The American media loves them some John McCain.
So says this gem of an article by Peter Hart at Fairness in Accuracy and Reporting (FAIR). The Press Corps’ Unshakeable Crush on McCain, whose title I borrowed for this diary, is the most comprehensive and well-researched piece I have found in exposing the media's unconditional swooning over John McCain, Maverick.
You knew it all the time, but you ain't gonna believe some of the stuff you're about to read below the fold.
While most readers at Daily Kos have long been aware that the media's embrasure of McCain as maverick was either a) convenient, b) delusional, or c) intentionally subversive, never before have I seen the truth about this false claim so completely laid bare and with such scathing directness.
Hart offers this opening salvo:
If you pay even passing attention to national politics, you know that presumptive GOP presidential candidate John McCain is a maverick who bucks his own party’s line and never wavers in his political beliefs. At least, that’s what the corporate media say—reality tells a very different story.
A candidate could only get away with such an elaborate and long-running con with the media as willing accomplices. "The press loves McCain," explained NBC host Chris Matthews (9/10/06). "We’re his base."
Hart continues by offering stomach-turning fawning by "journalists" as diverse as Michael Lewis of the New Republic who:
declared that his feelings for McCain were like "the war that must occur inside a 14-year-old boy who discovers he is more sexually attracted to boys than to girls."
to CBS 60 Minutes mainstay Mike Wallace, who leading up to the 2000 campaign
was clearly enamored with McCain, going so far as to say that he was considering joining his campaign: "I’m thinking I may quit my job if he gets the nomination," Wallace declared (Washington Post, 6/8/98).
Just when you thought things couldn't get worse, Hart offers similar sentiments and examples of McCain excuse-making from Newsweek, Time, US News & World Report, the New York Times, the Washington Post, ABC, the Los Angeles Times, and AP.
Hart carefully shows that McCain is no maverick, pointing out that
McCain, of course, is actually quite conservative, with a 9 percent lifetime rating from Americans for Democratic Action, a liberal group that rates lawmakers’ voting records. But what’s most fascinating—and rarely discussed in the press—is not just that McCain is so conservative, but that, for a brief time, McCain’s voting record did line up with the media myth—before McCain reverted back to form.
. . .
In other words, McCain wasn’t much of a maverick when the media affixed that label to him. He became one very briefly, and then returned more or less back to where he started.
McCain’s voting pattern bears out this analysis. Before the 2000 campaign, McCain was consistently among the party’s most conservative members. In the 107th Congress (2001–02), McCain was the sixth most liberal Republican senator, according to the VoteView statistical analysis of voting patterns. In the next congressional session, he was the fourth most conservative.
And he’s more or less stayed there since. According to VoteView, McCain’s voting record in 2005–06 made him the second-most conservative senator in the 109th Congress, and the eighth-most conservative in the 110th Senate. Outside of McCain’s brief tack to the middle, his overall voting record makes him a reliable member of his party’s caucus.
Hart is particularly harsh and incisive about McCain as a "green" candidate. He, along with any impartial reader, must be struggling between disbelief and outrage over Newsweek's recent "coverage."
With McCain’s maverick credentials a given, reality must be warped in remarkable ways by the press in order to maintain the storyline. Newsweek’s April 14 cover story, "Who’s the Greenest of Them All?," reached the remarkable conclusion that the answer could very well be John McCain. Readers first learned that Obama and Clinton received high marks from the League of Conservation Voters before Newsweek finally noted sheepishly: "Admittedly, McCain’s 2007 league rating is zero, putting him in the company of eight other Republicans, including the global-warming denier James Inhofe."
To soften that blow, the magazine offered that "a more relevant statistic might be his lifetime LCV rating, which is 26 percent, compared with an average of 16 percent for all Republicans." Given that Obama and Clinton scored 96 and 90, respectively, it would be highly unusual for a group to offer its endorsement, as the magazine suggested the LCV might do, to a politician who mostly disagrees with their positions. But Newsweek wasn’t about to give up, crediting McCain with having "sided with environmentalists on fuel-efficiency standards and the talismanic issue of protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge." As columnist David Sirota pointed out (4/4/08), McCain’s position on Alaska drilling has shifted back and forth over the years; most recently, in 2005, the senator voted to support drilling.
Newsweek’s Jerry Adler sounded like he had convinced himself, at least, that McCain was actually the greener candidate:
So, ironically, McCain—with a voting record that would put him at the bottom of the heap among Democrats—is sometimes perceived as more passionate about the environment than his Democratic opponents, whose objectively much stronger records are viewed as a matter of party orthodoxy.
Such are the benefits of being a maverick; your actual record is much less important than how you are "perceived" by journalists.
Hart rounds out his article with a detailed record of McCain's blatant flip-flops on evangelicals, the Bush tax cuts, immigration, foreign policy, gay marriage/civil unions, lobbyists, and torture, and the media's desperate attempts to excuse that pandering. Hart includes this Orwellian take:
New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof dealt with all this dissonance by penning a February 17, 2008 column headlined "The World’s Worst Panderer." Kristof admired McCain not for his positions, but for being "abysmal at pandering." For example, Kristof wrote that McCain had denounced ethanol subsidies for years—and then abruptly reversed course in the early part of the 2008 campaign. This was acceptable, because "he was so manifestly insincere and incompetent in this pandering that the episode was less contemptible than amusing."
Kristof went on to write that when McCain "does try double-talk, he looks so guilty and uncomfortable that he convinces nobody." Kristof concluded: "In short, Mr. McCain truly has principles that he bends or breaks out of desperation and with distaste. That’s preferable to politicians who are congenital invertebrates."
It may say 2008 on your calendar, but, trust me, when it comes to McCain the Maverick, it's 1984 for sure, as evidenced by this unbelievable statement:
"Go ahead, senator, flip-flop away," wrote Jonathan Chait in the Los Angeles Times (4/19/06), trying to explain McCain’s shifting positions. "I know you’re with us at heart."
According to Hart, only the foreign press seems to be able to see "The Real McCain."
Hart concludes with this summation:
American journalists, by and large, long ago decided to sell a moderate, "maverick" McCain to the U.S. public.
If you weren't worried about the future of our country before, I'll bet you are now.
Free Ride: John McCain and the Media by David Brock and Paul Waldman (amazon.com link)