Neal Gabler has a first-rate analysis in today’s New York Times on the media’s love affair with John McCain. He writes:
Seeming to view himself and the whole political process with a mix of amusement and bemusement, Mr. McCain is an ironist wooing a group of individuals who regard ironic detachment more highly than sincerity or seriousness. He may be the first real postmodernist candidate for the presidency — the first to turn his press relations into the basis of his candidacy.
Though McCain is hardly what you would call a staunch, steady conservative, he is, in fact, deeply conservative about most issues, including reproductive choice, same-sex marriage and, most notably, foreign policy and the war in Iraq. Yet reporters, and even liberal commentators, Gabler notes, choose not to believe him, because his view of how the world works is essentially in line with that of culturally liberal journalists.
My own sense about McCain is that though he cares deeply about foreign policy, everything else to him is just politics. I do get the feeling that, if he’s elected president, his domestic agenda will essentially be defined by expediency.
The media’s relationship with the candidates will be crucial this fall, especially if Hillary Clinton — detested by many journalists — somehow wins the Democratic nomination. Can the press fairly cover a race when it loves one candidate and loathes the other? If past performance is any indication, you would have to say “no.”