Off The Reservation

by dday

The McCain campaign is going to war today, trying to throw a hissy fit over the coverage of their VP pick, claiming that the librul media and the "angry left" (ah, what a joy to have that back in the lexicon) is being unrepentantly sexist in their reactions, turning Sarah Palin into a martyr. The conservative base, whipped into a frenzy over the selection, loves nothing more than being permanently aggrieved, the persecuted minority, and so this will play very well with them. So will attacking the press, which is a common tool in their toolkit. Joe Klein describes this fairly well, actually.

Steve Schmidt has decided, for tactical reasons, to slime the press. He wants the public to believe that there is an unfair--sexist (you gotta love it)--personal assault going on against Palin and her family. This is a smokescreen, intended to divert attention from the fact the very real and responsible vetting that is taking place in the media--about the substance of Palin's record as mayor and governor. Sure, there are a few outliers--and the tabloid press--who have fixed on baby stories. That was inevitable....the flip side of the personal stories that the McCain team thought would work to their advantage--Palin's moose-hunting and wolf-shooting, and her admirable decision to have a Down Syndrome baby. And yes, when we all fix on the same story, whether it's a hurricane or a little-known politician, a zoo ensues. But the media coverage of the Palin story has been well within the bounds of responsibility. Schmidt is trying to make it seem otherwise, a desperate tactic.

There is a tendency in the media to kick ourselves, cringe and withdraw, when we are criticized. But I hope my colleagues stand strong in this case: it is important for the public to know that Palin raised taxes as governor, supported the Bridge to Nowhere before she opposed it, pursued pork-barrel projects as mayor, tried to ban books at the local library and thinks the war in Iraq is "a task from God." The attempts by the McCain campaign to bully us into not reporting such things are not only stupidly aggressive, but unprofessional in the extreme.

The problem the McCain campaign is coming up against is that some of their minions are either uncomfortable with or unaware of the new talking points, leading to Meg Whitman calling the media reaction completely fair. And then there's this delightful bit of off-mike, off-message fun from none other than Peggy Noonan and Mike Murphy.

The first rule of throwing a hissy fit is that everyone actually knows about it and goes with it. McCain's campaign is so erratic and flailing that they can't even pull off the one thing Republicans know how to do in their sleep.

(I know that Noonan and Murphy were speaking off the record, but Whitman wasn't.)