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Free Ride: John McCain and the Media
By David Brock and Paul Waldman
Anchor Books, New York, 2008

A love affair took place aboard John McCain’s Straight Talk Express during the 2000 presidential primaries, one truly unique in the history of American political journalism. And it has hardly waned in the years since. The media, usually known for their ravenous appetite for scandalous behavior, have conveniently left out the legendary tales of the senatori’s hair-trigger temper, his mean and vulgar sense of humor, and his questionable ties to shady characters. While reporters spill gallons of ink on McCain’s admirable qualities, they have shoved to the side his unattractive traits, features of the McCain personality and record that he is no doubt all too happy to have the public overlook.

The world of politics, with its dueling delusions and realities (and narratives and memes and frames and arcs), can be a bewildering and frustrating one for activists. Nowhere is this more the case than when confronted with the fundamental stories America tells itself about itself--and its leaders, its goals and its destiny. Some bedrock beliefs in this country appear to be almost hard-wired into our nationalistic DNA--"socialized" medicine is horrible, the "heartland" of America is the real America, taxes are bad bad bad bad, always.

And, of course: John McCain is a straight-talking maverick war hero.

This last "truism" is seemingly unshakeable to the general American public. It drives political observers mad, particularly liberal ones, and is clearly the impetus behind David Brock’s and Paul Waldman’s heroic attempt to debunk the myth that surrounds the presumptive Republican nominee. It will come as no surprise to Daily Kos readers that the traditional media is named in the book as the culprit in spreading unfounded glory and a reputation for honesty on behalf of the Arizona senator. After all, both authors are from Media Matters, press fact-checker extraordinaire, and the process of press corps co-optation has never been examined so closely nor documented so well as it is in Free Ride. Diagnosing the problem, of course, is only half the battle, but without taking a long look at how the seduction of a cynical media class proceeded, there is little hope of fighting the McCain image in the months leading up to November.

There is an air of scholarly frustration throughout Free Ride that proves impossible not to share. Underlying all the closely cited flip-flops, the look at what was left out of numerous press accounts, and numerous data charts concerning McCain performance ratings or number of Sunday morning press appearances, there is an inescapable constant of wonderment: Just how the hell, in the face of so much contrarian evidence, can McCain’s reputation as a straight-talker not only survive but continue to thrive? What’s wrong with these reporters?

The authors seem most incensed by the "maverick" appellation. They return to it repeatedly, how often McCain is named "maverick" with absolutely no evidence, as in the following passages:

The very word "maverick" implies not only independence but a willingness to take risks. But it is to understand the common thread running through McCain’s high-profile breaks with the GOP: in nearly every case, McCain took a position that was overwhelmingly popular with the public. [Emphasis in original.]

Campaign finance? Unpopular with the GOP, overwhelmingly popular with the public. Tobacco tax? Ditto.

There is nothing "maverick" at all about siding with the majority in public opinion polls and then blustering loudly that one is taking a risky political stand. Yet journalists never point this out. In fact, one of the more frustrating trends Brock and Waldman note is how extremely often the term, "maverick," is applied to McCain with absolutely no explanation as to why. News story after news story hooks the term to him and hauls him up the glorified reputation hill. After poring over coverage leading up to McCain’s 2000 run for the presidency, the authors comment:

What’s noteworthy about these stories is that they referred to McCain as a maverick without providing a single example or citation to explain exactly what made him so--not even bothering to mention campaign finance reform or tobacco. McCain’s maverick standing was simply noted, with the assumption that readers would know what the commentator was talking about.

This shared political conventional wisdom is created and sustained by co-opted reporters who now have years and years of investment in maintaining the assumptions of McCain’s moderation and his willingness to buck the system. Brock and Waldman aren’t trying to make the case that there is something evil about journalists, but there is indeed something insidious at work, it seems, when reporters are allowed to get up close and personal with the candidates they are assigned to cover.

Part of McCain’s success certainly lies in an astute instinctual understanding of PR, human relations and what makes a journalist’s job easier. His availability is legendary and part of a strategy he hit upon in the wake of the Keating Five scandal in the 1980’s. Answer question after question after question, give so much access the issue becomes stale and unmysterious, and eventually the controversy will disappear. This has worked best with the national press corps, which McCain has taken great care to court over the past couple of decades as his sights have been raised to higher office. The Arizona media, which has been on the receiving end of his ugly temper tantrums and freeze-outs, has quite different tales to tell about their "maverick" senator--and a great many are told in this this book.

