The press has been endlessly dazzled with the prowess and the promise of the Barack Obama campaign. Observers of these quivering scribes have to wonder if they don’t collapse from exhaustion at the end of the day from all the involuntary spine tingling and shortness of breath over Obama’s inspirational aura.
One obvious sign the media have been too dazzled is by their utter lack of concern about Obama’s accessibility to journalists. Obama may be the least accessible primary winner in decades, but this press avoidance has in no way damaged his standing with reporters, who instead of growing frustrated with said lack of access, hounded Hillary Clinton to step aside and let the general election campaign begin.
This must be incredibly frustrating for John McCain. After all, when McCain ran against George W. Bush for president in 2000, the liberal media heaped their collective adoration upon him. When challenged about their gooey copy, reporters claimed it was the tremendous hours of access McCain granted to reporters. Eight years later, this argument has fallen away.
Their cooing over McCain then wasn’t about access. Their flattery of McCain came because he pleased their liberal impulses, decrying Bush’s tax cuts as favoring the wealthy and denouncing conservative Christian leaders as "agents of intolerance." Running in this liberal-pleasing way made it easy for reporters to enjoy their bus rides and be flattered by McCain’s willingness to consider their liberal ideas for the country.
But the McCain campaign of 2008 isn’t running a doomed insurgency. McCain is now steering what he ridiculously called the "Death Star" in 2000, the Republican Party establishment. He has bowed to the right to gain support in the base, shedding his opposition to permanent Bush tax cuts, and clumsily trying to gain the support of conservative Christian leaders instead of spitting at them. These and other actions separate him dramatically from what his campaign strategists once joked was "his base": the national media.
This result is both frustrating and strangely refreshing. The press’s relentless liberalism is always frustrating. But it’s refreshing that John McCain is being forced to learn that you can’t be best friends with the media and stand for anything Republican or conservative. If you’re calling your party mates the "Death Star," the media myth-builders might love you, but not when you’ve become Darth Vader in your own analogy.
It’s also refreshing that the media don’t always abide by the rule of rewarding the candidate who grants them the most access. If their excuse-making about McCain in 2000 were more genuine, it would appear that the press would be putting its own professional needs and desires ahead of the people. Collectively they resemble a spoiled child preferring whichever uncle brings the most toys.
The press easily slips into arrogance, equating itself with the people. Refusing to talk to them isn’t a refusal to talk to a few people who then report to other people. Shutting them out is utterly shutting the entire public out. They act clueless to the idea that conservatives don’t grant as much access to reporters because it feels to them like putting sharks into your swimming pool — and feels like you’re wearing a swimming suit of steak.
Granting access can’t give McCain an advantage this time. The media elite talks a lot now about the enormous "head winds" McCain faces as a candidate. The greatest of those is the undisguised passion that liberals have to make "history" and have a black man standing before Chief Justice Roberts, taking the oath. Anyone standing in the way of that cinematic dream seems to be preparing to spray Barack Obama with a hose like Bull Connor’s segregationist minions.
You could say it doesn’t seem to matter to them what kind of "history" follows with a President Obama. But in truth, they expect a lot of liberalism to follow. Obama’s race is not merely a historical marker. It is a way to pick the lock, running an ultraliberal candidate with a voting record to the left of socialist Bernie Sanders, but who can be presented to the country as their chance to prove their willingness to "desegregate" the presidency.
Barack Obama should be credited with some political prowess for taking apart the Clinton machine in the primaries, which almost no one expected a year ago. But in every national race, the Democrat’s prowess is greatly enhanced by a cheerleading press corps. Behind the scenes, journalists still believe, as Newsweek’s Evan Thomas blurted out four years ago, that the glow they put on Democratic candidates offers Democrats a 15-point advantage. Buying more donuts for the press bus isn’t going to help McCain.