Suddenly the air is filled with whining. The New York Times ombudsman whines that the New York Times wrongly set up John McCain as a man untrue to his wife (a charge that, to judge from her dour countenance at the press conference, may have been regarded as plausible by McCain’s wife, Cindy). The Clinton campaign whines that the press is being partial to Obama. The New Republic takes 5,160 words on this theme from Sean Wilentz, who chews on the matter with such fury that one must surmise that the Clinton campaign had promised to make him Librarian of Congress, or some kindred dignity. Less whiningly, since it’s winning, the Obama campaign spluttered about the Clinton campaign circulating a photo of him in a turban and what looks to me like a nurse’s white uniform, though apparently it’s Somali ceremonial rig.
And the Republicans? They don’t whine. They scream. They scream so loudly the Times backs into its own story. They plant stories and the press tugs its forelock. Take the Associated Press. On February 24 the news agency runs a story by Nedra Pickler under the headline Conservatives Say Obama Lacks Patriotism. Pickler’s fourth sentence cites, as her story’s lead source, Roger Stone, chastely described as a “Republican consultant.”
This is the same Roger Stone who appeared with Tucker Carlson on MSNBC a few days earlier to promote an anti-Clinton 527 group, Citizens United Not Timid, or CUNT. “The more people go to the site,” Stone had smirked to The Weekly Standard in January, “the more people buy the T-shirts…. The more people wear the T-shirts, the more people are educated. Consequently, our mission has been achieved.” Shouldn’t Pickler have thought that Stone–maybe best remembered for his swinger ad with his wife, which lost him his job with the Dole campaign in 1996–was a mite too tacky as a lead source, to be dispensing objective political analysis?
And if she really wanted him as her lead source, shouldn’t Pickler have told her AP customers that Stone is a dirty trickster with a pedigree going back to the very dawn of time, which began, at least in Stone’s calendar, not with the acronym of his present 527 but with Nixon’s CREEP?
The press has slobbered over McCain the phony “maverick” for years. As the Phoenix-based reporter Amy Silverman once put it, “As long as he’s the noble outsider, McCain can get away with anything it seems–the Keating Five, a drug stealing wife, nasty jokes about Chelsea Clinton–and the pundits will gurgle and coo.”
Even when his hand was actually caught in the cookie jar with the recent exposé of his association with Ms. Iseman, lobbyist for Paxson Communications, the outcome was somehow not conclusive demolition of his claims to be a foe of lobbyists and their baneful reach in Washington but that he has been vindicated, and the Times shamed.
In fact, as it has progressed, with the Washington Post and Newsweek playing catch-up on the Times, the Iseman scandal discloses him as a liar in his denials that he met with Lowell “Bud” Paxson, the media executive for whom Iseman was working.
Paxson now rewards McCain by flatly contradicting to the Washington Post statements from McCain’s presidential campaign that the senator did not meet with Paxson or his lobbyist before sending two letters to the Federal Communications Commission on Paxson’s behalf. McCain claims that the letters merely urged the FCC to hurry up and issue a decision. So, you’re the chairman of the FCC and you get a kick in the ass from the head of the powerful Senate committee that runs your budget, and you don’t figure out how you’re meant to click your heels? The FCC did click its heels.
The Obama campaign can look forward to a long summer of racist stories already being peddled by the right, about the candidate’s mother, the commie slut and lover of non-Caucasians; the candidate’s wife, already being portrayed as several hundred miles to the left of Malcolm X. True to the model of Willie Horton, first used against Michael Dukakis by Al Gore in the New York primary in 1988, then rehabbed with deadly effect by Bush Sr. against Dukakis in the fall, the Republicans have delightedly seized the turban photo given Drudge by someone in the Clinton campaign, Maggie Williams’s fingerprints carefully dusted off the e-mail and the JPEG.
Let’s hope we have less whining from the Democrats and more retaliatory dirt. Obama’s family? What about McCain’s first wife, Carol, a plucky woman who kept the home fires burning all those years, raising the kids alone while John was in the Hanoi Hilton? She was very seriously injured in an auto accident, then dumped in 1980 by the war hero, shortly after he had started an affair with the 25-year-old Arizona beer heiress and then used her money to start his political career. McCain’s defenders say he had separated from Carol by the time he took up with Cindy. A detailed story by Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times in 2000 demolished this. A senior Republican lobbyist told me only the other day that there are people on the Hill who still won’t forgive McCain for his treatment of Carol.
Obama’s opponents, starting with Hillary’s former campaign co-chair in New Hampshire, make an issue of his experiences with drugs when he was a teenager–described in his book. We can expect plenty more on that from Republicans. What about Cindy feeding her drug habit by stealing from the pharmacy of a charity she was running? We want this woman as First Lady? And why was she on painkillers? There are plenty of stories about McCain’s ungovernable rages. How about some Swiftboating of the “war hero”? How much of a war hero is he? Just how steadfast was he as a prisoner of war? Did he really defy the “gooks,” as he insists on calling his captors to this day?
Obama can take the rhetorical high road, but he should have some mean stokers in the boiler room.