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Barack Obama leads the contest for newspaper endorsements, as of October 28, by a score of 222 - 93 over John McCain. Among the major papers, which I shall randomly define as those having circulation over 100,000, the tally is 60 - 19. Editor and Publisher keeps a list, updated daily.

Like many of you, I have read with interest many of the big endorsements of Obama, including the persuasive and heartfelt piece in the New York Times.

A key theme is the clear contrast between the campaigns. And this makes sense, since the purpose of the presidential campaign is to place the candidates under intense scrutiny, beneath the brightest spotlights, in order to separate the person from the legend (Tippecanoe, Old Hickory) and let the public become intimately familiar. This is a reason likeability has played a major role in recent elections.

So if Obama endorsers have been impressed with his campaign, have McCain's been similarly impressed? If not, how do they square their endorsements with the news of the last few months? An examination, below the fold:

I have not seen all sixty major newspaper endorsements of Obama, but I have read many of them. Up and down the line, they have praised Obama's calm demeanor, masterfully orchestration of events and message, and adept reactions to rapidly changing conditions on the ground. They have been equally disturbed by McCain's lack of similar traits. The Los Angeles Times typifies the reaction of the Obama endorsers:

Indeed, the presidential campaign has rendered McCain nearly unrecognizable. His selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate was, as a short-term political tactic, brilliant. It was also irresponsible, as Palin is the most unqualified vice presidential nominee of a major party in living memory. The decision calls into question just what kind of thinking -- if that's the appropriate word -- would drive the White House in a McCain presidency.

::: :::

But he has been disturbingly unfocused in his response to the current financial situation, rushing to "suspend" his campaign and take action (although just what action never became clear). Having little to contribute, he instead chose to exploit the crisis.

If we are to have a presidential campaign every four years; something that dominates the airwaves and many Americans' attention for months; a marathon that summons volunteers to hundreds of thousands of hours of walking, stuffing and dialing; then isn't it reasonable to expect that the campaign has some meaning -- some impact on the outcome? The Time Picayune (New Orleans) elegantly makes the case for the importance of such an all-encompassing event:

Running a campaign is similar to running an administration. It requires that the leader set the tone; that he manage a complex organization; that he chart a nimble course in the face of changing circumstances; that he choose subordinates judiciously; that he exercise good judgment under pressure. An effective campaign is the prelude to a well-run office.

So what about those nineteen major newspaper endorsements of McCain? How do they address the McCain campaign? Do they argue that the McCain campaign was well run (the non-apologetic approach)? Of do they acknowledge that the campaign was botched, but ask us to set that aside and vote for McCain based on his record, his reputation, and/or Obama's faults (the apologetic approach)? Or, could they possibly have the audacity to write an endorsement of McCain without a single reference, either positive or negative, to the campaign since the primaries (the deniers)?

The answer is yes, yes, and yes. We can find examples of all three approaches among the nineteen. The final score:

  • Non-apologists: 6
  • Apologists: 4
  • Deniers: 9

You read that right. By far, the preferred approach is to write an editorial advocating the election of John S. McCain without so much as a single reference to anything that has happened since the primaries. These nine deniers do not contain the name Palin nor the slightest allusion to the governor of Alaska. It is as if neither the VP nomination nor the campaign ever happened, and that we should vote for McCain based on other factors.

These nine newspapers should, in my opinion, be so ashamed of themselves that they should slink away with their black and white tails between their legs and never again put ink to paper.

If I were Senator McCain, you would know their names and I would make them famous. However, it will have to suffice to list these losers in this diary. Here are, in no particular order, the nine papers that endorsed McCain without a single reference to the conduct of the campaign or the VP selection. Ladies and gentlemen, the Crickets Chirping list:

Not that the remaining ten are all that much better. Between the apologists and the non-apologists, I can respect the non-apologists more. At least they recognize that there was a campaign, and, in a way that I will never understand, none the less agree with, they found something in the McCain campaign that made them want us to vote for him.

What follows is the excerpted text from each of the apologist and non-apologist endorsements that refers to either:

  • Selection of Gov. Palin as VP nominee, or
  • Conduct of the McCain campaign beginning with the Republican convention.

I emphasize that this is not what I have selected to present, but instead is every single word referring to the above subject. Don't worry, it won't take long to read it.

First the non-apologists:

The New York Post applauds the mavericky Palin pick:

He <McCain> knows where the levers of power are located - and how to manipulate them - but he is not controlled by them.

McCain's selection of the charming, but rock-solid, outsider Sarah Palin as his running mate underscores the point.

Neither plays well with others.

::: :::

And, when Russia invaded the former Soviet republic of Georgia, threatening a return to the Cold War, McCain reacted with stern disapprobation: "We must remind Russia's leaders that the benefits they enjoy from being part of the civilized world require their respect for the values, stability and peace of that world."

