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

McCain and his media admirers

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.”

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  1. Peter Kadzis

    On target.

  2. Harry

    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.”Agreed.And if the press can’t be fair (your word, not mine), perhaps it would be more honest for the major press organs to shed the shibboleth of objectivity, which I believe much of their available market finds unpersuasive.

  3. Steve

    Has anyone compiled a list of McCain issues that the press has decided to take a pass on?Let’s see:- pursuing the endorsements of radical right preachers like Hagee and Parsley who blame Americans for 9/11 and disasters like Hurricane Katrina- enduring confusion over major issues in the war on terror, such as his insistence that Iran is training al Qaida- continuing to flout campaign finance laws by using public financing as collateral for a loan and to gain ballot access in Ohio, then trying to illegally withdraw from the public financing systemOthers?

  4. Anonymous

    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.”That’s why the media is becoming less and less relevant. Does one truly believe that the media was fair in 2000 and 2004. Dan Rather and the whole CBS news agency did a great deal of harm to whole profession. Fact is, reporters and editors have been caught repeatedly by talk radio, conservative leaning news, and to a great deal bloggers, enhancing, ignoring, and misleading the public.

  5. liamstliam

    Dan: I think that was an unfair shot.The daily news reporters should get credit with being objective.Columnists, that’s different.And it’s not surprising that many journalists “detest” her, because so many Americans detest her.

  6. Anonymous

    Let’s not kid ourselves here – the media is done doting on John McCain. This is going to be a story-line the press will love to talk about for the rest of the campaign, but the truth is that it’s not accurate anymore. It’s a way for the liberal media to portray itself as possibly even tilting conservative, when in actuality, it is the extreme opposite.

  7. jvwalt

    I’m waiting for the media to start examining McCain’s presumed expertise in foreign policy and national security. He doesn’t seem to have any ideas except to keep doing what Bush has been doing — which is questionable at best, both strategically and politically. Is McCain trying to keep the right wing in his corner? Or is he actually lacking in original thought or insight, in the area that is supposed to be his strongest suit?

  8. Anonymous

    “Should get credit for being objective”? Come now, liamstilam.What about the NYTimes’ deification of Obama? It’s pathetic. It really is. NYTimes and Slate (Hitchens’ breakdown the other day notwithstanding) keep publishing all the alarmist pieces they can to pressure Hillary into leaving the race. Sooner the better for the Democratic cause–the longer there’s a battle, the worse it gets, as we all know–but the tongue bathing they give to Obama would be hilarious if it weren’t so sadly transparent.

  9. liamstliam

    To anonymous:Tell me you worked in newspapers, and I will listen to you.We’re not just talking the Times here.One of the things I hated about the newspaper business was people like you telling me why I was doing things, when I was simply doing the best possible job I could.

  10. Neil

    Bush’s interventionist Iraq folly and McCain’s support of it aren’t examples of conservative foreign policy. Bill Buckley says as much in an interview in ’06. The Iraq war is a neo-con imperial adventure gone wrong. Its (changing, after-the-fact) rationales were quite different from the traditional conservative disinterest in nation building. Bush senior’s decision not to chase Saddam’s army back to Baghdad and effect regime change in ’91 is a better representative of conservative foreign policy I think.

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