Will McCain And GOP Make The News Media The Issue?
Republican certain Presidential nominee Sen. John McCain looks as if he may be heading towards a growing — perhaps strategic — confrontation with the press as it asks tougher questions. Will this become a theme of the GOP convention or surface occasionally in some campaign ads?
It sounds like it could shape up that way — as McCain advisers are taking on the media, which is presently not delivering coverage that the campaign likes and definitely helping the campaign get out its preferred message.
Press relations with McCain have been souring steadily since the campaign slapped greater discipline on all operations and campaign message. The first big sign was the shockingly sour and evasive interview McCain gave to Time Magazine. If you read it, you’ll be hard-pressed to recall any interview with a candidate of any political party quite like it in a Time or Newsweek Q&A.
Now, as the progressive blog America blog and some others report, McCain has canceled a CNN interview because he didn’t like the way questions about his Vice Presidential pick Gov. Sarah Palin were asked on CNN yesterday.
This runs some risk for McCain & Co.
As someone who was in the news media for a while (TMV has several writers who also worked in it in the U.S. and in India) it is a fact that when a news source — particularly one who wants something from the news media (i.e. coverage that explains a certain viewpoint) — decides not to talk or to go on the offensive to turn the press into the issue editors will view that as meaning the source has things he/she wants to hide. That conclusion usually begets more scrutiny, and tougher questions. Not a pullback.
The key to what happens next will be the GOP convention speeches. Will they zero-in on the mean “liberal” news media (that is in reality composed of corporations owned by mostly-conservative businessmen)? Will it attribute sleazy motives to the news media — as if the news media is some monolithic creature. (HERE’S A TIP: The NY Times’ assignment editors don’t coordinate with the Washington Post‘s assignment editors and Time doesn’t talk to Newsweek about how to report stories).
McCain got where he is partially because he was so masterful in offering access to reporters and seeming open. Refusing to go on CNN may score him points with his conservative base but it’s a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. It isn’t likely to stop tough questions from CNN or anyone (except perhaps Fox News, but then McCain being questioned by Sean Hannity is akin to McCain being grilled by his press secretary).
Many Americans hate reporters but the mainstream media still is the key information gate keeper: note how blogs (such as this) quote and link to it all the time.
Man cannot live on bread alone; candidates cannot thrive by Fox News alone.
The key to whether the press will become an issue used to rally the GOP base to support the ticket and appeal to American’s worsening opinion of reporters (this has worked before for candidates) will be what’s said at the remaining days of the convention. If it’s in the speeches, it’ll likely be a theme we’ll hear from now until Election Day.