The John McCain campaign has gone to great lengths to sever its previously friendly (some might say overly-friendly) relations with the press since the surprise announcement Aug. 29 that virtually unknown Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin would be his running mate.
To conservatives, the ensuing media firestorm serves as an all-too-convenient dog whistle to call its culture war troops to battle arms against the so-called liberal media, thus lowering expectations for the gaffe-prone McCain and the untested Palin.
Jeff Bercovici at Portfolio.com agrees that the press mau-mau strategy reeks of more desperation from the McCain camp:
In McCain’s case, working the refs is especially unlikely to succeed because of the obvious hypocrisy involved. This is a man who just three years ago was fondly referring to the press corps as “my base” in recognition of his historically warm and open relationships with journalists from across the political spectrum. Now he’s in the position of having to pretend those relationships never existed — a position he’s able to maintain only with an incredible degree of awkwardness.
Can press vilification move the polls? Howard Kurtz seems to think so: “Denouncing the news media as biased also plays well with many Republican voters,” he says. Sure, but what about the swing voters, who may well decide this election between two candidates who hypothetically both possess crossover appeal? To moderates, who are unlikely to see Campbell Brown or The New York Times as agents of Democratic dirty tricks, McCain risks coming off as a crybaby. As Bob Garfield puts it:
Running against the media is a time-honored tactic but also a historically unavailing one, usually attempted in desperation by panicking campaigns unable to compete with the opponent himself. McCain would be wise to enjoy this funny interlude and then move on to the issues, lest his witty red flag be mistaken for a white one.