OxBlog

Sunday, March 18, 2007

# Posted 12:15 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BAD PRESS FOR McCAIN: Here's the opening sentence of a front-page article about McCain from Thursday's WaPo:
In the seven years since John McCain and his "Straight Talk Express" nearly derailed George W. Bush's White House ambitions, the blunt-spoken senator from Arizona has become the very picture of the highly managed presidential candidate he once scorned.
I'm sorry, was that an editorial that accidentally got printed on the front page? (For the record, no it wasn't.)

But let's put aside the usual OxBlog gripe about media partisanship. The more interesting question may be whether anti-McCain sentiment is gaining momentum in the media. A couple of weeks ago, I laid out my working hypothesis that journalists will take shots at McCain precisely because of his sterling reputation, but that those shots won't add up to a coherent anti-McCain narrative. But I could be wrong.

The headline of Thursday's front-pager in the Post was "McCain Fighting to Recapture Maverick Spirit of 2000 Bid". The press corps may run with that. Personally, I think it's BS. McCain has made nice to his old enemies, principally Bush and Falwell, but he hasn't changed his beliefs to accommodate anyone.

The problem is, much of McCain's positive coverage before may have reflected the press corps' embrace of all those, especially Republicans, who openly antagonize the Right. Thus, even if McCain's values and policy positions remain the same, it may not matter to the opinion-makers.

Finally, there is the proverbial elephant in the room: the war in Iraq. McCain's uncompromising commitment to an unpopular war means he isn't the kind of maverick journalists were hoping for. But perhaps the press corps will recognize that it is precisely the same "maverick spirit of 2000" that has led McCain to stand firm on the most controversial issue of today.

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He's now highly mismanaged apprently. Either that or he doesn't really stand for anything:

A transcript of the encounter follows. (Weaver is John Weaver, his senior adviser, and Brian is Mr. Jones, his press secretary):

Reporter: “Should U.S. taxpayer money go to places like Africa to fund contraception to prevent AIDS?”

Mr. McCain: “Well I think it’s a combination. The guy I really respect on this is Dr. Coburn. He believes – and I was just reading the thing he wrote– that you should do what you can to encourage abstinence where there is going to be sexual activity. Where that doesn’t succeed, than he thinks that we should employ contraceptives as well. But I agree with him that the first priority is on abstinence. I look to people like Dr. Coburn. I’m not very wise on it.”

(Mr. McCain turns to take a question on Iraq, but a moment later looks back to the reporter who asked him about AIDS.)

Mr. McCain: “I haven’t thought about it. Before I give you an answer, let me think about. Let me think about it a little bit because I never got a question about it before. I don’t know if I would use taxpayers’ money for it.”

Q: “What about grants for sex education in the United States? Should they include instructions about using contraceptives? Or should it be Bush’s policy, which is just abstinence?”

Mr. McCain: (Long pause) “Ahhh. I think I support the president’s policy.”

Q: “So no contraception, no counseling on contraception. Just abstinence. Do you think contraceptives help stop the spread of HIV?”

Mr. McCain: (Long pause) “You’ve stumped me.”

Q: “I mean, I think you’d probably agree it probably does help stop it?”

Mr. McCain: (Laughs) “Are we on the Straight Talk express? I’m not informed enough on it. Let me find out. You know, I’m sure I’ve taken a position on it on the past. I have to find out what my position was. Brian, would you find out what my position is on contraception – I’m sure I’m opposed to government spending on it, I’m sure I support the president’s policies on it.”

Q: “But you would agree that condoms do stop the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. Would you say: ‘No, we’re not going to distribute them,’ knowing that?”

Mr. McCain: (Twelve-second pause) “Get me Coburn’s thing, ask Weaver to get me Coburn’s paper that he just gave me in the last couple of days. I’ve never gotten into these issues before.”


This emperor seems to be without clothes.
 
I'm sure I've taken a position on it... I have to find out what my position was" ????


Good God what a disaster.
 
Randy, I think you're jumping the gun. How often do you see a veteran pol admit he doesn't know enough about an issue and wants to study it more before giving an answer?

As for McCain's quote about looking for what his old position was, that sounds a bit silly, but it's mostly a poor choice of words. McCain's been a legislator for a quarter of a century and has been asked questions about everything. Do you expect him to remember what response he gave to detailed questions that haven't come up in years?

I don't. And I think his comments show a fair amount of self-awareness regarding the pressures of being in the spotlight.

So Randy, given your opinion of the current president, are you really going to try and go after McCain for being too candid and self-aware?
 
So Randy, given your opinion of the current president, are you really going to try and go after McCain for being too candid and self-aware?

To begin with, I don't accept that explanation. If anything, this reminds me of Bush being quizzed before the 2000 election and coming up short. The only difference as you point is that McCain has been at this an awful lot longer and it's hardly unreasonable to expect him to be better versed in the issues than Bush.

Candid and self-aware for someone who calls his campaign the Straight Talk Express? More like caught with his pants down.

If I'm jumping the gun here, you're grading on the widest of curves. I've had enough of that when it comes to presidents, frankly.
 
Also, David, I might add that this reeks of triangulation on McCain's part. He's made his pact with the Falwells of the world, now he has to keep that allegiance in mind.

Is he really stumped as to whether or not condoms help stop the spread of HIV? Geez, I'm but a lowly blogger and even I know that. Even some priests in Brazil know that.
 
If he doesn't have an opinion about condoms being used in Africa it's obvious that he must not stand for anything.

