The McCain Campaign And The Press

It's an axiom, a rule of thumb, that partisans for Obama's campaign think that the press is unfair to Obama and that partisans for McCain's campaign think that the press is unfair to McCain. This is not the place to have this complicated debate -- obviously, one side is right and one is just whining -- but it's clear that, in relative terms, McCain's relationship with the media has noticably deteriorated since 2000 -- and even since the beginning of this campaign.

Different McCain advisers have different theories.

One is that, while members of the media in 2000 were vicariously morally sated by their friendship with a war hero -- his career was so much more worthy of respect than theirs -- the hope represented by Barack Obama has trumped their inner insecurity about their career choice. Another is that the press believes that McCain abandoned them; a third is that the press is simply liberal and sees in Obama the apiothesis of their worldview.

The first attempt to deal with this problem was to work the refs; the McCain world became very aggressive about what they percieved as unfair coverage. That gave way to hectoring. That gave way to what seems to be a resignation -- although there's still plenty of ref-working. The irony is that McCain needs the media more than Obama does; the campaign doesn't have alternative means of communicating their arguments and messages. Compounding the irony is that efforts to contain McCain often backfire.

So the better of the bad choices now seems to be to keep McCain in contact with reporters but change the circumstances of their interaction so that McCain is in control of the situation, not the press corps.

That means -- no more press conferences in front of staged backrounds. From now on, McCain will hold what his campaign publicly calls "gaggles" and privately calls "audibles" where McCain is surrounded by real people doing real things. This will constrain the press somewhat. McCain will still invite the press pool aboard the Straight Talk Express, but he'll also hold sessions with local press only.