As does the Richmond Times:

The addition of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to the ticket has been a mixed blessing. She has electrified the Republican base and demonstrated an exceptional talent for retail politics. She boasts a strong record so far as governor. But it is a short record. At times, Palin's limited experience has shown, raising questions about her mastery of some complex issues. Her treatment by the press has been deplorable. But that does not mean all of the doubts about her readiness are misplaced. Still, we suspect she has a bright future in national politics, particularly after she has broadened her experience, perhaps as vice president. She seems to be a quick study.

Democrat Joe Biden has made himself into a laughingstock.

A laughingstock? Well, I warned you that some of these were a stretch.

The Birmingham News takes the noble They're just as bad as us approach, then manages to find one obscure thing from the convention that they approve of:

It is a shame the fringe groups and the campaigns themselves are so much less worthy than the candidates they support. Because both presidential candidates have captivating, uplifting stories that, corny as it may sound, embody the American dream.

::: :::

McCain in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, in one of the few lines that failed to win applause, promised to bring "independents and Democrats into my administration."

The Examiner (Washington, DC) chimes in on Palin, too:

Ever the maverick, McCain selected Palin because her record mirrors his own in courageously standing up to corrupt special interests regardless of party and cutting government waste. She has the instincts, temperament and backbone to help restore the Republican Party to its conservative principles and the country as a whole to those foundational ideals of individual freedom, equal justice and government that truly is of law, not of men.

Disclaimer: As a long-time resident of the DC area, I have to note that although The Examiner made the major list with circulation a hair's width over 100,000, it is a free paper that is distributed in the suburbs so the number is deceiving. It was formed a few years ago out of three local suburban papers. Despite numerous requests to stop, I continue to be one of its 100,073 subscribers. If anyone from The Examiner is reading this, please stop throwing this in my driveway, or at least make the plastic bags strong enough to make it useful for picking up dog waste.

The The Boston Herald likes McCain's reactions to the Georgia invasion, and highlights a debate answer:

These are also times that demand experienced leadership in foreign affairs. When Russian troops invaded the sovereign democratic nation of Georgia, it took Obama three full days to figure it all out. Not so McCain, who immediately pinned the aggressor label on Russia.

And during Friday’s debate McCain spoofed Obama’s plan to have face to face talks with some of the world’s tyrants, including Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, forcing us all to imagine the scenario:

So let me get this right," McCain said. "We sit down with Ahmadinejad and he says, ‘We’re going to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth,’ and we say, ‘No, you’re not?’ Oh, please!"

And finally, the Cincinnati Enquirer was singularly impressed with McCain's reaction to the financial crisis and amazingly thinks he handled the race issue honorably:

McCain took heat for suspending his campaign last month during the financial meltdown, but his high-stakes gambit helped focus the public's attention on the crisis - and Congress' handling of it. He called for a solution to address the housing market and help homeowners with their mortgages, which the Fed this past week finally started to do.

::: :::

While the campaign has focused mainly on the issues, it has brought Americans some ugly rhetoric from the extremes on both sides. Both candidates have ably risen above it. McCain has consistently rebuked those who would insinuate racial prejudice into the equation.

And now, on to the apologists...

San Antonio Express-News

John McCain is not a perfect candidate.

But then again, who is perfect?

The Press-Enterprise (Riverside, CA):

Candidate McCain is more negative, more opportunistic, more politically desperate than the man who has spent a lifetime in service to his country. In recent months he has not demonstrated a lot of leadership, given what we've seen from his campaign strategy. And at a moment of financial crisis that requires clear economic thinking, McCain seems to adjust his policy based on the morning headlines.

Nor did his eye-rolling at last week's debate recommend his temperament.

The Grand Rapids Press

Mr. McCain has drawbacks of his own. The John McCain of this campaign has not always been recognizable as the John McCain who established such a pragmatic, admirable record in Washington. We would look for the old McCain -- we hope, the real McCain -- to return if he is elected. His choice of running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, an accomplished governor, brought a new personality to the political stage. However, her readiness to assume the office of president is in doubt.

Knoxville News Sentinel

McCain stumbled in his first major leadership decision, going with a Quayle-like, opportunistic vice presidential pick, and it has hurt him.

This happens to be the same editorial that stated:

Sarah Palin and Joe Biden are true and accomplished Americans deserving of respect.

Written by committee?

That's it -- everything written by these nineteen papers about the McCain campaign.

Sure, you can make the case that some of these papers had little choice but to endorse McCain by virtue of their Republic leanings, their pro-life readership, or their deep-red-state status. But, whether they are deniers, apologists, or non-apologists, they have a common theme: The campaign is irrelevant. If these papers had their way, apparently the general election should immediately follow the party nominations.

If the campaign doesn't matter, why campaign?

Originally posted to partylike1899 on Wed Oct 29, 2008 at 08:33 PM PDT.

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