US Senator John McCain (Wikipedia entry) has been a darling of the media for a while now. He has been touted as the next President of the United States, savvy, witty, smart, charming yet with a volatile temper - a classic touch that makes him "human". The media loves him...he can get along with all media personnel, trade jokes with them, take shots at Dick Cheney and seem like a rebel fighting alone to reel in the right-wing, conservative Republic Party to the center...
Some of the biggest names in the journalistic profession seem to back him up and extol his virtues, as seen in this Joe Klein article in Time where a comparison is made between McCain and Obama's handling of their "Face the Nation" appearance. Excerpts...
From where I was sitting, McCain got the better of it--not because he had the better argument (he didn't), but because he was clear, concise and confident.
He also threw down the gauntlet to the Democrats--if you're really against the war, don't mess around with non-binding resolutions, cut off the funding.
And about Obama, he had this to say in conclusion...
but he sure seemed less assured, less presidential, than McCain
Well, that settles it doesn't it ? Obama is definitely less presidential that McCain! Note that he doesn't "disapprove" of Obama's message, just that he didn't say it right...that must mean that McCain is more "presidential"! Now this article is a classic example of how the media has propped up John McCain to this saintly status and the next presidential candidate. Not that I am supporting Obama here -- I do not know much about him (his background, policies, etc.) to be able to form an honest opinion, yet. Its just that no matter what his opponents have to say, whether right or wrong, and no matter what he himself has to say, John McCain can do no wrong...if he makes a statement that agrees with their ideas, the media will extol him as if he were the next messiah; if not, well, he said it better than the other guy and he's more dignified and "presidential".
Seems like the jury has cast its votes on him becoming the next President!
For everyone who believes that that John McCain is a moderate in the Republican party and someone who steers to the center, here is a piece of information for you -- you're wrong! Here is an analysis of his voting record among the senators of the Republican party:
109th Senate : Second most conservative!
108th Senate : Fourth most conservative!
107th Senate : Sixth more liberal !
The above numbers show a disturbing trend - his voting records are becoming more and more conservative as the years go by ! Anyone with half an ounce for a brain can see that if he has the second most conservative voting record in the Republican party, then he definitely cannot be a "moderate" !
In fact, the American Conservative Union gives him an 83% lifelong rating. In their rating of presidential hopefuls, his rating is far above that of the Democrat with the highest rating on the list - Senator Evan Bayh, with a rating of 21. How can McCain be considered, even remotely, as a moderate ?
What people forget, in the media blitz, is that McCain has toed quite a bit of the Bush administration line, especially regarding the War in Iraq. He has always voted in favour of the war and for troop increases, including the latest one. Even when the war is being acknowledged as a mistake by the very folks who initially wanted it, McCain refuses to backtrack on this issue - this can only bring him unpopularity, unless of course, the media finds a way to gloss over it.
And McCain is yet to seriously announce his Presidential ambitions for 2008(yes, yes, he has announced the creations of campaign and finance exploratory committees, but that is still not official). If and when he does do so, then the smear campaigns will probably start. When the dirt starts to fly, we shall see the skeletons in McCain's closet and see if he can handle that kind of intense media pressure. He lost the 2000 Presidential nomination, largely due to a smear campaign, in South Carolina, led by his opposition. Of course his famous temper might be more of a liability than an asset and rumours and news articles abound with stories of his extra-marital affairs and his racist slurs against Asians (he reportedly used the phrase "gook" to refer to South Asians, even during recent times. He defends himself saying that it was refers only to his Vietnamese captors during the Vietnam war, where he was a POW).
He was also a serious player in the Keating Five scandal.
It's still early days yet for the key players in the 2008 race to be finalised, but we shall have to see how the media scrutiny of John McCain changes, if at all, when he becomes "official". Don't get me wrong - I am not really against John McCain as such (he is probably just as good/bad as the next person) for being who he is. I'm placing a large part of the blame on the mainstream media for extolling his virtues while neglecting his faults. Whatever happened to the idea of an objective viewpoint ? This next election will decide whether a media-propped favourite will win become the President even if he is against the popular ideas on important issues.
As an interesting footnote, an article by David Leonhart in the New York Times, once talked about how Internet searches might predicted the future, which I had written about previously. Google Trends is a good tool to use for this purpose. you can compare the interest in two people side by side, simply by observing the amount of searches against their name and the amount of media coverage they receive.
[ Key : Blue = McCain, Red = Other person ]
Here is a comparison of McCain vs Obama:
Interestingly they're neck and neck as far as Google searches go, but McCain leads, most of the time in news coverage. Of course, certain announcements by Obama makes his popularity spike.
Here's another comparison - McCain vs Hillary Clinton:
Well, seems like the Arizona senator has a clear lead in this race. But I guess a few of her results are lost here due to the last name being the same as her husband's.
But here's when it gets really interesting - McCain vs Gore:
Interesting don't you think ? This seems to indicate that Al Gore is more popular in Internet searches, and is slightly more popular in news coverage. Does this mean that Al Gore might just about win this time round if he is the Democratic nominee ? I have a gut feeling that he might, but that is a post for another day.
Cross posted on Desicritics.