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On the occasion of Obama’s Wednesday swing through Missouri (Rolla, Springfield, and a bbq in Union where he’ll flip burgers for the first 200 people to claim the free tickets), Roy Blunt has words of praise for the presumptive Democratic nominee: “‘There’s no question Senator Obama is an exciting candidate, with a great delivery.'” Now wait for the “but”: BUT Obama “‘is not ready to be president.'”

Let me translate that last part for you, in case you’re not tuned in to the nuances of racist-speak: “we’re not ready for a black president. Heavens to Betsy, Blunt would deny any such accusation, and perhaps I’m oversensitive. After all, Obama has much less experience than John McCain. Much less. So much less that Blunt opines that Barack is “‘all style and no substance.'”

Blunt doesn’t mention McCain’s main appeal, which being that he’s a nice, safe, white male–not elegant or nuanced, maybe, but straightforward. He’s a maverick, chock full of what Blunt would call “substance”.

Eric Alterman’s article, “Loving John McCain”, in the June 19th issue of The Nation, lays the fact that Blunt can assume Americans believe that about McCain squarely at the door of the MSM:

As David Brock and Paul Waldman demonstrate in their book Free Ride, the words “maverick” and “McCain” appeared within ten words of each other 2,114 times in 2000, a practice that has continued to the present at roughly the same rate.

Not only has the mainstream media convinced most Americans that McCain is a straight shooter, they’ve also convinced the public that McCain is a centrist:

Indeed, the effects of past coverage can be discerned in the results of [a] survey released in May, by the Pew Research Center, which found that most voters described McCain as “a centrist whose views are fairly close to their own.” These voters might as well be visiting Casablanca for the waters. McCain calls himself a thoroughgoing conservative, and he’s got the statistics to prove it.

Why? Why have the media given McCain this free ride? Alterman quotes Tucker Carlson’s explanation:

“McCain ran an entire presidential campaign aimed primarily at journalists…. To a greater degree than any candidate in thirty years, McCain offered reporters the three things they want most: total access all the time, an endless stream of amusing quotes, and vast quantities of free booze.” Ryan Lizza, reporting for The New Yorker from the current Straight Talk, notes the dichotomy of McCain’s press-friendly campaign style and that of his opponents: “The Democratic candidates rarely speak to the traveling press. McCain not only packs his bus with reporters (whom he often greets with an affectionate ‘Hello, jerks!’) but talks until the room is filled with the awkward silence of journalists with no more questions.” Lizza also notes that the “chumminess” between the campaign and the reporters has almost no boundaries. Questions of strategy–even media manipulation–are discussed openly with reporters present, and “McCain’s senior advisers dine almost nightly with the people covering the candidate.”

They’re besotted by the man, falling victim to what Alterman calls the “never mind” syndrome.

  • Never mind that McCain thinks U.S. economic woes are purely psychological.
  • Never mind that McCain let his housing policy be shaped by a lobbyist.
  • Never mind that McCain helped Bush plug his plan to privatize Social Security.
  • Never mind that McCain approves of NAFTA.
  • Never mind that McCain would be “fine” to keep troops in Iraq for “a hundred years”.
  • Never mind that McCain defends Bush’s Iraq strategy.
  • Never mind that McCain thought Bush was right to veto the kids health insurance expansion.
  • Never mind that McCain, like Bush, opposed expanding the GI Bill.
  • Never mind that McCain would like to see Roe v. Wade overturned.

Here’s what’s odd about the MSM love affair with McCain: his own party members don’t share the enthusiasm. Granted it’s almost a compliment if Tom DeLay disapproves:

“There’s nothing redeeming about John McCain … he’s a hypocrite.”

But the senators McCain has worked with somehow have gotten the opposite opinion from the press about McCain’s likeability:

“He is a vicious person. Nearly all the Republican Senators endorsed Bush because they knew McCain from serving with him in the Senate. They so disliked him that they wouldn’t support him. They have been on the hard end of his behavior.” –Former Representative Charles LeBoutillier, R-NY

“John was very rough in the sandbox. Everybody has a McCain story. If you work in the Senate for a while, you have a McCain story. He hasn’t built up a lot of goodwill.” –Former Senator Santorum, R-PA

“I don’t like McCain. I don’t like him at all.” –Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-CO

“What has struck me about McCain is that everybody underestimated the ability of his advisers and him to hypnotize the national media, because most of us in the media in Arizona thought of him as a guy who had a terrible temper, occasionally had a foul mouth, a guy who whined and pouted unless he got his way. McCain has a temper that is bombastic, volatile, and purple-faced. Sometimes he gets out of control. Do you want somebody sitting in the White House with that kind of temper?” –Pat Murphy, former editor of the Arizona Republic, and a former friend of McCain

McCain seems to have successfully hidden this side of himself from the media who travel with him, but it frightens the brethren in his own party:

“The thought of his being president sends a cold chill down my spine. He is erratic. He is hotheaded. He loses his temper and he worries me.” –Senator Thad Cochran, R-MS

“I decided I didn’t want this guy anywhere near a trigger.” –Senator Pete Domenici, R-NM

“His temper would place this country at risk in international affairs, and the world perhaps in danger. In my mind, that should disqualify him.” –Former Senator Bob Smith, R-NH

“What happens if he gets angry in crisis in the presidency? It’s difficult enough to be a negotiator, but it’s almost impossible when you’re the type of guy who’s so angry at anybody who doesn’t do what he wants. It’s the president’s job to negotiate and stay calm. I just don’t see that he has that quality.” –Former Arizona GOP Chairman John Hinz

And the coup de grace:

“John McCain (as President) will make Cheney look like Gandhi.” —Patrick Buchanan on NBC Today show, Feb 6, 2008.

And may I add, Mr. Blunt, that, no matter how inexperienced Obama may be, compared to McCain?–he’ll look like a combination of Gandhi and Solomon.