I need to follow-up on Ed’s post, partly because the demand among righties for news that embarrasses Maverick is inexhaustible, partly because people who are snickering about this are snickering for the wrong reason, and partly because I’m irritated that even a dumb counter-troll to Putin’s op-ed in the Times can’t be carried off correctly by American leaders these days. McCain’s being goofed on because the “Pravda” website to which he submitted his anti-Putin op-ed actually isn’t affiliated with the newspaper he obviously had in mind when he told Jake Tapper that he’d “love a commentary in Pravda.” He was thinking, surely, of the “Pravda” that every American of a certain age knows and loathes as a mouthpiece for Russian communists. That Pravda still exists, sort of, but it has nothing to do with the website. He baited the wrong “Pravda”!
Hold on, says Team McCain. They do know the difference between the website and the paper and they offered his op-ed to both of them:
On Thursday, a spokesman for McCain said the senator submitted the op-ed to both publications and hoped both would run it. He denied Pravda.ru is the “wrong” Pravda.
On Sunday, McCain told reporters that the Communist one was the Pravda he hoped would publish his piece, but that publication’s editor wrote in a statement that the publication would not accept McCain’s op-ed unless it aligned with their position supporting the Syrian regime, according to CNN.
Whether McCain knew all along that there were two “Pravdas” or whether his staff scrambled to contact both only after media people first started laughing at him last week is fun to muse about but beside the point. The question isn’t “Did McCain know which ‘Pravda’ he was dealing with?” The question is, if you’re going to duel with Putin via op-eds aimed at the other side’s population, why would you choose a Russian publication with a reach as small as “Pravda’s”? Watch the BBC segment below making hay of the fact that so few Russians read “Pravda” anymore that you can’t even find it at many newsstands. When Putin wanted to troll Obama, he chose America’s most famous paper to do it. As a longtime U.S. senator and former presidential candidate, McCain could have at least tried to bait a similarly major Russian paper into carrying his anti-Putin column. The best-selling Russian daily, as far as I can tell with some cursory googling, is this one, but if he wanted a name that at least a few Americans had heard of, he could have tried “Izvestia” or “Kommersant.” They might have run it too; another anachronism he’s guilty of, on top of thinking that “Pravda” is the bleeding edge of Russian media, is believing that there’s no outlet at all for critical opinion there. Not true:
In the article, McCain seems to be speaking to the long-gone audience of the original Pravda. After stating he is “more pro-Russian than the regime that misrules you today,” he affirms: “A Russian citizen could not publish a testament like the one I just offered.” The column read as though McCain was unaware of the existence of Russia’s highly vocal liberal press, or indeed of the not-so-subtle difference between Putin’s authoritarian regime and totalitarian Soviet Communism…
If McCain hoped that his article would make a splash in Russia comparable to the one Putin’s article made in the U.S., he must have been disappointed. Pravda.ru’s traffic was no greater than average. The Russian president may be an incorrigible dictator, but his publicists appear to have a better understanding of modern-day America than McCain does of Russia.
Business Insider’s headline is spot on: “John McCain’s Pravda Op-Ed Reveals How Hard Putin Has Trolled Him.” Can’t we, as the world’s superpower, even … troll people effectively anymore? Even on the GOP side? Good lord.