John McCain and the Media,
by David Brock and Paul Waldman
(Click for Amazon book review)
BOOK REVIEW by OnTheIssues.org:
This is an anti-McCain book, but more specifically, it's anti-McCain-and-the-media.
The authors' thesis is, as the title implies, that John McCain has been given a free ride by the media, while other presidential candidates have been subject to harsh press scrutiny.
The book provides example after example of how McCain is characterized positively for the same things for which other candidates receive negative press.
McCain's flip-flopping on abortion, for example, is labeled by the press as a "maverick" or "straight-talking" stance, while Hillary Clinton's consistent stand on abortion is labeled by the press as "pandering to the base."
In summary, as highlighted on the book's cover, "The press loves McCain. We're his base," citing McCain's most enthusiastic press supporter, MSNBC's Chris Matthews.
The "base" refers to fact that McCain is considered to have suspect credentials by the neoconservatives and the Christian conservatives, the usual Republican base, but makes up for it with consistently positive press.
The authors explain WHY the press loves McCain, in a chapter entitled "How He Won Their Hearts:", separated into "The Three Foundations":
On the last "Foundation", the authors cite charts of how much TV coverage each potential presidential candidate received from Sept. 2005 through Dec. 2006.
McCain wins with 33,683 mentions and 21 hours of TV time.
Hillary Clinton scores a distant second with 24,288 mentions, and Joe Biden scores a second on the other measurement with 18 hours of TV time.
- Vietnam: McCain's POW years make for a compelling background story.
- Campaign Finance Reform: The press has traditionally exposed fat-cat lobbyist-based special-interests, and McCain's signature issue plays to that
- Press style:
McCain speaks freely to the press, which the authors characterize as intentional and carefully arranged.
I found those charts to be typical anti-candidate spin. And by association, since they encapsulate the authors' thesis, I found the entire thesis to be anti-McCain spin.
I accept that McCain gets the most TV time and the most TV mentions. But I think the authors are mixing up cause and effect.
One could just as easily conclude that McCain makes himself more AVAILABLE to the press, rather than conclude that the press makes itself more available for McCain's use.
Certainly here at OnTheIssues we have experienced that directly -- McCain's campaign in the New Hampshire primary in 2000 was the only major-candidate campaign where we could consistently expect to see and speak to the candidate.
We assume that is even more true for the major mainstream media than for a website in the days before the web was big.
Nevertheless, the authors make a compelling case that McCain is treated differently -- and treated better -- than just about any other politician.
But you won't find any anti-McCain dirt here -- that's not the purpose of this book.
The purpose is to point out that the mainstream media has NOT dug sufficiently for anti-McCain dirt.
You can read our other anti-McCain book reviews (linked below) to see lots of anti-McCain dirt -- which demonstrates that the press is certainly willing to report anti-McCain dirt!
-- Jesse Gordon, jesse@OnTheIssues.org, April 2008
Hillary Clinton: Long-held moderate stance focuses on reducing abortions.
Hillary Clinton: Consistently uses Dem. Party line, "safe, legal, and rare".
John McCain: 2000: Pro-lifers attack McCain since CFR limits their power.
John McCain: Intentionally fuzzy on abortion; wants no litmus test.
Budget & Economy|
John McCain: 1980s Keating Five: biggest financial scandal in US history.
John McCain: Supported CA Prop. 209, canceling affirmative action quotas.
John McCain: Pro-Confederacy activist continues as top S.C. adviser.
John McCain: Recuses from alcohol votes because wife owns Anheiser-Busch.
John McCain: View has evolved on intelligent design vs. evolution.
Energy & Oil|
John McCain: Ethanol subsidy OK at $40/bbl oil; opposed it at $60/bbl.
John Kerry: 1994: Worked with John McCain to normalize Vietnam relations.
John McCain: 1994: Worked with John Kerry to normalize Vietnam relations.
John McCain: 5-year struggle for CFR portrayed in press as epic tale.
John McCain: CFR cut soft money & increased hard money; both helped GOP.