Still, McCain’s fondness for the press--which he’s famously called his "base"--seems genuine enough in most cases. He likes hanging out in the back of that bus. He likes trading jokes, overexposing his dark side, mulling over patriotism and nationalistic greatness in the company of those ready to take down every word--or overlook the embarrassing ones. And as any psychologist worth his salt will tell you, it’s hard not to like someone who authentically likes you. Even if he’s feeding you lines of bullshit along the way.

One of McCain’s favorite (and most effective) ploys with the press, as explained by Brock and Waldman, plays on this very comradely dynamic between those bus riders and the candidate:

McCain is astute enough to realize that he can maintain his maverick credentials even when he engages in blatant pandering, simply by signaling to reporters that he feels bad about it.

Thus we have the instance of McCain backtracking in 2000 on his condemnation of the confederate flag in South Carolina while he read his repentance as if he were being held "hostage"--his own word from his autobiography, by the way--and the reporters duly recording his turnabout without approaching the kind of "flip flop" language John Kerry faced daily in the same presidential year. (And very little note made of McCain’s re-repentance of his repentance after the election, either).

Two other valuable McCain-specific insights are on offer in this book. The first has to do with what happens when McCain meets an issue .... and how the issue takes a back seat, with all publicity roads leading to the "maverick":

When an ordinary senator crosses party lines, he or she will join members of the other party and perhaps have occasional opportunities to be quoted or interviewed on the issue in question. But the larger story will remain one of partisan conflict, albeit with a senator here or there breaking party unity. When McCain crosses party lines, on the other hand, the story itself changes; it then becomes a story about John McCain and his rebellion.

A second observation is what the authors nail as McCain’s "ubiquity;" you dare not turn the television on on Sunday mornings if you don’t want to risk being subject to the maverick’s roguish and anachronistic charm:

... when John McCain does or says something, journalists consider it "news" in a way they don’t for most of his colleagues. The result is that, even apart from the positivity of the coverage he receives, McCain has reaped political benefit from simply being everywhere. Media ubiquity has contributed to his elevation to colossus status in American politics.

A large part of this colossus reputation is founded, of course, on McCain’s POW status during the Vietnam War, for which McCain has gotten credit for supposedly downplaying over the years. But the authors make a convincing case that far from not trading on his POW status, McCain has tossed it around quite frequently--often to shut people up who are challenging him. Much of the documentation provided in Free Ride also shows that often McCain doesn’t have to remind listeners or readers of his status--because the press is so gosh-darn eager to preemptively do so on his behalf. There’s an unnerving list in this book of the instances in which McCain’s imprisonment is mentioned, completely out of context; article upon article will identify him as a former POW, even when the issue addressed in the story has nothing at all to do with war or imprisonment or the military. It’s just part of the ether that accompanies the senator wherever he goes now, like the fact that he’s the son and grandson of admirals, or that he’s a "reformer." There is no longer any need to tether relevant identifications of who or what he is with the subject at hand.

For years, analysts have decried "pack journalism," the tendency of reporters to think alike, adopt the same perspectives, and chase the same stories. Nowhere is this problem more acute than on the presidential campaign trail, where reporters literally move in a pack. They ride the same bus or plane, stay in the same hotel, walk along together from event to event, and spend the bulk of their day confined to each other’s company. In that atmosphere, breaking away from the conventional wisdom becomes all but impossible.

Okay, now what? This conclusion--that reporters are pack animals and are unlikely to change their view or coverage of McCain--seems spot on. So what’s the electorate to do? I caught up with Paul Waldman a couple of days ago via email and asked him this very question: What are we as informed readers supposed to do with this information? How can we break this cycle of rapturous, superficial, non-fact-checking coverage of John McCain as we move into the electoral season. Here’s his response:

We will soon be posting on an addendum to the book, looking at what McCain’s coverage has been like of late [, and updating some of the data in the book]. We’re also going to continue to publish analyses of the coverage of McCain [throughout the campaign] on the Free Ride website in the weeks and months ahead.

