnotes from the Congressional Record and other sources. I, Mitt, disagree with these votes, and here are measures I have taken which are different – again, with teeny footnotes.Now in my day, that was not a negative ad – that was a contrast ad. It’s only negative if you’re ashamed of your record.A NEGATIVE ad would be one like John McCain ran, saying Mitt Romney is a Phony! (Rubber, Glue comes to mind here…).The other day, I read a pundit who said that even when you KNOW John McCain is lying to you, well, gosh – you have to give him a bye, because he’s just such a colorful ole coot (or words to that effect). I cannot help but compare that to the relentless parsing of Romney’s every waking moment, going back to his great-grandparents.As media folk, you are entitled to loathe Mitt. But has honesty so deserted your profession that you cannot tell the difference between an attack ad and a contrast ad any more? Are we witnessing the early symptoms of Mitt Derangement Syndrome?

  3. Dan Kennedy

    I’d say that Huckabee got exactly what he had earned: the right to be up there and to be heard from occasionally.PP, I’m not a guy who goes around and studies political ads. They bore me. One thing I do know, though, is that one of Romney’s ads described McCain’s illegal-immigration plan as “amnesty.” And when McCain called him on it, Romney lied and said that it did not. (So much for footnotes.)Certainly the consensus seems to be that McCain is mischaracterizing Romney’s stand on timetables and the surge. I’m not sure if it’s an out-and-out lie. McCain is certainly exaggerating and distorting Romney’s position. But it strikes me that he’s doing so because he genuinely believes Romney took a dishonorable position at the very moment that the war in Iraq was looking its bleakest.What’s all this stuff about “the media,” by the way? The media have been pounding McCain over this, but, as usual, conservatives ignore that and keep trying to work the refs, over and over.

  4. Dan Kennedy

    PP: More on the media’s supposed ignoring of McCain’s attacks on Romney: “There’s not a single media source that I’ve seen that hasn’t said it was reprehensible.” The person who said that? Mitt Romney. Last night.

  5. Anonymous

    PP,You worked on Kerry Healey’s Gubernatorial campaign before you started canvassing for Mitt. Do you feel the parking garage ad was a negative ad or a contrast ad? How about the rest of Kerry’s ads?

  6. Peter Porcupine

    The parking lot ad was negative and a gross mistake, typical of the work of Gray Media. IMHO, it’s why she lost the race. Many political media operatives do not trust the ability of the voters to respond to issues, which is why people who DO trust the electorate and talk about them are sneered at as ‘wonky’ (thus my fondness for tiny footnotes). Chris Gabrielli comes to mind. As does Kerry Healey, another smart, wonky, capable person – the sort being driven from government by feral politics.DK – the quote McCain is touting is from 2 weeks ago from a debate, not the darkest days of the war. Even McCain would agree that the surge was well underway at that time. And what I’m trying to understand is the casual and relentless characterization of Mitt’s ads as ‘negative’ for MONTHS, to the point where it has become received wisdom. Really, not just work the refs….

  7. Anonymous

    Gotta disagree with your take on Huckabee. Steering a majority of questions to one or two candidates based solely on the votes they’ve tallied in 4 or 5 states reduces the primary process to a student council election – at a modeling school.You’re right about McCain, but neither of them will ever have a monopoly on the truth. At the very least, it was a night of great theater, which the venue’s namesake would surely have appreciated.

  8. Suldog

    “It’s not as if anyone has voted for him lately.”No, just 535,000 people since January 15th. Who the hell are they to think their votes mean anything?This attitude, adopted by so many in the media, is one of the prime reasons for the miserable voter turnouts we see in this country. Why in the hell are people going to continue bothering to vote if the media marginalizes a person they voted for? You are in effect saying that the voters who cast a ballot for Huckabee (or Paul, or Edwards, or whomever) don’t matter.

  9. Dan Kennedy

    Suldog: I’m saying there’s a winnowing-out process that should take place, and that it’s perfectly appropriate to do it once some elections have been held.

  10. Suldog

    Dan:I understand that’s what you’re saying. I disagree. Until mathematical elimination of a candidate takes place, I believe he/she should be given every opportunity to win votes.Put it in baseball terms: I’m willing to continue with the full 162 game season. You, on the other hand, want to cancel the games of any team that isn’t in either first or second place by July 4th 🙂

  11. Dan Kennedy

    Suldog: You have made the perfect flawed analogy. It’s one that Rudy Giuliani made repeatedly. The results of a primary, unlike a baseball game, have a big effect on the next primary. It’s more like a boxing match. Huckabee won the first round but got knocked on his ass in rounds two, three and four. Now he’s got a concussion, he’s dizzy, and he’s going to go down again if you simply breathe on him hard. Whereas a baseball team in last place can easily beat the Red Sox on the Fourth of July.

  12. Suldog

    Well, I think we’re probably irrevocably on opposite sides of this, but I’ll play along with your boxing analogy.What right do you (that is, the media) have to try and stop the bout? The referee in this bout has already been appointed. That would be the voters.Look, I understand where you’re coming from. You believe we’re better served by having a longer look at the candidates who appear to have the best shot at actually winning. OK. That’s not unreasonable. I believe we’re better served by having an equal look at all the candidates, right from the get go and for as long as they remain on the ballot.Oh, well. I appreciate you listening, in any case.

  13. Mme_Libn

    I have to agree with suldog here. What many in the media don’t take into account is that much of the voting public has only recently started paying attention. Those of you who are either in the profession or follow politics avidly have been reading about the candidates for nearly a year. A friend and I took a break from the NFL playoffs to watch a bit of the Dem. debate. She said, “Who’s that guy?”, indicating Richardson. When I explained who he was and gave her some background, she said, “Why haven’t I heard of him?” My friend is educated, scans the online headlines once or twice a day, and catches at least part of a morning and evening newscast most days – so in many ways is a typical news consumer. By the time she knew who Richardson was, he was ready to drop out. I have to agree that the media do play too large a role in marginalizing candidates, dooming them to the 2nd or 3rd tier, before voters have ever had a chance to vote.If I ruled the media world, major press outlets would devote a significant chunk of airtime or column inches, one-on-one, with each candidate, devoted to policy issues and the candidate’s background. No gotcha questions, no being relegated to the end of a row of nine candidates. Give the voters a chance to see who’s running and let them make up their minds. There’s no earthly reason why this has to be wrapped up in February, nine months before the election.Just a thought.

  14. Dan Kennedy

    Mme: With all due respect to your friend, maybe she ought to spend a little less time watching football and a little more time watching the news.

  15. Suldog

    Dan -Are you saying that there should be a means test for voting?

  16. Dan Kennedy

    Suldog: If only! What I am saying is that free, quality media outlets have been covering the campaign relentlessly for more than a year now. (So have paid, crappy media outlets.) If you have sufficient time to be well-informed, but you choose to use that time in other ways, that’s fine. That’s your right as a citizen. But don’t whine.

  17. Suldog

    “If only!”I have to say I got a chuckle from that. I actually agree with you!Have a great weekend, and GO PATS!

  18. Christopher

    I don’t care what the Media says or doesn’t say, I have’t relied on the Media ever. It’s obvious that they are only out for ratings and gossip. Polls are useless in my opinion also.I can see how McCain has voted, and I can see who is endorsing him, and neither McCain or his endorsements will get votes from me in any election.Romney is my choice for President and he always has been. I think he’s got more sense and experience to be a Leader in Government then McCain ever will.

  19. mike_b1

    Level with us, Christopher. It was the time Mitt strapped the family dog to the roof of the car for the 12-hour drive to Ottawa that clinched it for you, wasn’t it?

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