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Tags: McCain | media | creation

ACU's David Keene Says Press Favors McCain

Ronald Kessler By Sunday, 03 February 2008 05:56 PM EST Current | Bio | Archive

John McCain is largely a creation of the media, David Keene, president of the American Conservative Union, tells Newsmax.

“McCain has gotten a free ride from the media,” says Keene, who has endorsed Mitt Romney for president. “Indeed, he’s gotten better treatment than any GOP candidate I can remember.”

While tagging other candidates “flip-floppers,” Keene says “admiring reporters” ignore McCain’s flaws and the fact that he has “changed or obfuscated his position on more issues this cycle than any other candidate. And that’s saying something.”

A lynchpin of the conservative movement, Keene has headed the ACU, the country’s oldest and largest conservative grass-roots lobbying group, since 1984. With one million members, the ACU runs the Conservative Political Action Committee’s (CPAC) annual conference in Washington and publishes an annual Rating of Congress , the gold standard for ideological assessments of members of Congress.

Keene says McCain routinely rewrites his own record, and his version is accepted by the media.

“Take the Bush tax cuts,” Keene says. “When he opposed them, it was not because, as he now claims, they weren’t coupled with needed spending cuts, but because he charged à la the Dems that they were tax cuts for the rich.”

McCain said then: “I cannot in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us at the expense of middle-class Americans who most need tax relief.”

“His rhetoric at the time had less to do with his claimed support for a smaller government than his apparent desire to out-demagogue Democrats in the Senate,” Keene says.

More recently, McCain “took the position that he shouldn’t be questioned about his past support of gun control legislation because the legislation he supported is now ‘moot,’” Keene says. “The press accepted this,” Keene says.

As second vice president of the National Rifle Association, Keene will automatically rise to president of the organization in three and a half years.

“Voters outside Washington must have wondered just what Senator Thad Cochran was getting at recently, when he said that the thought of John McCain in the White House ‘sends a cold chill down my spine,’” Keene says. “They must have wondered because the media have given McCain a pass on his temper, his vindictiveness, and his cozy relationship with lobbyists for whom he has done favor after favor over the years. If these are legitimate issues in reporting on other candidates, they ought to be in reporting on McCain, but they’re not. If that’s not evidence of media bias, I don't know what is.”

As reported in the Jan. 27 Newsmax story “McCain Presidency Would Be a Disaster,” McCain's actions have led some to question whether or not he has the temperament to be president.

When McCain said it “grieves me so much” that the American people were “led to believe that this [the invasion of Iraq] would be some kind of a day at the beach,” 177 news outlets ran the story. The Washington Post referred to McCain's criticism in 10 stories. The New York Times referred to it in three stories. But only two media outlets — MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews and Fox News’ Special Report with Brit Hume — referred to an AP story quoting McCain’s March 2003 prediction on Hardball that U.S. forces would “absolutely, absolutely” be greeted as liberators.

The fact that McCain thought he could get away with claiming that Romney said in a Good Morning America interview that he favored a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, when the transcript shows that he said the opposite, underscores McCain’s belief that the press will usually favor him no matter what. While a few media outlets said McCain’s claim was misleading, most reported his statement and Romney’s rebuttal without referring to what Romney actually had said on ABC.

As an example, the Washington Post left readers clueless by reporting, “Romney insisted that he has ‘never, ever’ backed a timetable for withdrawal, prompting McCain to shoot back, ‘Of course he supported a timetable.’”

In contrast to the glowing coverage of McCain and his Straight Talk Express, the media have largely ignored a telling clue to Romney’s character. As first fully reported by Newsmax, when told in July 1996 that the 14-year-old daughter of one of his partners at Bain Capital had been missing in New York for three days, Romney closed down the firm. He asked its 30 partners and employees to fly to New York to try to find her.

“I don’t care how long it takes, we’re going to find her,” Romney told the girl’s father Robert Gay.

As it turned out, the girl had gone to a rave party and taken ecstasy. As a result of a massive campaign orchestrated by Romney, he was able to locate and rescue the girl when she was within a day of dying from the effects of an overdose.

According to a former McCain aide, the media adore him because he gives reporters total access and because, while he is admirably strong on national security issues, he is as liberal as a Democrat on many key domestic issues. A December 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.”

“Romney was from the very beginning tagged by the media as a plastic candidate who would do anything to get elected,” Keene says. “Reporters didn’t like the fact that he had a lot of his own money, liberals—and some conservatives—didn’t like the idea of an observant religious candidate and particularly a Mormon running for president, and everyone joined in to label the man a flip-flopper.”

While Romney changed some of his positions while he was Massachusetts governor or later, he has changed his position on fewer issues than did McCain, Keene says.

“He was able, I think, to provide plausible non-opportunistic reasons for the changes, something McCain couldn’t do on taxes and Second Amendment issues,” Keene says. “What has been unfair about the coverage is not that the press reported widely on Romney’s changed positions on these issues, but that they ignore John McCain, as he did exactly the same thing on far more issues.”

Keene says it’s premature to conclude that because McCain bested Romney in Florida, he has his party’s nomination wrapped up.

But, Keene says, “if it turns out he does, he is one candidate who will honestly be able to say he owes his victory to the New York Times and the Washington Post.”

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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John McCain is largely a creation of the media, David Keene, president of the American Conservative Union, tells Newsmax. “McCain has gotten a free ride from the media,” says Keene, who has endorsed Mitt Romney for president. “Indeed, he’s gotten better treatment than any...
Sunday, 03 February 2008 05:56 PM
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