Our hope is that Free Ride will open up a conversation about the [myriad] many weaknesses (to say it nicely) in the coverage McCain has gotten over the years, and in the campaign thus far. Reporters have to be urged to step back and take another look at the way they’ve been talking about McCain, so they’ll stop simply repeating the same old words and phrases ("Maverick!" "Straight talk!") and start giving the public what they deserve: coverage that is as willing to discuss McCain’s weaknesses as his strengths, doesn’t assume McCain’s integrity but examines what he says and does to determine whether he’s demonstrating integrity, and generally judges McCain by the same standards as every other candidate.

The more people who talk to and about the press on the issue of McCain’s free ride, the more likely they are to listen and hear, and hopefully change their behavior in response. That means bloggers and diarists talking about it, and people contacting their media sources directly, through emails, phone calls, and letters. Reporters need to hear from their readers, listeners and viewers that we aren’t happy with what they’ve given us on John McCain. In other words, its fine if they go to McCain’s ranch for a BBQ but the flavor of the BBQ shouldn’t be lingering in their mouths when they go and write their story.

So fire up your engines, people. The free ride is over. You now have a handbook to help you get started on recognizing the most egregious, shilling reporting while covering McCain. Use it wisely, often and well.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Sun Apr 13, 2008 at 09:52 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  My the end of the summer... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BDA in VA, Red Bean, JVolvo, ailanthus

    ... the lazy-ass, audience-driven MSM will have gotten tired of the "Straight-Talkin' John" narrative and will be searching for something else that 1) helps stories write themselves without much thought or work, and 2) draws viewers/readers.

    My guess is that it will be a "Crazy John" narrative.

    Wes Clark for VEEP!
    Obama/Clark: You want a side-order of Realignment to go with that Change?

    by pat208 on Sun Apr 13, 2008 at 09:58:46 AM PDT

    •  Aw crap: "BY the end of the summer blah blah blah (4+ / 0-)

      Wes Clark for VEEP!
      Obama/Clark: You want a side-order of Realignment to go with that Change?

      by pat208 on Sun Apr 13, 2008 at 09:59:08 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Interesting point. (12+ / 0-)

      They do tend to get tired of their own narratives.  This one has been so resilient it's tough to imagine it disappearing, but maybe.

      Meanwhile, I guess I have to add another book to the giant stack of things I feel guilty for not having read yet, because this sounds great. Susan has the gift for writing a review that both makes me feel I already learned something about the book's subject and makes me desperately want to read it.

      •  Don't think this narrative will disappear (1+ / 0-)
        on its own. It's too engrained, too long-lived and the allure to being this close to the ultimate power is too great for many media folks. We have to force it to change. I think all of us need to join together to do what the right has done for decades: intimidate the media so hard with charges of bias that they become scared to cross the line. I don't mean we have to hurl around a lot of untrue charges about media bias, the way they did, but I think we need to be relentless in contacting newspapers, TV outlets and any other place we see these myths about McBush mindlessly regurgitated (or conversely, a negative story about Obama that is equally or more true for McBush only he is not mentioned -- once the campaign proper is underway, there should NEVER be a mention of the Rev. Wright without us deluging that outlet with calls and letters demanding an equal amount of coverage of the extremist ministers McBush has invited into his ampaign).

        We need to be consistent, persistent, polite and informed -- and LOTS of us need to do this. We need to be calling them on every nook and cranny of this bias and we cannot let them tell us that this or that is not a big deal. We need to not let them blow us off like the so-called "reader representative" of the Cleveland Plainly Republican did, when he responded to charges of bias by totting up the number of pictures run of each candidate. That's not the issue. When a front-page, above-the-fold story about Mitt Romney's withdrawal from the race is headlined "Romney's withdrawal helps McCain" and the entire story is pretty much based on the opinions of one local McCain-supporting politician who says he thinks now McCain's going to be able to tap into Romney's fundraisers and see his fundraising going through the roof -- without being asked to provide any names or figures or facts -- that's clearly bias. We need to be on this constantly.

        We're retiring Steve LaTourette (R-Family Values for You But Not for Me) and sending Judge Bill O'Neill to Congress from Ohio-14:

        by anastasia p on Sun Apr 13, 2008 at 12:08:59 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Come the debates (9+ / 0-)

      unmediated by his groupies, viewers will see, standing next to Obama, a befuddled old man.

      "Your point. Their village." --Zhivago to Strelnikov

      by ailanthus on Sun Apr 13, 2008 at 10:20:34 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I agree (0+ / 0-)
        And a befuddled, ignorant McCain against an impeccably well-informed Obama is going to be hard to spin. But they'll try!

