The schadenfreude quotient of this story makes it irresistable.  New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd got stranded by the McCain campaign in Pittsburgh after the campaign revoked her credential for the press section of the campaign airplane in August.  They have not reconsidered their position, which provoked this outrage from Timothy McNulty of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Add Maureen Dowd, the Pulitzer-winning columnist for the NY Times, to the list of media types who have fallen out bitterly with John McCain. The McCain campaign has barred her from flying in the McCain and Palin press planes, even though major media outlets routinely pay thousands to the campaigns every day for travel and expenses (and also begs the question, why didn’t her media colleagues Man Up and get her aboard anyway?)

It all started when Maureen covered an Aug. 30 McCain-Palin rally in Washington, Pa., then wasn’t let on the McCain plane afterward, forcing her to overnight at a Pittsburgh airport hotel while the traveling press went on without her.

McNulty then says that it’s part of a strategy to protect Sarah Palin from “someone as adroit and experienced as Maureen.”  Really?  She wasn’t adroit enough to keep from falling for an urban legend about Palin.  Dowd wasn’t adroit enough to keep from getting caught chopping up quotes to distort their meaning, as she did with President Bush in 2003 — from which bloggers coined the term “dowdify”.

One suspects that the reason her colleagues didn’t “Man Up” was because they didn’t care to defend Dowd’s journalistic excesses.  McNulty provides the perfect example of this in Dowd’s own response to her eviction from Team McCain’s ride:

“It was disappointing because I didn’t think John McCain would ever be as dismissive of the First Amendment as Dick Cheney.”

Does the First Amendment hinge on Maureen Dowd getting a seat on the McCain campaign jet?  Did we enter a time of tyranny because she has to find other travel arrangements?  Maybe Dowd should start reporting on Obama’s Truth Squad in Missouri, where a campaign actually is attempting to intimidate critics into silence through prosecution.  Neither Dowd nor her newspaper seem terribly interested in defending the First Amendment where it counts.

Reporters are not owed a spot on the campaign planes.  Newspapers don’t have a right to that seat.  They can cover the campaigns by purchasing flights on their own if they like.  Maureen Dowd stopped being a reporter when she started writing opinion columns, which makes her a strange choice for the Times under any circumstances, and her column on Palin and dinosaurs should have disqualified her from the McCain beat anyway, if the Times had any editorial sense at all.

Enjoy flying coach, Maureen.  Try reading the First Amendment between stops.