Saturday, February 2, 2008

McCain lovefest

Last night during the end of the day wrap-up, I mentioned that Joe Conason asked what is a fair question: "Will the press get over its love for McCain?"

St. John, poised to sprint from Super Tuesday with a cache of delegates that ultimately could crown him as the GOP presidential nominee, has Der Arnold, Rudy, Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and a cast of Big Media stars fawning over the B.S. Talking Express. It's enough to jolt a hallucinogenic flashback of the 2000 mainstream press lovefest of a smirking gaffe-ridden Texas grifter governor.

How surreal it was that media pushed Bushie as the bubba with whom so many wanted to have a beer. Today, the preznut provokes a gag response from the national hangover he's given us from one too many WH rodeos -- the Iraq invasion, its continuing violence, his Katrina siesta during our nation's worst natural disaster, and a dizzying, spinning bronco that tossed us into the deficit abyss. Now here's comes "maverick" McCain who would keep the U.S. in Baghdad until our great-great grandchildren grow as old as he. And the crowd roars:

...there's a bizarre disconnect in the warm embrace between McCain and the electorate's mavericks. They hate the Iraq war, while he's willing to fight it for another century. The most pro-war presidential candidate in a decade is winning the 2008 GOP nomination thanks to the antiwar vote.

[Keep reading... more after the jump.]
A full 66% of independents think that the U.S. should completely withdraw from Iraq no later than 12 months from now, according to a Jan. 18-22 L.A. Times/Bloomberg poll. McCain, meanwhile, said last month that the U.S. might stay in Baghdad for another 100 years. He continually expresses bafflement at the idea that that might not be such a good thing. "It's not the point! It's not the point!" he snarled at reporters recently. "How long are we going to be in Korea?"

And yet he dominated the antiwar vote in New Hampshire, with 44% to Romney's 19%, according to CNN exit polls. Ron Paul, the only actual antiwar Republican running, drew just 16% of voters who said they were against the war. The three finished in the same order among antiwar voters in Michigan, even though Romney won the state overall.

The same pattern holds true in the case of voters who despise George W. Bush. In Florida, for example, McCain clobbered Romney 48% to 18% among those who described themselves as "angry" at the president, according to MSNBC exit polls.

So the voters most hostile to the war are backing a potential commander in chief who makes Bush look gun-shy. More than three years before the Bush administration elucidated the radical doctrine of preemptive war, McCain unveiled a plan during his first run at the presidency called "rogue-state rollback," in which "we politically and materially support indigenous forces within and outside of rogue states" -- including Iraq, North Korea and Serbia -- "to overthrow regimes that threaten our interests and values." And if the "odious regimes" crack down on freedom fighters, the U.S. should respond with force. In that campaign, McCain was the neocons' choice against the more internationally "humble" George Bush.
What's wrong with these McCainiacs? Why have they gone gaga over a dedicated war hawk? Maybe these voters aren't against the Iraq War as much as they begrudge Bush for having started something he cannot finish -- miffed that the Incompetent-in-Chief has conducted Operation FUBAR. I also wonder how many of these antiwar independents are disgruntled Repubs who, in their disgust of Bush's mismanagement of Iraq and record-breaking deficits, disavowed their GOP affiliation in anger.

St. John, however, has staked his claim on the need to win in Iraq. In April 2007, he said, "I believe we can succeed," and "that failure in Iraq would be 'catastrophic.'"

Campaigning in Florida up to the 2008 primary, McCain attacked Romney by saying, "If we surrender and wave a white flag, like Senator Clinton wants to do, and withdraw, as Governor Romney wanted to do, then there will be chaos, genocide, and the cost of American blood and treasure would be dramatically higher." His accusation that Romney had "once supported a U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq" provoked Mitt to demand an apology. McCain responded invoking the specter of disloyalty to the troops:
...McCain lashed out at his rival, saying: "The apology is owed to the young men and women serving this nation in uniform, that we will not let them down in hard times or good. That is who the apology is owed to."

..."I've been criticizing [Mitt] for months." He added that it makes sense to highlight them in Florida, noting: "I'm in a state that has enormous military involvement. I'm trying to convince them that I'm best qualified to be commander in chief."

McCain's support for the surge of troops in Iraq nearly doomed his campaign early last year, but his decision to stand by it helped revive his White House bid when fortunes in Iraq improved. The leading GOP candidates have all sought to emphasize their support for the Iraq war as polls show that a large majority of Republicans support it.

McCain's emphasis on Iraq also returns the focus of the campaign to foreign policy and the military, issues that the longtime senator and military hero believe play into his strengths....
Notice that plug for the "improvements" in Iraq despite the fact that political reconciliation remains illusory and volatile. Makes you wonder what planet these reporters inhabit. The GOP-faithful establishment media have deemed the Surge™ a success, and in doing so, manipulate the hopes of rubes who cheer U.S. hegemony throughout the globe. Maybe, just maybe, if America pours more blood and treasure into Bush's foreign misadventure, they imagine the U.S. can banish defeat and shout hoo-ray with St. John riding to the rescue. "By golly," we could win!