        We're retiring Steve LaTourette (R-Family Values for You But Not for Me) and sending Judge Bill O'Neill to Congress from Ohio-14:

        by anastasia p on Sun Apr 13, 2008 at 12:10:13 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  To beat him we need to knock his halo off (0+ / 0-)

      McCain's image of being maverick saint POW is unbeatable. Any criticism of him bounces off, and anything he does wrong is taken as a positive.

      The only way to defeat McCain is to redefine him. Someone needs to get right in his face on TV and say that being a POW doesn't prove anything about him, and that he's a dumb, two-faced, bullying liar.

      •  examples (0+ / 0-)

        I haven't read the book, but here are some examples of how McCain's team uses the POW image:

        If someone says "John McCain is wrong about the war", his team says "But he was a POW who suffered for his country. Could he be wrong about war? Could he have any motive besides what is best for the troops?".

        If someone says McCain is a liar or too close to lobbyists, McCain's people say "John McCain was a POW who could have come home but chose to stay with his team. Are you saying a man of such character could be a liar or in bed with a lobbyist?"

  •  I truly believe (3+ / 0-)

    2008 is our last chance to remain a democracy.  We can use our heads, or, like lemmings we can follow the media off the McCain cliff.

    "There are no happy endings in the Bush Administration". - Randall L. Tobias

    by MadRuth on Sun Apr 13, 2008 at 10:00:43 AM PDT

  •  Common wisdom in DC is like cement (5+ / 0-)

    once it hardens and sets, there's no changing it.

    Add to that the coincidence that most of those mixing up and pouring the concrete are right wingers and you get the above.

    Neocon Sand & Gravel (a Busco enterprise) delivers daily and it's dutifully poured into the forms by David Brooks and all the rest. Then once it's set, forget about changing it.

    The only solution is to break up the whole thing, haul it away, and start over.

    •  Note that this author is NOT Brooks. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wishingwell, Naniboujou

      the reveiw says Brock. It took me a second glance to catch it.

      Democrats promote the Common good. Republicans promote Corporate greed.

      by murasaki on Sun Apr 13, 2008 at 10:42:36 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  that surprises me because I would have thought (0+ / 0-)

        that every single one of DailyKos's politically astute readers would have immediately known that David Brock, the reformed rightwing writer who has re-invented himself by taking the 12 step program of political addiction public and re-making his image as a committed left wing revealer of truth, is not David brooks, the still committed rightwing pundit intellectual pundit trotted out by PBS, the NYT's and other less plebian venues who require a talking parrot.

        The previous poster is correct in stating that it people like David Brooks and William Kristol who dutifully pour the concrete to fill the forms.  I still maintain though that the people to blame are WE The People who dutrifully believe everything we're tolld. It is our duty to chip away at the concrete and render it weak by pouring another layer over the top.

        The tendency to blame the messenger is one of my pet peeves and something that I had hoped initially that the blogosphere would counter. Unfortnately, from my perspective anyway, that hope has been crushed in the overly partisn bickering that has overidden cyberspace.

        •  I don't believe everything I'm told (0+ / 0-)

          I don't believe much of anything that comes from those sources.

          I think a lot of people do however, and I think it's unrealistic to imagine that by simply educating the public to ignore them, we can still have the constant and pervasive right wing propaganda and expect it to have no effect. It's in fact the entire basis of Brock's project, which I applaud, and have from its inception.

          Both are neccesary. We simply can't ignore the fact that a lot of people will be swayed if 90% of what they hear, day after day, has a right wing skew.

          •  I totally agree with you and just conducted (0+ / 0-)

            a tiny individual unimportant experiment. Now, I consider myself a raltively informed observor who has been working in various segments of national, local, international communication for almost fifty years.

            I did not know that David Brock was part of Media Matters, so i  went and clicked on the site.  I checked briefly, browsed more like, just one of the frontpage stories, about MSNBC and the 'orange juice' remarks made on Hardball by Shuster and Matthews, I believe on Friday night,

            I got bored very quickly, it takes a lot of eneregy to read an entire column, or post, or diary online, other things beckon. Another cup of tea, finish planting my trees, the dogs want to go out, the grandkids want to know if I'll buy them the new FIFA game, the radio is starting to play Garrison Keillor, I'm hungry, got bills to pay - that's my list, everyone would be different.   I clicked off after a couple of minutes and ALL I got from that quick perusal was 'orange juice', Barack Obama drinks OJ instead of coffee? and that is supposed to be what? eltiist, un-American, un-patriotic? what!!!!!

