Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Responsible Journalism

Arianna Huffington says that John McCain told her that neither he nor his wife voted for George W. Bush in 2000.

The fact that this man was so angry at what George Bush had done to him, and at what Bush represented for their party, that he did not even vote for him in 2000 shows just how far he has fallen since then in his hunger for the presidency. By abandoning his core principles and embracing Bush — both literally and metaphorically — he has morphed into an older and crankier version of the man he couldn’t stomach voting for in 2000.

McCain’s fall has been Shakespearean — and really hard to watch for those, like myself, who so admired and even loved him. His nobility and his true reformer years have given way to pandering in the service of ambition.

But a large portion of the electorate hasn’t noticed the Shakespearean fall. How else to explain The 28/48 Disconnect — wherein only a die-hard 28 percent of voters still approve of Bush, but 48 percent say they’d vote for McCain, who is running on the “more of the same” platform?

The thing is, these voters clearly still think of McCain as the maverick of 2000, a straight shooter who would never seek the embrace of a man he couldn’t bring himself to vote for, nor accept the regular counsel of Karl Rove, the man behind the vile, race-baiting attacks on him during the 2000 campaign.

And the main reason for The 28/48 Disconnect is the mainstream media’s ongoing membership in the John McCain Protection Society. They too continue to party — and report on McCain — like it’s 1999.

It’s not just the McCain campaign that’s getting a pass, it’s just about every campaign. Case in point: the gas tax holiday schemes trumpeted by McCain and Hillary Clinton. [Two different plans/same shit.] It’s a non-starter with the Congress and it’s an obvious pander to try to get the voters in North Carolina and Indiana to think that saving eighteen cents a gallon for three months is going to make dent in the fuel prices. (The last time it was tried here in Florida, a lot of gas stations raised their prices to cover the difference.) And yet the press covers this story as if it’s actually a viable option instead of exposing it as a steaming pile of bullshit. Even the voters know it. So why isn’t the press reporting it as such?

The obvious reason is that they know that if they do, they’ll piss off the campaigns; they’ll get bounced off the press bus or not get that “exclusive” interview with the candidate. Their inside contact with the campaign will stop taking their calls, and the reporter might not get to sit at the Cool Kids table. They might actually have to do some real reporting instead of relying on a talking point that is fed to them by the campaign aide who buys them a drink while they’re sitting in the lounge at the Marriott in that last town where the campaign holed up for the night before the next rally.

It’s also obvious that the press is far more interested in covering the trivial rather than the substantive. Whether it’s Barack Obama’s preacher, Hillary’s tears, McCain’s temper, or the next stupid pet trick that comes up between now and November, the press would much rather write about that then sift through the data that proves that not only has No Child Left Behind been a failure, it’s actually made public education worse because the state and local school boards have to scrape together the funds to pay for it, and they don’t have the money. How boring. But wait! Hillary Clinton can’t make a coffee machine work at the 7-11! Stop the presses!

All the while, John McCain cruises along on his cross-country Contradiction Express, saying one thing, rephrasing it a moment later to make it sound like he really meant to say something else (and changing it yet again), and then gets upset when the DNC runs an ad of him saying we’ll be in Iraq for a hundred years. The nerve of them actually quoting him. And the press is lapping it up like maple syrup.

The John McCain the media fell in love with in 2000 isn’t on the ballot in 2008. And the proof has all but jumped up and grabbed the media by the throat: the ring-kiss of “agents of intolerance” Falwell and Robertson; the decision to make permanent tax cuts he twice voted against, saying he could not “in good conscience support” them; the campaign finance reformer replaced with a candidate whose campaign is run by lobbyists and fueled by loophole rides on his wife’s jet; the hard-line stance against torture replaced by a vote allowing waterboarding; the guarded-by-a-battalion stroll through the “safe” neighborhoods of Baghdad; the use of Karl Rove as an advisor… and the embracing of the disastrous policies of a man he so abhorred he would not vote for him.

What will it take for the Swift Boat Media to realize that John McCain jumped the shark a long, long time ago?

I don’t hold out much hope. The conventional wisdom is that by the time we get to the general election campaign, voters will want to know more about the candidates’ stands on things that really matter such as the economy, health care, education, the war, and not care about preachers and flag pins. Don’t bet on it, and don’t bet on the press do to anything to change it. Given the choice of style over substance, substance loses every time. They know a good diversion means good ratings, and they really don’t care if the country goes down the tubes as long as they’re around to cover it.