A reader writes:
Once I got over my absolute grief at discovering that McCain would not be running the campaign of which I had dreamed, I struggled to figure out why, in the face of his appalling tactics, so many members of the mainstream press continue to protect McCain.
This protection has become its own small scandal. It takes two forms: either an outright failure to report many of his excesses, as well as those of his running mate and his supporters; or a reliance on the old, deeply dishonest tactic of equivalency ("Yes, Charlie, the McCain campaign may have spent a week calling Obama a communist Muslim Arab anti-Christ terrorist who's going to blow up the Pentagon, organize a Department of Ebonics, and take the white peoples' money away, but Obama ran an ad calling McCain 'erratic,' so actually both sides are doing it").
What I concluded was that it all comes down to the cardinal sin of pride. I mean the pride of journalists, not so much that of John McCain himself.
Everything we believe about McCain--at least those of us who live too far from the Beltway to have any first-hand knowledge of its fabulous inhabitants--came to us through the glowing words of infatuated reporters.
The maverick, the last decent Republican, the reformer's reformer, the war hero--all reflect a truth that is less than complete, a construct largely created by journalists and based on little more than camaraderie (certainly not on much actual research). They were on the whole flattered into it over drinks by McCain and his surrogates.
As it turns out, even those flashes of biographical fact included in most of this reportage do not in themselves tell a true story, or at least not the whole story; the John McCain we have seen in this campaign is, alas, probably the man he has always been.
In any case, his scribes cannot expose the myth of McCain without exposing their own vanity and gullibility, their pride in having been intimates of a Very Important Man. The best of McCain, however fictional, is the best of themselves as well.
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