            The point is the point the above poster made, the average person probably would'nt bother to read Media Matters or Daily Kos for that matter, but they will tune in for a few minutes to one of Hardball's three times daily in some markets program and all they will take away in their subconscious is that Obama drinks orange juice.

            That is the way the MSM works, on our subliminal physche and saying it is irrelevant is untrue, because it is not.  These comments do matter, and they are cumulative.  And it is the candidates responsibility to understand that fact and how anything they say will be twisted and distorted, and deliberately mis-understood, framed to fit the mould of whichever media outlet is selling to.

            And, I repeat, it is WE who are to blame, not the media.  It is up to us to educate ourselves and think critically instead of swarming like bees, starlings or lemmings every time someone pushed our buttons.

            I'm going back to my digging again, for the third time today.

            •  what you say is contradictory (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              timelad, soccergrandmom
              You say "we" are to blame and then you say you yourself cna't follow a story for long because the dogs need attention, the grandkids want something and Garrison Keillor (yuck) is on the radio. How can you blame someone then who is maybe a single parent, working two jobs, kid goes to a terrible school without enough resources and she's trying to make sure he has what he needs and pays attention to his studies and doesn't fall in with a gang and she's worried because he r toddler had earaches and she has no health insurance....people are overwhelmed. To expect them to spend hours online every day the way some of us do ferreting out the truth is not fair. I often have difficulty myself tracking down the truth of a story and I can spend 16 hours a day online if I so choose (and get my regular work done at work while I'm online -- my job requires constantly being online anyway).

              We're retiring Steve LaTourette (R-Family Values for You But Not for Me) and sending Judge Bill O'Neill to Congress from Ohio-14:

              by anastasia p on Sun Apr 13, 2008 at 12:15:18 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  that's the collective 'YOU' (0+ / 0-)

                aand i am not suggesting anyone spend hours a day trying to ferret out the 'truth'. the point of that anecdotal account was to try and PROVE that it is not possible.  

                But 'we', individually and in the collective, are responsible in what we choose to believe and react to within the limited parameters of what we are capable of.

                My daughter in law, her sister, her sister's friends, her own friends, ny grandaughter and her friends with small children and all the responsibilities that many of us face in holding down a job, taking care of children, often if not usually as a single parent, face the same problems you do.

                I have been there myself.  That does not take away, in my opinion, the responsibility we all share as adults to try and train ourselves to think critically and consider the source of our outrage and hurt.  

                I apologise if i offended you, it was not my intention.  I wish you luck and hope things turn out better for you.

                •  anastasia p, I have just read a diary you wrote (0+ / 0-)

                  on March 7th, I think, called 'The Speech Obama Should Make'.

                  I agree with every word you said with one caveat that will probably piss off a whole bunch of people.  Yes, that is the speech he should make, and i hope sincerely it is the one he WILL make, if he is elected President.  That should definitely be the tenor of his inaugural speech.

                  However, and i know a great many people disagree with my opinion, even though it is shared by many on both sides of the aisle, and all shades of the spectrumm.

                  The reality of the primary season when we select the party nominee, making that speech would be political suicide, even though it is arguably the truth, at least the truth as many of his sipporters see it.  It is the absolute truth also of those who would sooner see Bush have a third term in john mcCain, who would use it to paint him as an idealistic, naive, unpatriotic, too liberal, to represnewt the ewntire nation.  It would also fuel the same narrative that his recent 'bitter' comments is occasioning.

                  I have said this before and have been screamed at but i say it again. there is never any one truth. There are facts and there are interpretations of facts. This is the ammunition used in both barrels of the guns fired at either side during a primary and eventually the general election.  They are meant to wound and eventually kill the oppositions.

                  I am neither qualified nor willing to get into an esoteric argument about why i consider that the truth. At least certainly not at Dailykos. You mentioned George Lakoff, he can explain how 'framing' of the truth, or facts, are crucial to mass comprehension.  I can't, except intuitively.

                  anyway, I hope in your busy and stressful schedule you can continue to write both diaries and comments.  I find them valuable to help me in my own thinking, which tends to be pragmatically idealistic.