Randy, you are jumping the gun with the bitching about McCain process. The election isn't even this November and you will have plenty of time to fret during the campaign. The republican canidate is going to win in 08 and you will have another four years to worry about. You shouldn't bother with elections until next year and if you do you need to replace the emotion with a new habit like Salsa dancing or smoking.

If someone asked me the question on my s.t. express I would have replied:

"If you don't want to get AIDS don't have dry sex (it's an African thing), use dirty needles, have gay sex with dudes and for gods sake do not f*ck the monkey's. I am sure you all realize how a disease that spreads via sex and drug use jumped from primate to human so I won't bother with the details. Vote mikek 08."
 
OK, we've clearly got some emotion here. But I'm feeling mellow, since it's Sunday night.

Randy, you seem to be saying it's an embarrassment that McCain doesn't have a defined position on whether US taxpayer money should be spent on contraception in Africa. I can agree that's a substantive issue, but it's also not something that's gotten much attention of late.

If you want to hold every candidate to the standard you've set out here, that's fine. I'll just be there to provide friendly reminders that both Democrats and Republicans must be treated equally.

By the way, how come you haven't pounced on McCain's references to "Dr. Coburn"? (Presumably Sen. Tom Coburn, M.D. of Oklahoma.) He seems to have a long record of saying very offensive things. Maybe connect the dots with him and Falwell to try and advance the "McCain sold out" narrative.

But you know my position: The standard is whether McCain has changed his positions, not whether he is willing to get along with Republicans many of us find unpleasant. Otherwise, we'd have to start denouncing every Democrat who's civil to Al Sharpton.
 
David, what is Coburn's long list of offensive statements? Wiki has a boneheaded statement about homosexuality, and...that's about it. I mean, I don't agree with his position on abortionists, and his concern about little kids watching Schindler's List was handled badly, but I can't find anything Sharptonesque.
 
I find it odd that everyone here is ignoring the obvious.

I agree that McCain hasn't changed (much). But then, he was never really the straight talking maverick that the press built him up to be. He fooled the press then, he isn't fooling them now.
 
Two problems with the transcript:

1) The quote at the end - "I've never gotten into these issues before'. What? McCain was elected to the Senate in 1986, right in the middle of the AIDS epidemic. Is he going to try and pretend he never thought about the issue of condoms and the spread of HIV before? Where was he for all those debates? Living under s rock? (If, by some chance, he really hasn't thought about it before, then why the hell not?)

Secondly : "DO you think contraceptives help stop the spread of HIV?/ You've stumped me"

Is he kidding? 13 yr olds know the answer to this one. WHy won't he give a simple answer to a basic factual question? It just reeks of an unwillingness to get drawn into an issue which might upset certain groups. To pretend that you don't know enough about the issue - even the answer to such an obvious question - is pathetic.

Then : 'I'm sure I'm opposed to government spending'. If he doesn't really know what his position is, how can he claim he even has one? And how deeply does he believe in it, if he can't even remember it?

By all means, hold everyone to these (very basic) standards...
 
Tom Coburn said "I favor the death penalty for abortionists and other people who take life." Yet, he performed two abortions himself.
 
I really have nothing more to add to what Niall said. he nailed it.
 
Randy, you are jumping the gun with the bitching about McCain process. The election isn't even this November and you will have plenty of time to fret during the campaign. The republican canidate is going to win in 08 and you will have another four years to worry about. You shouldn't bother with elections until next year and if you do you need to replace the emotion with a new habit like Salsa dancing or smoking.

Spare me the condecensionand I'll gladly afford you the same courtesy.
 
David, I see no editorializing with that statement, so your analysis starts off on a bad foot.

McCain is, or some would say, was seen as not mincing words and now he has however many dozen consultants telling him what to say.

This is the objective reality. I am interested to see how you would refute that.
 
apparently McCain has recently said we should do something about Kyoto, and close Gitmo, to improve our image abroad. The wingnuts are all over him for that. With attackers from both left and right, its seems this good man cant win.

Unity '08, maybe?
 
Closing Gitmo is hardly enough. We should offer citizenship to all who have been kept there, then name them as Ambassador to Canada, France, etc. I'm sure they'd be big hits on the diplomatic circuit.

If McCain wants to do something about Kyoto, he could start by explaining how many hundreds of billions of dollars of GNP he would sacrifice to lower the earth's temperature by one degree C. I'd be curious to hear that.
 
If you were going to buy a golf club, you wouldn't walk into a store and buy the first one you see, would you? Of course

not; especially if you want to improve your golf game! You'll want to hold the club, take some practice swings, hit some

balls if the store has a practice spot, and look at the price, of course. If you are considering buying running shoes,

you need to go through a similar process and take the time to find the perfect shoe.
 
McCain has made nice to his old enemies, principally Bush and Falwell, but he hasn't changed his beliefs to accommodate anyone.

That sentence kind of eats itself, David.

You might want to look at On The Issues to see how McCain vacillates.
 
Bgates

If global warming happens, the net loss to GDP may well be substantial. So the question is not all that meaningful.

But it does illustrate my point, the right wing dont like McCain any more than the lefties.

Id hate to have the lefties and righties give us another bad choice like '04, but its seeming all too likely
 
Liberalhawk
Whether global warming happens or not, the cost of complying with Kyoto would be substantial. For people interested in determining the rational course of action, the relative costs of following vs ignoring Kyoto is an important question. For those who approach the subject from an apocalyptic religious perspective, of course, the question is not all that meaningful.

When you complain about extremists depriving you of a good choice, are you more concerned about Republican enthusiasm for Giuliani despite his positions on social issues, or Democratic enthusiasm for Obama despite his recent backtracking on withdrawl from Iraq?
 
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