At best, it's a deluded proposition induced by a potion brewed by media sorcery, fueled by McCain campaign rhetoric, stoked by a compulsion to win and to be right -- void of the moral consequences of the high price for an enduring occupation. At worst, it's another scam preying on the primitive appetites of human nature perpetrated by corporatists who rake in billions from war hyped by the Noise Machine.

Which brings me back to more questions that Conason originally posed about the media's lovefest for Mccain:
Given the unabashed affection that so many in the mainstream media display toward McCain, will he be covered fairly and without favoritism? Will he be subjected to the same sarcasm, gossip and investigative zeal so routinely applied to, for example, his potential Democratic rival Hillary Clinton? Will McCain's panders, flip-flops, gaffes and fumbles receive the kind of attention that embarrasses other politicians? Or will he remain exempt from the unsentimental scrutiny that is supposedly the standard of our political journalism?

Hey, almost everybody seems to know the answers already! But for a few minutes let's pretend we don't.

The problem that now confronts the journalists who have lavished so much love on McCain is whether to let America in on a sad secret about the straight-talking maverick, which is that he has transformed himself into a fairly typical politician. After years of tending the McCain mythos, its builders must either continue to maintain it or tear it down.

Like most appealing political myths, his includes more than a little truth. He's still that salty, wisecracking, accessible, irrepressible pol, surely among the most likable characters in Washington (as long as you don't get on his bad side). For better or worse he still says what's on his mind, unedited (at least sometimes).

But McCain's performance in the California debate proved again that he has abandoned the principled positions admired by so many independents and even Democrats, though not always by Republicans and conservatives. Where was the straight talker when Janet Hook of the Los Angeles Times asked whether he would vote for his own McCain-Kennedy immigration reform bill if it came to the Senate floor tomorrow? That guy would not have avoided the question, as McCain did, peevishly retorting that the cursed bill will never come up for a vote. But then that guy left the building many, many months ago.

McCain used the same evasive tactic when Hook asked him about the Bush tax cuts, which he opposed on principle in 2001 and which he currently seems to support retroactively. She pointed out that he originally criticized those cuts as biased toward the superrich, an argument we would expect to hear from a Republican rebel bucking the party establishment and the big boys. But now he meekly claims that he worried about offsetting that fat-cat feast by taking enough away from everybody else in budget cuts. He changed the subject to his political youth as a "foot soldier" in the "Reagan revolution" two decades earlier.

Those little episodes got scant attention in coverage of the debate, while most stories focused on the silly semantic spat between McCain and Mitt Romney over the Iraq escalation. "'Timetables' was the buzzword," McCain kept muttering, perhaps incomprehensibly to most viewers. But as the former maverick keeps shedding the moderate positions that dismay the Republican base, he is hollowing out the persona that launched a thousand adoring profiles. He dropped his opposition to the religious right years ago, and has since walked away from the campaign finance reform crusade that once defined him.
Go read the rest of Joe Conason's article (sub. req.) with a Salon site-pass to get the nitty-gritty on McCain's "soft-money operation" -- the Reform Institute -- and its hidden financing from "insurance giants like AIG," "the executives of Cablevision," and Echostar. Another Reform Institute name pops up, Rick Davis, lobbyist pal and the campaign manager of K Street McCain. Where's the media lens scrutinizing St. John's money ties and his flip-flop on campaign finance purity? If Clinton was the name in this story, I daresay the coverage would be non-stop scandal mongering.

Recently we've heard squawking from Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter about the likelihood of a McCain nomination. Do you honestly think Coulter will vote for Hillary over McCain, that is, if she can vote? Oh, the dramatic hissy fits these blowhards throw at the prospect of a Democratic president. Don't believe these twisted passion plays. Conservatives have devised a contingency plan to "use their time out of power to grow their movement and one of the main ways they do this is by obstructing anything positive the Democrats want to do."

To that end, I wouldn't bet the farm on our mainstream press corp giving even a wildly popular Democratic nominee carte blanche. They will sensationalize every flaw and every stumble, and I'm willing to predict they'll give McCain the edge glorifying his heroic stand, ignoring his unkept baggage. Voters be damned. It's a propaganda war to tilt the election in favor of the ├╝ber-hawk McCain, the potential CinC of a 100-year war.

Ask what motive do our M$M shills have in fronting McCain as a favorite son and promoting him as The One who can deliver victory in Iraq? War makes a lot of money for TPTB and millionaire media stars will slavishly follow their corporate masters lead. After Super Tuesday and as we near Election Day, I fully expect media big guns to start booming a "defeatist" barrage against the Democratic candidate, whether that's Obama or Clinton, both of whom have promised to withdraw troops from Iraq. I've previously forewarned:
You can count on our fetid press corps to "swift-boat" the nominated Democratic WH contender as they did in 2004. Using a tested strategy, when they're not yapping at shadows, media lapdogs will idly sit, giving air time to dubious claims without challenging the GOP surrogate or politician smearing the Democratic candidate.
The old broadcast journalism saying, "If it bleeds, it leads," suits a perpetual bloody war. Perhaps propelling a war hawk like McCain into the Oval Office is in the corporate media's best interests. But it certainly isn't ours.

While I agree the winds of fortune favor electing a Democratic president this year, don't count out our media's infatuation with McCain. Clearly, "antiwar" independents have fallen for the spin.