            •  The media are primarily responsible (0+ / 0-)

              it is WE who are to blame, not the media

              When the news media which pretends to be presenting factual and impartial material instead presents inaccurate, biased propaganda, then they have failed. This is primarily their fault.

              It is true that consumers of the media also bear some responsibility, for not making them change. Primarily though it is their job, so the medias' fault for not doing it well.

      •  I know this book is by Brock (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        no connection to my using Brooks, despite the names having some shared letters, except that Brooks is one of the conservatives that Brock is accusing of giving McCain a free ride.

  •  And the wingers say... (14+ / 0-)

    ...that it is Obama who is the media darling.

    Frank Luntz appeared on Fox News to dispute that the media has a love affair with McCain and instead said that Obama has been getting the free ride:

    "The most negative thing they can say about Obama is that he can’t bowl."

    Apparently Luntz has been a coma for the past few months. If the idiocy of this comment were able to generate light, you would be able to see it from space. Anyone with a television has seen the attacks on Obama that range from accusations that he is a Muslim to casting doubt on his patriotism to belittling his experience. And always, always his association with Rev Wright, criticisms of whom could populate their very own cable network. In fact, the segment immediately following Luntz’s interview with Kelly was yet another story about Rev. Wright

    •  it's called flak (0+ / 0-)

      The IMF is a loan shark, bill collector, and repo man all rolled into one.

      by Kab ibn al Ashraf on Sun Apr 13, 2008 at 10:47:57 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  This is how they win (2+ / 0-)
      because they are relentless with this and aren't challenged and they scare and intimidate the media into being rougher on democrats. We need to have this list of attacks at the top of our minds to shoot back to them when they try to hold us off wby saying "Well, conservatives say we are being easier on YOU." The right has no facts, just wild accusations; we need to drown the media in facts until they can't breathe.

      We're retiring Steve LaTourette (R-Family Values for You But Not for Me) and sending Judge Bill O'Neill to Congress from Ohio-14:

      by anastasia p on Sun Apr 13, 2008 at 12:17:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  War hero? (8+ / 0-)

    If McCain is a hero for enduring torture as a POW, does that mean that the survivors of Gitmo and Abu Ghraib are also qualified to be Senators and Presidents?

    I think this is a meme we should be pushing hard.

    Al Qeada is a faith-based initiative.

    by drewfromct on Sun Apr 13, 2008 at 10:06:31 AM PDT

  •  And it's not just a MEDIA love affair... (10+ / 0-)

    Candy McCain gets love from his peeps:

    And he loves them back. Aint it sweet?

  •  Narratives - Dems don't even need'um (7+ / 0-)

    if they'd just acquire the spine to talk facts - ESPECIALLY ABOUT NATIONAL SECURITY.

    Under George Bush, the United States traded its liberty for security. In fact we traded our security for the false promise of security too.

    Republicans are - & George Bush and John McCain are perfect examples of - military and national security illiterates. They do not understand what security is or how to achieve it or maintain it.

    John McCain has NO military qualifications.

    I repeat: John McCain has NO military qualifications. He is 71 years-old and despite all those years of military experience and study and opportunity to learn, he has acquired no qualifications to handle matters of national security.

    He has been wrong about every major (and virtually every minor) military and national security policy matter ever presented to him. He.just.doesn'

    Bush along with John McCain & the Republican party, have relied on acts of world-wide violence, militarism and criminality in place of national security policy. They have eviscerated our U.S. national security and thrown away opportunities that cannot be negotiated back, earned back or bought back. John McCain is promising more of the same.  

    Democrats need to run on, attack constantly and hammer away on issues of national security because the U.S. has never been more vulnerable and hated in the world than right now. The blame is squarely at incompetent Republican feet (many wearing boots that Sen. Clinton appears willing to shine at this point in the primary too "John McCain and I . . . " etc.).

    Democrats have an obligation to be honest about the GOP in general, and John McCain in specific, military and national security incompetence.



    Religion is like sodomy: both can be harmless when practiced between consenting adults but neither should be imposed upon children.

    by Caoimhin Laochdha on Sun Apr 13, 2008 at 10:12:16 AM PDT

    •  The Irish view prevails! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SusanG, Caoimhin Laochdha

      Just below the underline lays a coherent argument the public would recognize if it were repeated regularly in places that mattered by people with courage. But the intrinsic truth or common sense of it makes the thing seem almost childishly simple and therefore foolish to consider to some. This is the problem that Waldman, Brock  and colleagues need to face. The adults running the media (and many other business sectors) have the values and appetites of children. They want us to think them wise and bold, not because wisdom and boldness are good things in and of themselves, but because that's what they've learned is expected of them. Problem is, the insight and humility that yield wisdom and boldness are antithetical to the gold star seeking personalities who are the most visible makers and presenters of information.

