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The Press: No Longer John McCain’s Base

Early yesterday, Jonathan Martin filed a report on the McCain campaign's growing frustration with what they feel are double standards in the way the media are covering John McCain versus the way they're covering Barack Obama. Is there a precise … Read More

By / June 9, 2008

Early yesterday, Jonathan Martin filed a report on the McCain campaign's growing frustration with what they feel are double standards in the way the media are covering John McCain versus the way they're covering Barack Obama. Is there a precise antonym of 'serendipity'? Because something tells me there won't be too many more Sedona cookouts for the "base" if articles like this Mail on Sunday piece — complete with Shymalanian Ross Perot cameo! — migrate across the pond and proliferate :

When Carol was discharged from hospital after six months of life-saving surgery, the prognosis was bleak. In order to save her legs, surgeons had been forced to cut away huge sections of shattered bone, taking with it her tall, willowy figure. She was confined to a wheelchair and was forced to use a catheter.

Through sheer hard work, Carol learned to walk again. But when John McCain came home from Vietnam, she had gained a lot of weight and bore little resemblance to her old self.

Today, she stands at just 5ft4in and still walks awkwardly, with a pronounced limp. Her body is held together by screws and metal plates and, at 70, her face is worn by wrinkles that speak of decades of silent suffering…

'My marriage ended because John McCain didn’t want to be 40, he wanted to be 25. You know that happens…it just does' [Carol McCain said].

Some of McCain’s acquaintances are less forgiving, however. They portray the politician as a self-centred womaniser who effectively abandoned his crippled wife to 'play the field'. They accuse him of finally settling on Cindy, a former rodeo beauty queen, for financial reasons.

McCain was then earning little more than £25,000 a year as a naval officer, while his new father-in-law, Jim Hensley, was a multi-millionaire who had impeccable political connections.

It gets more unflattering from there. For the record, I'm not endorsing this; dumpster-diving is a poor substitute for journalism. The point, though, is that angrily lashing out at the press, as the Martin piece suggests is the McCain camp's strategy, is just going to lead to a negative feedback cycle in which only McCain stands to lose. You'd think their savvy new communications expert, Michael Goldfarb, would know that. If the McCainiacs don't want to face a spiral of hostility, leading questions, and sensationalism from the media, the solution is fairly straightforward: They can work with the Obama campaign to apply bipartisan pressure to keep coverage clean and focused on issues (good on both sides for shutting ABC out of future debates, by the way; the way to deter future McCarthyite spectacles like the Philadelphia debate is to punish the parties responsible).

Alternatively, they can try to overcome deplorable, barely-sourced snooping into McCain's private life, by paying Michael Goldfarb $X more than he's worth (where X = his total salary) to win over hardline militarists who supported Hillary Clinton by regaling them with tales of McCain's fondness for ABBA. Whatever works.

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