Is the Media Turning on McCain?

September 12, 2008

As has already been discussed at the despot, there has been a lot of grumbling in the liberal blogosphere about the media failing to do a good enough job in calling McCain and Palin out for lying, and, for the most part, it’s been justified. Everyone loves an equivalence, so journalists are always tempted to say: sure, Palin was a bridge supporter, but Obama changed his mind about public financing, so who can judge? The media’s desire to seem even-handed means that as long as neither campaign is utterly without sin – and there is never much risk of that – one side can get away with being much more dishonest than the other without being called on it by the press.

There are signs, though, that the media may have had it with McCain. ABC ran a fact check on some of Palin’s claims in her interview with Gibson, and the results weren’t flattering. Gibson himself was much harder on Palin than he was expected to be.  McCain was worked over pretty thoroughly on the View. The WaPo recaps the Cindy McCain drug story, including accusations that the McCains weren’t entirely honest when they came clean about her problem, and may have been fairly ruthless in trying to cover it up.

It could just be a few bad news days in a row for McCain, but it definitely seems possible that the GOP has taken things far enough that the media feels comfortable calling them on it. Yglesias, however, is still unimpressed:

As I’ve said before, though, the big question isn’t about whether the press writes some good individual stories. The big question is about whether the press creates a narrative. John McCain keeps saying things that aren’t true. So does his running mate. So do his campaign ads. So do his surrogates on television. When does that become a narrative? When do we get stories about how the McCain campaign has been “dogged by questions about its honesty?”

I’m not sure I’m with him here. One major advantage that individual articles have over narratives is that individual articles exist. To say that there has been “a narrative about x” in the media is clearly a flakey way of saying something, but it’s not clear exactly what that something is. I would have thought that a whole lot of stories about x would do the trick, but clearly that’s not what he’s going for. But if the last two sentences in that quote are supposed to be synonymous, that is, if a narrative about x means a few stories about how x keeps happening, then I think we may be in the early stages of a narrative. In the first of those clips from the View, they tell McCain to his face that more than one of his ads has centered around a lie. Or how about this from the AP:

The “Straight Talk Express” has detoured into doublespeak.

Republican presidential nominee John McCain, a self-proclaimed tell-it-like-it-is maverick, keeps saying his running mate, Sarah Palin, killed the federally funded Bridge to Nowhere when, in fact, she pulled her support only after the project became a political embarrassment. He said Friday that Palin never asked for money for lawmakers’ pet projects as Alaska governor, even though she has sought nearly $200 million in earmarks this year. He says Obama would raise nearly everyone’s taxes, when independent groups say 80 percent of families would get tax cuts instead.

Even in a political culture accustomed to truth-stretching, McCain’s skirting of facts has stood out this week. It has infuriated and flustered Obama’s campaign, and campaign pros are watching to see how much voters disregard news reports noting factual holes in the claims.

I don’t know what a narrative is, but if articles like that one keep coming out, the McCain camp is in trouble.

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