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Mccain, Hillary, And The Media

My assumption is that McCain and his team are being shameless whiners about the media being more in love with Obama than with them in part because they're thinking it will help them with their base. (By God, if The New York Times hates him, he must be a good guy!) 

But since the media still play a key role in shaping the campaign narrative, presumably Team McCain would like to shame journalists into retooling their coverage and is thinking: Why not? It worked for Hillary! (How much do you want to bet someone in the McCain camp is charged with Blackberrying "SNL" every single day with suggestions for media-lips-stuck-to-Obama-rump themed skits?) 

But there seem to be a couple of differences here that could prove problematic for McCain: 

For starters, the media's abashed, late-in-the-game stab at rebalancing their coverage in the Hillary-Obama battle didn't result in any nicer press for Hillary. It simply prompted journalists to more closely scrutinize Obama and spotlight anything that smacked of a controversy, gaffe, or inconsistency. These days, however, Obama's every word and deed are already being deconstructed--far more so than McCain's. So surely Team McCain isn't suggesting that their guy is receiving harsher coverage. As for the (valid) complaint that Obama is the bigger media--not to mention cultural--phenom, I'm not sure what McCain expects media types to do about that: It was one thing for Hillary to gig journalists into paying more attention to the emerging rock star in this race. It seems unlikely McCain will shame the media into paying less attention to that now-even-bigger star. 

 Of course, what McCain wants isn't for reporters to ignore the competiton so much as to pay a little more attention to him too. As my husband points out, this is a dangerous desire for a candidate whose lips increasingly move faster than his brain. What's more, I'm not sure the best way for McCain to win more lovin' from journalists is to publicly mock, abuse, and insult them. Which brings me to the second difference:

Many in the media really did hate Hillary--or at least had serious "issues" with her. For a variety of reasons, journalists' relationship/obsession with all things Clinton has long been fraught. Add to that the obvious sexism and anti-Hillaryism of certain high-profile commentators, and there was enough evidence of bias to make most journalists feel at lest a teensy bit guilty. By contrast, journalists have always loved McCain. (Hey, he's the one who calls us his base.) And, at least within the national press corps, everyone is well aware that the Fourth Estate has cut McCain massive slack over the years because we find him so darn fun and charming. (Those "gooks" remarks from 2000? Ah, good times!) So, for McCain to cry victim now seems obnoxious--not to mention potentially counterprodutive. And while journalists tend to be a pathetic navel-gazing lot prone to self-flagellation, we will, on occasion, bite back if we think we've been kicked unfairly for too long. 

So feel free to keep kicking those mangy media curs if it makes you feel better, Senator. But if you wind up losing a toe, don't say I didn't warn you. 

--Michelle Cottle