Sunday, November 02, 2008


Reading Maureen Dowd's column today, I realize where the people running John McCain's campaign went wrong.

To the McCainiacs, John McCain is a wise and honorable man because he served in the military and survived torture in a POW camp and has a record in Congress that includes some deviations from GOP orthodoxy -- oh, and, incidentally, because he liked to shoot the breeze with the press in the back of the campaign vehicle in ways that seemed frank and insightful.

The McCain brain trust thought it was OK to take away the last element because all the others were in place -- not realizing that, for much of the press, the last element was the only element that mattered.

No matter how many stories about his temper and impetuousness they'd heard (or even incidents they'd witnessed), journalists thought he was friendly and easygoing -- because he was easygoing with them. Journalists thought he was smart and astute because he seemed smart and astute on what they cared about, namely politics itself. On the latter subject, here's Dowd:

[Campaign manager Steve] Schmidt abruptly cut off the oxygen supply to McCain's brain. No more of the oldest established, permanent floating crap game of press confabs.... No more of McCain's trademark insouciant mocking the process even as he participated in it.

Being nice to them was the mark of his character. The things he said while being nice to them were the mark of his intelligence.

So now they're baffled. Dowd again:

...Why would he repeat that oblivious line about the fundamentals of the economy being strong, saying it once in August and again in September?

Why would he threaten to not show up for a debate (after denouncing Obama for not rising to the challenge of joint town halls) so that he could go to Washington and play the shining knight if he had no plan and no prospect for success?

Why did he allow his campaign to become a host body for a Bush virus looking for someplace to infect? After working so hard to erase the image of what Senate aides called "the Bush hug," McCain inexplicably hugged Bushies....

Why did a politician who once knew how to play the game so well, who was once so beloved by people of very different political stripes, allow his campaign to get whiny, angry, vengeful and bitter?

Why Palin?

...The ultimate riddle is this: Why doesn't McCain question why he has become a question mark?

Every one of these is explicable, of course. McCain has always said he doesn't know much about the economy. McCain has spent the last four years kissing up to the Bushies who beat him in 2000. McCain has always had anger-management and impetuousness problems.

His team just thought the press would continue to overlook all that because he served his country and suffered in Hanoi, not realizing that that's not why he seemed to have a lifetime free pass with the press. Schmidt took away the back of the plane -- and the scales (more or less) dropped from reporters' eyes.

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