Adam Nagourney of the New York Times laments the fact that John McCain just isn’t the same free-wheeling, fun-loving guy on the campaign trail with reporters and looser on the stump. Perhaps he should do an archive search at his own newspaper to figure out why. No sooner did McCain win the primaries than the Gray Lady began smearing McCain, and did so repeatedly.
First, Nagourney’s cri de coeur:
Senator John McCain’s campaign events were once free-wheeling journeys marked by flashes of humor, candor and arch observations from the candidate about presidential politics — and John McCain. Oh, and moments that left no doubt that Mr. McCain was not working from any script.
“Thanks for the question, you little jerk,” Mr. McCain said to a New Hampshire high school student who inquired about his age last year, raising his eyebrows as he chortled at his own joke. “You’re drafted.”
Not these days. As Mr. McCain worked his way through Florida and Ohio as the Republican Party’s nominee for president this week, he was a candidate transformed. …
Mr. McCain’s once easy-going if irreverent campaign presence — endearing to crowds, though often the kind of undisciplined excursions that landed him in the gaffe doghouse — has been put out to pasture. He takes far fewer chances, meaning there are fewer risqué jokes, zingers at a familiar face in the crowd, provocative observations on policy or politics, or exercises in self-derogatory humor. By every appearance, this Mr. McCain is, or at least is struggling to be, disciplined and on message in a way befitting of American politics today, if not quite befitting of the McCain of yesterday.
Let’s take a stroll down Smear Memory Lane, shall we?
- February 21: The Times publishes a story that accuses him of having an affair with a lobbyist — or at least wanting to have an affair with her — based on the word of two disgruntled former staffers, who tell a ridiculous story about confronting McCain without any of his senior advisers ever knowing about it. (I wrote extensively about this at Captain’s Quarters.)
- March 7: Elisabeth Bumiller writes a story about McCain exploding in anger over a question she asked; video later shows she lied.
- March 10: The Times has Dr. Lawrence Altman issue a prognosis on McCain’s skin cancer with the handicap of never having been in his presence. They also criticize him for not releasing his medical records, despite the fact that he did in 1999, and that no other candidate had, either. In fact, Barack Obama still has not released his medical records.
- April 10: Continuing in its tradition of fortunetelling in its news sections, the Times tells its readers that McCain may come under the influence of dreaded neocons. Its source? Another person who doesn’t talk with McCain.
- May 4: The editorial board scolds McCain for not releasing his medical records — even though they note that he planned to do so on May 23rd. To date, they still have not once demanded that Barack Obama release his medical records, nor Joe Biden.
- May 21: After the editorial, the McCain campaign refused to invite a reporter from the Times to the press conference in which McCain would release his records. The Times tell the campaign that they will write a negative story about the records unless they get their invite. I publish the story and ask for a response; the Times refuses to comment.
- May 22, 24: The hit piece comes out, and it’s a weak complaint about the release of the records being “tightly controlled.” In 1999, though, McCain had fewer media outlets and earned the praise of the Times for his openness.
- July 30: The paper that ran the “General Betray-Us” ad scolds McCain for his negative campaigning, failing to mention that Obama actually started running negative ads first.
Believe me, this is not a comprehensive list. If Nagourney wanted to spend a few more minutes and report on the treatment McCain has received from his paper and the media in general honestly, he could come up with enough fodder for ten blog posts or more. With a track record like this, small wonder McCain doesn’t cozy up to reporters — and the Times of all outlets should be the last to whine about it.