      For me, it's a generation thing. McCain is an affable  iconic and approachable father figure to many of the the boomer journalists who cover him. As an archetype, he speaks to the gaps in their own lives. But, as a late Boomer, I cannot wait for the last of us to lose our grip on the narrative and managerial machine, since so much of what we do with our control is an effort at burnishing our reality and our foolish choices of the past. So much effort at rewriting reality to match the future we were promised with the flaws of our parents we naively expected we would not inherit in our aging. It seems the child in us never goes away, but it does diverge in two ways, bully or helper. And the market for journalism is one favorable to the smiling bully and to the unearned cynicism of the race to adult "seriousness" that an atrios speaks of. The playing at seriousness manifests in all the 'clever' plays at national security that you reference Caoimhin, but also shows in the boardroom-approved messes like NAFTA, credit swaps and subprime. Each are (failed) efforts to realize the marvelousness we were told we were destined and entitled to.  

      Yeah, I blame Adolph Hitler and Doctor Spock. A "trophy for showing up" is not the creation of our echo-boomer kids, but instead, one devised by the Boomer parents who demand them. Parents who, if they were honest, would admit that they never learned to handle reality, never had to really deal with it. In this part, John McCain, with his biography, is a mystical figure to them. They cannot help being children at his knee.

      In the end, one of the reasons I support Obama is that he alone among the candidates speaks to our inner child like an adult while understanding that 'naive" ideals are what truly move us.  

  •  That whole section about bringing up his POW (8+ / 0-)
    experience was almost surreal.  So many instances of reporters just bringing up his Vietnam captivity when it had nothing at all to do with what they were reporting on.  It's their validator for everything pure about him it seems.

    This book is an incredible diagram that totally dissects McCain's media manipulation strategy.

    It left me wishing our candidates had such a strategy.

  •  What we need here is a Macaca moment (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wishingwell, snootless, JVolvo, jck

    type thing. I can't imagine John McCain will avoid stepping in it one way or another if, and when, an actual general election gets underway.

    Something of a Macaca moment would likely turn the tide and begin actual media scrutiny of this man.  Problem is, if it comes too late, he will continue the free ride all the way into November (not that he will win the general even with the press's help).

    Despite the media's adoration, I have always believed he would be put under the microscope eventually; but as usual, the Democrats have unwittingly helped another Republican candidate avoid proper scutiny.

    Dogs have so many friends because they wag their tails instead of their tongues. -Anonymous

    by gloryous1 on Sun Apr 13, 2008 at 10:14:45 AM PDT

  •  Media logic: "Trust McCain--he's lying" (8+ / 0-)

    I saw it on Bill Maher last Friday. Maher pointed out that McCain again conflated Sunni & Shia & etc.

    The reporter on the panel assured Maher McCain knows better, and Maher was appeased.

    So why is McCain doing it? He's lying to his base? He's appeasing them?

    Or is the "maverick" lie one big appeasment to the media.

    Look at his votes--and his party--not his words.

  •  I saw this book (8+ / 0-)

    in Costco.

    Right alongside "Faith of my Fathers" by John McCain.

    You're asking me to believe in thinking meat!

    by Moody Loner on Sun Apr 13, 2008 at 10:15:35 AM PDT

  •  readers need to contact journalists early & often (10+ / 0-)

    and tell them that they're sick of superficial reporting biased in favor of St. John McCain the Maverick. That, plus ridicule on line, is the best chance of breaking this cycle. And it is a cycle because reporters are so invested in the myth that for now it's nearly unthinkable to start reporting the opposite of what they've been saying is the case.

    Fwiw, I don't happen to think it's OK for reporters to socialize at McCain's ranch. It's absolutely shameless. Nobody in their right minds would think it was possible to do that and then maintain credibility with their readers. All those who did ought to be taken off the McCain beat and re-assigned, if only for the sake of the appearance of journalistic integrity.

  •  McCain is the Doublespeak express (4+ / 0-)

    In his world 2+2=5 and you are Winston.  

