Has excessive media fluffing robbed John McCain of his hard edge?
A very interesting and perceptive analysis from TPM Reader DB …
My own attempt at a GUT of McCain’s general lousiness as a stump speaker–in which I attempt to unify the separate fields of flip-flopping, Social Security trashing, and casual jokes about bombing or otherwise killing foreigners–goes as follows: It’s the media’s fault.
Let me explain. As is obvious, the media has been giving McCain a free pass on everything. It always has. The reason is that the media likes McCain. Again, it always has. It likes his status as a former POW. It likes the fact that he provides reporters with unlimited access. It likes the fact that he has always been a very quotable maverick.
So the media has never held McCain accountable for what he says. Gaffes are overlooked, factual misstatements are glossed over, and inconsistencies are forgiven. This has always been true of the way the media has treated McCain.
But what has been the obvious consequence of this? It is simply that McCain has never had to learn the self-discipline that other successful politicians learn and deeply internalize very early in their careers. I know some successful politicians and have worked closely with one of them for many years. These individuals were able to progress in their careers precisely because the careful scrutiny given them by the media taught them never to speak before thinking, always to be right about their facts, and always to consider the long-term consequences of anything they might say in public.
Because the media treated him as an exception to its normal rules, McCain simply never developed these habits of careful thought, analysis, and speech. And now he is paying the price. With the current pervasiveness of video coverage of everything he says, he is blithely creating one Democratic attack ad after another against him. In these ads, he serves as both the director and the star. But behind the scenes there is always the producer. In this case, the producer is the media.
In these past few months, we Democrats have been gnashing our teeth over the things the media has let McCain get away with. As it happens, we Democrats have been torturing ourselves for no reason. For by the very act of constantly applying a double standard to try to help McCain, the media has damaged him beyond repair.
I am willing to bet that, having never had to learn these basic candidate skills, McCain will continue to damage himself in the coming months as he makes one after another self-destructive statement on the record. He will thereby do our work for us.
Perhaps the lesson is this: those whom the media gods wish to destroy, first they fail to hold accountable.