The Press is at Fault for McCain Campaign’s Funk? Absurd.

Polls demonstrate that the American populace, after being told for weeks by the press that the media is too soft on Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama, agrees that the press really is too soft on Obama. But is mere media malfeasance really the major factor in Republican nominee John McCain’s recent woes? That seems a view remarkably divorced from reality: a cheap excuse that for some reason seems to be trumping common sense in this case.

Let’s just look at the major campaign threads from the past few weeks….

In one case, Republicans had just spent weeks declaring that offshore oil rigs were environmentally safe and pretty much invincible: so tough that they had withstood the mighty Katrina hurricane. This was, of course, such a boldfaced lie that even FoxNews couldn’t stomach it for very long.

As it turned out, this was all ultimately a premise for John McCain to rather implausibly blame Obama for high gas prices… all on the back of his skepticism of offshore drilling: something McCain himself had opposed only months ago (and which most economists are skeptical will make much of a difference in our oil woes, not least of all because oil companies already have offshore drillings rights that they aren’t using, all the while lobbying to be handed even more free money in rights there’s no guarantee of them using either).

While trying to push the unlikely theme even further, McCain scheduled a press event in Louisiana to show off the importance and safety of the oil industry. Unfortunately, he had to cancel the event in the face of one of the worst Gulf oil spills in recent memory. The McCain campaign claimed that the cancellation was due to the weather. But the weather on the schedule day of the event was fine. The reality was simply a boondoggle created by reality, not the press, refusing to supply a backdrop that fit his message.

The McCain campaign had also been daring Obama to go abroad and bring the national media to meet with Iraq’s leaders and assess the “real situation on the ground” in Iraq. This week, Obama took him up on the challenge and did just that… for which the McCain campaign, bizarrely, complained about endlessly, all the while offering such exciting alternative press events as golf with President Bush and the consumption of sausages.

Then, right as Obama was about to reach Iraqi soil and learn how things “really” are in Iraq, it turned out that the Iraqi government essentially favored Obama’s policy ideas over McCain’s, and seemingly by a wide margin. The response from McCain and his political allies was a simple denial of reality.

Next, McCain decided to blunt one of his best claims to special insight into Iraq by implausibly declaring that the surge had been responsible for inspiring events that actually happened several months prior to even its announcement. Instead of simply correcting the gaffe, however, McCain started declaring that by “the surge,” he had meant something different than what he and everyone else had always meant by it.

This however, would make his criticism of Obama incoherent, since Obama had not, in fact, opposed the “counterinsurgency tactics” that McCain claimed actually constituted “the surge,” of which the surge was only a part. And then there’s even some question as to whether McCain actually supported those counterinsurgency tactics himself. To top it all off, it turned out that the very sheik that McCain cited as having been protected by the surge was in fact killed right in the midst of the surge.

Finally, McCain’s camp thought they had something when Obama called himself a proud American and “citizen of the world” in his much-hyped Berlin speech. Nearly everyone on the right, from the sensible to the full-of-itosphere, dropped off the proud American, quoted only the “citizen of the world” part, and lambasted Obama for his supposed cosmopolitan fruitiness. Unfortunately, it took only tiny bit of research to discover that virtually every major Republican politician had used the phrase at some point, all without similar character slurs in response.

In short, the past week or two has been one of a nearly endless stream of gaffes (of which the above are the most substantive, but hardly the only ones) and just plain laughable arguments out of the McCain campaign, along with his effort mostly playing catch-up and critic to Obama rather than striking out on their own and making headlines.

If McCain had announced his VP pick to general press disinterest, there would be more of a case. But he’s yet to do much more than appear with the current President for the 800th time and gripe about Obama doing exactly what he himself challenged Obama to do.

It’s true that the press can manipulate perceptions of reality: frame stories to one side’s advantage or another. But at the same time, we’re not dealing with a world of relatavism, where there is no underlying reality beneath the coverage. And sometimes, it’s reality, not spin, that just isn’t going a candidate’s way.

2 Responses to The Press is at Fault for McCain Campaign’s Funk? Absurd.

  1. philwynk says:

    it turned out that the Iraqi government essentially favored Obama’s policy ideas over McCain’s, and seemingly by a wide margin.

    You know, if you say about any war “It’s time to bring the troops home” from the beginning of the war ’till the end, win or lose, then you’re going to be right at the end, regardless of the circumstances. Like a broken clock, you’re going to be absolutely right at just the right moment.

    Obama’s “policy ideas” in this case are a “broken clock” event. He was saying “Withdraw the troops” consistently for years, back when withdrawal meant retreat under fire and abandoning the Iraqi people to the Baathists and al Qaeda. Entirely by luck, Obama at long last stepped off the plane in Iraq on the very weekend when the Iraqi government had finally, after surviving entirely by the hard work of US troops executing the OPPOSITE of Obama’s policy ideas, decided it was safe to ask US troops to start standing down.

    Please understand that those of us who actually care about truth will recite this tirelessly every time you dirty your soul by lying for Obama. You’re going to lose this one.

    Obama had not, in fact, opposed the “counterinsurgency tactics” that McCain claimed actually constituted “the surge,” of which the surge was only a part.

    The length to which Progressives go to bend the truth to their memes impresses me every time I see it; you guys are shameless liars. “Obama had not … opposed the counterinsurgency tactics?” Please. Obama declared the war lost years ago, and did not shift his position until even the anti-war US press could not call it a loss anymore. The time period of this persistent pessimism included the period during which the counterinsurgency tactics were being tried, and Obama’s position during those days was “It’s not going to help, it will just make things worse.” If that particular sentence was not specifically about the counterinsurgency, then Obama is at fault for criticizing a move about which he knew nothing; to the extent it was about it, it was dead wrong. Either way, you’re obviously trying very, very hard to avoid the truth.

