Now that John McCain is the presumptive Republican nominee for president, the mainstream media’s honeymoon with the maverick Republican senator may be over. One story that has suddenly found favor is on McCain’s temper.
Reporters who cover McCain have long been aware of his sometimes explosive outbursts, but until now, that’s been a secret they have kept to themselves.
In this column, I first discussed McCain’s temper in July 2006. Yet it was not until the week of Super Tuesday, when it became clear that McCain would be the Republican nominee that The Washington Post, Newsweek, The Associated Press, and finally The New York Times suddenly burst forth with stories on McCain’s temper and off-color remarks.
The Times’ story said that in talking with reporters, McCain has referred to Brooke Buchanan, his own spokeswoman, as “Pat Buchanan’s illegitimate daughter.” He also has described her as “bipolar,” “a drunk,” “someone with a lot of boyfriends,” and “just out of Betty Ford,” a reference to the rehab clinic.
Until now, the media have ignored McCain’s temper and controversial remarks largely because he gives the press access and is a liberal on some key issues. A Dec. 13, 1999 profile of McCain in Time magazine actually admitted that reporters sometimes cover for him by not reporting controversial things he tells them on the record “because they don’t want to see him flame out and burn up a great story.”
In contrast, when he was in the race, the media never failed to beat up on Mitt Romney over his religion and his much-exaggerated flip-flops. After Romney won in Michigan, the AP’s Ron Fournier wrote: “The former Massachusetts governor pandered to voters, distorted his opponents’ record, and continued to show why he’s the most malleable — and least credible — major presidential candidate.”
As for McCain, “The man who spoke hard truths to Michigan lost,” Fournier said. “Of all the reasons John McCain deserved a better result Tuesday night, his gamble on the economy stands out.”
When the Romney camp last month released a “Top 10” list of McCain’s outbursts, no media outlet ran them. Now that Romney is out of the race and McCain is the Republican standard bearer, the media are perfectly happy to go after him to boost Barack Obama’s chances. As a TV network reporter told me, the mainstream media love Obama, and reporters are accused by their editors of bias if they propose critical stories about him.
Republican Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi, who has known McCain for more than three decades, has said his endorsement of Romney was prompted partly by his fear of how McCain might behave in the Oval Office.
“The thought of his being president sends a cold chill down my spine,” Cochran said about McCain. Cochran has had second thoughts and is now strongly supporting Senator McCain.
For those of us who are aware of how quickly America would become more vulnerable to a terrorist attack if a Democrat entered the White House and began stripping away the tools needed to uncover plots, McCain is by far the best presidential candidate. Al-Qaida’s goal is to wipe out America with a nuclear attack. If that were to happen, every other issue would become meaningless.
Presumably, the media’s sudden focus on McCain’s temper will lead him to cool it in the future. But the spectacle of the mainstream media ignoring McCain’s temper and then, after he becomes the presumptive nominee, quickly following each other like lemmings to write about it, tells a lot about their often-corrosive influence on the democratic process and why more and more Americans now look to other outlets for their news.
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via e-mail. Go here now.
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