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McCain has gone from being one of the Times' most frequent op-ed guest columnists to being an unpublishable illiterate.

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But Will They Respect Him in the Morning?

McCain has gone from being one of the Times’ most frequent op-ed guest columnists to being an unpublishable illiterate.

Back before the Republican Party was saddled with John McCain as its nominee, The New York Times called him “the only Republican who promises to end the George Bush style of governing from and on behalf of a small, angry fringe.” The paper praised him for “working across the aisle to develop sound bipartisan legislation” and predicted that he would appeal to “a broader range of Americans than the rest of the Republican field.”

At the same time, the Times denounced “the real” Rudy Giuliani as “a narrow, obsessively secretive, vindictive man” and Mitt Romney as “shape-shifting,” claiming it’s “hard to find an issue on which he has not repositioned himself to the right since he was governor of Massachusetts.”

Here are a few issues I found that Romney hadn’t switched positions on, and it wasn’t “hard”: tax cuts, health care, same-sex marriage, illegal immigration and the surge in Iraq. The only issue on which Romney had changed his position was abortion, irritating people who would prefer for Republicans to refuse to run in places like Massachusetts and New York City in order to preserve their perfect pro-life credentials.

Times columnist Nicholas Kristof echoed the editorial page in early February with a column titled: “Who Is More Electable?” In the very first sentence, Kristof concluded that McCain is “the Republican most likely to win the November election.” Kristof touted McCain’s “unusual appeal among swing voters” and cited polls that showed McCain would do “stunningly well” in a general election.

Also in February, CNN produced polls showing McCain doing better than “generic Republican” in a general election, which Jeffrey Toobin said was a tribute to how “well respected” McCain is. Hey, is it too late for us to nominate “generic Republican”?

And on MSNBC’s “Hardball,” from the way Chris Matthews carried on about McCain, you’d think he had caught a glimpse of Obama’s ankle. Matthews said that McCain was “the real straight talker … a profile in courage … more seasoned than the current president, a patriot, of course … honest and respected in the media. He has all the pluses in the world of a sort of a, you know, an Audie Murphy, if you will, a real war hero.”

I guess the party’s over.

Now the Times won’t even publish McCain’s op-ed. I wouldn’t have published it either — I’ve read it twice and I still can’t remember what it says — but I also wouldn’t have published McCain’s seven op-eds in The New York Times since 1996.

Since McCain has gone from being a Republican “maverick” who attacks Republicans and promotes liberal causes to the Republican nominee for president, he’s also gone from being one of the Times‘ most frequent op-ed guest columnists to being an unpublishable illiterate.

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