    Regarding the oil spills, there were a couple of the commentators who said “We didn’t spill a drop,” and they were clearly wrong. There were others, however, who said “the spills were not significant.” Regarding that, I’d like to hear from some relevant experts regarding how large the Katrina spills were compared to oil spills from drilling in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, and how much damage the Katrina spills caused the ecosystem in the Gulf compared to those. Just showing the picture of the oil slick offshore does not make the point, not to those of us who use logic to assess issues. If their point was “technology has improved to the point that the spills caused no significant ecosystem damage, even after Katrina,” then the statements by Jindal and McCain may have been accurate; you don’t have sufficient facts at hand to judge. I’ll find out the truth soon enough; I already know not to trust you for it.

  2. Bad says:

    First of all, you seem to have missed entirely the nature of my post: a description of the events that happened over the last few weeks, and how they, and not merely by dint of the media, have played against the McCain campaign.

    As for the Iraq situation, you tell a story that no doubt is enough for yourself, but that’s not a particularly good account of things. Malaiki didn’t merely say that by happenstance Obama had things right. He said that Obama was had a better insight into what was going on in Iraq right now and the best way forwards.

    And if your “stopped clock” argument were valid, then it would apply to the surge just as easily: war supporters had been saying that things were improving and stabilizing for years, and that this policy, no this policy, no wait this policy would be a success… and eventually they were right. Indeed, many of the honest supporters of the surge noted that it was a gamble. Given that, it paying off doesn’t necessarily validate anyone in particular: it’s just a good thing period.

    Of course, you again seem quite lost here. I don’t think McCain is wrong to tout the surge as a reason to vote for him over Obama. On the contrary, I think it’s one of his best arguments. This post concerned, if you would actually read it, the problems McCain’s campaign has recently encountered in trying to make that case.

    And yes, Obama has wanted to bring US troops back for quite some time, and it’s legitimate to think that is a bad idea. But as has been stated many times over, that’s in part because his position is that a) US troops being there is itself a serious strain on the Iraqis situation to begin with and b) those troops are needed for other things that are just as, if not more, pressing. It’s perfectly legitimate to disagree with this assessment of things, but not to misrepresent them or pretend that they don’t exist.

    Again: I haven’t “dirtied my soul” by lying for Obama. I’ve laid out the reason why think the reason McCain has been floundering are due to real world events turning against him, not mere media favoritism.

    Countless people who support the war have said that the Maliki episode seriously undermined McCain’s position. Heck, McCain himself is now essentially endorsing Maliki’s 16-month timetable! And yet here you are, stuck in the amber of unreality, claiming that because I’ve noted that it’s problematic for him just as other people have noted, I’m somehow specially part of some sort of cabal of lies that, say, the RNC is not.

    The reality is that the last few weeks have seen a collapse of the rhetorical case against Obama’s policy proposals. The Bush administration has started doing the very sorts of things that unequivocally denounced as Obama’s endorsement of appeasement. All the things which McCain called grossly irresponsible in Iraq are turning out to apparently be not quite crazy enough that the Iraqis don’t endorse them, and now we’re down to splitting hairs over whether to call a 16 month plan a “timetable” or not.

    The time period of this persistent pessimism included the period during which the counterinsurgency tactics were being tried, and Obama’s position during those days was “It’s not going to help, it will just make things worse.”

    You’re mistaken, probably because you don’t know what you’re talking about. In this case, we’re talking about particular sorts of efforts in Iraq, while we were there. Yes, Obama and his side of things wanted us to leave Iraq, and they saw every given policy proposal through the prism of it being a potential excuse for staying ever longer: a chain of excuses with no end. But that doesn’t mean that in the meantime Obama was actually opposed to, say, working with local sheiks in the way McCain says were part of the surge… before, of course, the surge even existed. It doesn’t mean that he favored not doing anything, while we were there.

    You, like so many others, are simply overplaying your claims to ridiculous degree, trying to turn policy differences into treasonous conniving, no different than the people on the left who think that McCain and Bush and so forth are just mad bombers with no sense. You can’t just disagree with someone’s ideas. For some reason, they also have to be nuts, or have secretly detestable motives at every turn.

    I honestly feel sorry for you both on that. It’s a terrible way to live.

    Either way, you’re obviously trying very, very hard to avoid the truth.

    You keep saying this as if “philwynk’s bizarre characterization of things” was “the truth.”

    There were others, however, who said “the spills were not significant.”

    Which was also wrong, at least by the standard definition of significant. The reason they could shade the truth at all was that the individual spills all fell under the classification of “minor.” But together, they all easily fit under the definition of “major.” No, the spills weren’t the worst ever in the history of oil drilling. But then, that’s hardly the point. McCain’s campaign and Republicans in general had been pushing the idea that offshore drilling was essentially, without any cost or risk, a pure win that would fix gas prices and thus people would have to be insane to oppose. But events unfortunately played against them in trying to make that case. And I noted that.

    I don’t have any real position for or against offshore drilling myself, as if happens. I just don’t think that a) it has much plausible major relevance to the energy crisis and b) that it’s fair to portray it as all benefit and no cost, which people would thus be mad to oppose out of fear of the costs.

    I’ll find out the truth soon enough; I already know not to trust you for it.

    Too bad you haven’t been able to cite any actual examples to back up all your accusations of “lying,” and that your partisan obsession was pretty obvious right from the start.

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