John McCain: 1993: Proposed barring campaign funds for personal expenses.
John McCain: 1997: Give FDA more regulatory powers over tobacco.
Hillary Clinton: Long-held pro-defense spending stance; not a move to center.
John McCain: 1973: America is better country than when I left 6 years ago.
Russell Feingold: Sole Senate vote against Patriot Act.
Principles & Values|
George W. Bush: 2000: Won SC primary, & killed McCain's run with negatives.
Jim Webb: Opponent's "macaca" comment won election for Webb.
John McCain: McCain has actively & successfully courted the press.
John McCain: 1980: Second marriage only 3 months after first divorce.
John McCain: 1980s: Paid back $112,000 in donations from Charles Keating.
John McCain: Keating scandal made McCain averse to partisanship.
John McCain: 2000: Positioned himself as anti-establishment underdog.
John McCain: OpEd: Senator Hothead nickname is well-earned.
John McCain: OpEd: McCain's racial slurs are called "candor" by press.
John McCain: OpEd: McCain hustles donations like others; no more; no less.
John McCain: 2004: Press speculated about Kerry-McCain, but McCain didn't.
John McCain: Known as a "staunch conservative" until 1999.
John McCain: Holds record for press mentions & appearances.
Al Gore: 1991: Pushed funding for first web browser.
John McCain: $686K in donations from telecoms as chair of telecom cmte.
War & Peace|
John McCain: Proudest moment: opposing Reagan on Lebanon deployment.
John McCain: 1998: Remove Saddam by force without UN approval.
The above quotations are from Free Ride:
John McCain and the Media,
by David Brock and Paul Waldman .
Related books, debates, and candidates:
- Citizen McCain, by Elizabeth Drew
- Hard Call, by John McCain & Mark Salter
- Man of the People, by Paul Alexander
- Worth the Fighting for: A Memoir, by John McCain
- John McCain: An American Odyssey, by Robert Timberg
- An Essay in Military and Political History, by John Karaagac
- Why Courage Matters, by John McCain
- Faith of My Fathers: A Family Memoir, by John McCain
- Bill Bradley & McCain discuss Campaign Finance Reform
- McCain: The Myth of a Maverick, by Matt Welch
- 1999-2000 Republican Primary debates:
GOP debate in Los Angeles, CA
(McCain's last debate)
|Bush on Bob Jones; McCain on "Iron Triangle";
Keyes on "Why I'm Here"
|March 2, 2000|
GOP Debate on the Larry King Show (without Bauer & Forbes)
||McCain on Bob Jones University's inter-racial dating ban: "Idiotic and cruel"
||Feb. 15, 2000|
Republican debate in Manchester, NH (without Hatch)
||Keyes & McCain: "Family conference" on abortion?
||Jan. 26, 2000|
Republican debate in Johnston, Iowa
||On Ten Commandments in schools;|
and on Family Farms
|Jan. 16, 2000|
Republican debate at Calvin College, Grand Rapids MI
||Bush: "I'm a tax-cutting person"|
Others on AIDS in Africa
|Jan. 10, 2000|
Republican debate in West Columbia, South Carolina
||On exporting US farm products;|
and on a tax-free Internet
|Jan. 7, 2000|
Republican debate at the University of New Hampshire in Durham
||Bush:"Jesus is how I live my life"|
Others on gays in the military
|Jan. 6, 2000|
Republican debate in Des Moines, Iowa
||On ethanol subsidies & HMO review
||Dec. 13, 1999|
Republican debate in Phoenix, Arizona
||Keyes: Campaign finance is "incumbency protection"; Others on China in WTO
||Dec. 7, 1999|
Republican debate in New Hampshire (with Bush)
||Bauer: "I canít imagine a senior citizen fearing my plan"; and others on Social Security
||Dec. 3, 1999|
Republican debate at Dartmouth University (without Bush)
||McCain:"Just say no" to drugs;|
Bauer:"Say no" to bureaucrats
|Oct. 29, 1999|