Johnny's Little Helpers

by digby

The Democratic primary is just over and we can already see two ways in which McCain's media base is helping him. First, they are obsessing about how much the Republican base is "rejecting" him. This is supposed to be a terrible thing, but in a year in which Republicanism is more toxic than expired dog food, it actually gives many people a reason to vote for him. No doctrinaire Republican could win in this environment and his fanboys in the media are happy to make sure that everyone sees him as they do --- a macho, go-to-hell, Teddy Roosevelt reformer type.

The second way in which his fan base is helping him is this new defensiveness on his behalf about Barack's supposed ageism. Following up on D-day's post below, Steve Benen reports that the media is rushing to help John McCain by characterizing every criticism as an ageist slam. (If only they had had half this sensitivity in the Democratic primary...)

Benen writes:

I can appreciate the fact that the McCain campaign and Republicans in general are a little touchy about the senator’s age — running to be the oldest president in U.S. history will do that — but that’s no reason to characterize every critical adjective in the language as some kind of slight about McCain’s septuagenarian status.

Poll after poll shows that more voters trust Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., on matters of national security than they do Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois. Hoping to bridge that chasm, the Obama campaign and Democrats harped on comments McCain made on the Today show this morning, repeatedly calling the 71-year-old presumptive GOP presidential nominee “confused,” seeming to feed into concerns voters might have about the Arizonan’s age.

After McCain said this morning that it’s “not too important” when U.S. troops come home from Iraq, Obama aide Susan Rice said on a conference call that McCain’s comments reveal a “real confusion and lack of understanding of the situation in Iraq” and the larger region. She added that McCain’s series of errors of fact and judgment are “reflective of a pattern of lack of understanding and lack of strategic depth.”

Reporters, apparently having internalized McCain’s talking points, asked Rice if she was attacking McCain’s age by calling him “confused.” She responded, “[W]hat I meant by that is very simple — on critical, factual questions that are fundamental to understanding what’s going on in Iraq and the region, Sen. McCain has gotten it wrong. And not just once but repeatedly.”

"Confused" is a term that Obama himself uses all the time, in many different contexts. It's not ageist when he says:

Senator Clinton used this to try to imply that I wasn’t serious about bringing this war to an end. I just have to mention this because I don’t want anybody here to be confused...I have been against it in 2002, 2003, 2004, 5, 6, 7, 8 and I will bring this war to an end in 2009. So don’t be confused. Don’t be confused.

The report that was produced led to the following conclusion: “All of their comments reflect a lack of a clear documented process at Walter Reed for helping OIF/OEF servicemembers transition to VA.” The report also stated that servicemembers were “frustrated, confused, sometimes angry” over their experiences at Walter Reed and that soldiers without family support were “depressed and sad and by themselves.

... if anyone has been confused by these emails, I want you to know that today I'll be speaking from my heart, and as a true friend of Israel. And I know that when I visit with AIPAC, I am among friends. Good friends. Friends who share my strong commitment to make sure that the bond between the United States and Israel is unbreakable today, tomorrow, and forever.

Benen rightly notes that this is a perfectly good word for anyone to use to describe a political opponent's incoherent policies, regardless of age. But in this case, it also happens to be in Barack's common vocabulary. It's one of his "words."

I suppose it's inevitable considering the "firsts" in this campaign that everything will be fought on the identity battlefield. So while it is a cynical, hypocritical move on the part of the McCain campaign to capitalize on these themes (it wasn't long ago they would have been screaming "PC, PC, PC!") it's logical that they would do it.

But the press has absorbed it and is carrying McCain's water for him, defending him against attacks on the exact basis he wants them to and putting their thumbs on the scale. As usual. I can't tell you how shocked I am.