    Don't be so afraid of dying that you forget to live.

    by LionelEHutz on Sun Apr 13, 2008 at 10:27:05 AM PDT

  •  Our "Vichy" candidate (5+ / 0-)

    hasn't helped matters much by annointing McSame with the mantle of "ready to be Commander in Chief."

    I'm tired of the "silly season"

    Bring on the main event already.

    John Sidney McCain III is more afraid of "Peace" than "War" and he's asking for your vote.

    by SecondComing on Sun Apr 13, 2008 at 10:43:30 AM PDT

  •  Gooper 101:Repeat a Lie often enough it becomes (3+ / 0-)

    the truth.

    Saying the Iraq "Surge" worked is like saying Thelma & Louise had a flying car.

    by JML9999 on Sun Apr 13, 2008 at 10:54:32 AM PDT

  •  Not just a free ride from the media. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sxp151, snootless, JVolvo, jck

    How about the free ride from the taxpayer?:

    The taxpayer paid 100% of John Sidney McCain III's college education costs, and he rewarded them by staying drunk, whoring around, and graduating 894 out of 899.

    The taxpayer paid for the plane he crashed the first time he tried to land (should have paid more attention in flight school, John).

    The taxpayer paid for the second plane he crashed, when he violated regs, flew too low, caught power lines and crashed.

    The taxpayer paid for the third plane he crashed, the one he had joyrided from Jacksonville to Philadelphia to play the bigshot and fly to the Army-Navy game.

    [Anyone not the son and grandson of admirals would have been washed out by then]

    The taxpayer paid for the plane that was blown up on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier.  Don't know if John was to blame for that one.

    The taxpayer paid for the plane that was shot down (OR crashed, with his record, who knows?) over Vietnam.

    His flying buddies call him Ace, not because he shot down 5 or more enemy planes, but because he lost 5 of OUR planes. The taxpayer also paid for the 28 medals be received for 20 total hours of combat.

    After release, McCain ran for Congress, and we've been paying his salary ever since.  He, as far as I can find, NEVER had any job where anyone except Uncle Sam gave him a paycheck.

    By the way, great job on that Keating loan scandal, John.

    Now the Crazy Old Coot™ thinks we should pick up the tab for the next 4 years while he delivers 4 more years of W's foreign policy.  I think not.

    "we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex" Dwight D. Eisenhower

    by bobdevo on Sun Apr 13, 2008 at 11:03:07 AM PDT

  •  Even Jon Stewart (0+ / 0-)

    seems to love McMoreofthesame and has had him on the Daily Show numerous times. I don't get it.

  •  Please reup tomorrow! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SusanG, EbenezerSeattle

    I hope this thread will continue beyond just today....the slowest day of the week on this site. Why continue it? Because it's not only an important book, but we on this site, and community, can by our purchases force the MSM to pay attention to it, and maybe even give the writers some deserved public face time.

    I've just purchased two copies (one for me, one for the wingnut friend who talked me into reading "Unfit For Command" - payback is sweet). Please, let's support this effort because progs don't have deep pocket supporters and think tanks to purchase bundles of the book to artificially get it on the NY Times Best Seller list. But we sure can get it high on Borders or Amazon's political books list.

    So, please keep this alive for when more regular visitors to the site are around.
    In the meantime, to stress just how totally INCOMPETENT and, yes, dangerous, John McCain can be when trying to talk about the economy, it seems the MSM, in their group-thirst for Obama's utterances, overlooked this incident yesterday - feel free to share with wingnuts too:

  •  Just started reading this book (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sam Loomis, flumptytail

    "The Real McCain" is my next project.

    In answer to the question of "Why?", the best answer I've ever heard is from, apologies, Tucker Carlson. in Politicians, Partisans, and Parasites:

    McCain ran an entire presidential campaign aimed primarily at journalists. He understood that the first contest in a presidential race is always the media primary. He campaigned hard to win it. To a greater degree than any candidate in thirty years, McCain offered reporters the three things they want most: total access all the time, an endless stream of amusing quotes, and vast quantities of free booze.

    Emphasis added, because I really do think (as something of an alcoholic myself, who becomes great friends with conservatives when they're sitting next to me in the bar) that's what it's all about.

    I'm an Obama supporter, but I'll still defend Clinton.

    by sxp151 on Sun Apr 13, 2008 at 11:58:29 AM PDT

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