Thursday, February 21, 2008

The John McCain story

By Carol Gee

As I am writing this Senator John McCain is before the early morning news media cameras attempting to "resolve" to get out in front of the current New York Times hot story, to "move on," from the issue involving himself and a lobbyist. The Senator has denied everything, including what the unnamed aides have said as sources in the story. Senator McCain said, "I am very disappointed in the article and it is not true."

There is a kind of familiar feel to it. But now it has become as much about the messenger as the message. It is rather painful to watch. I am tuned in to MSNBC's Morning Joe. Continuing to focus on The New York Times, host Joe Scarborough has talked at length all morning about the "lack of real substance" in the story with his sidekick Mika Brzezinski. Mica says the NYT "is on the spot here."

Now we get to hear Chris Matthews explain it to us. Naming the NYT, "the best paper in the country, the best at getting sources, careful," Matthews continued, "This is classic John McCain -- it is explosive -- he handled it very quickly... I'm going to go over the story line by line." Later Matthews continued, "We'll hear from Media Matters on this. How would conservatives respond at the beginning? Everybody will go to general quarters."

David Gregory reminded his companions, "We're not engaged in press criticism here. We aren't able to make judgments... But I would ask, how do you as a voter evaluate John McCain. We do not yet know the impact. We will have to watch Mike Huckabee's reaction. I don't think we can judge yet. What are the unanswered questions? Gregory did note that Senator McCain "had declined to be interviewed for the piece." Gregory talked about the Senator's "bringing in Bob Bennett, preferred to handle it behind the scenes."

Pat Buchannan was at high decible rant, saying, "McCain put his credibility straight on the line up against the New York Times, whose integrity is now on the line. The story was a head shot. They were going for the kill. Now they have to now decide what to do next."

Fallout continues. This is a big story, if you use the amount of space used at the website Memeorandum as any gauge. Fully 3/4 of their headline and link space is taken up with this explosive story. The McCain campaign staff is dismissing the story as based only on anonymous sources. John Weaver, named in the story, has denied being the source of the leak. There is more from the NYT's head, Bill Keller: "We think the story speaks for itself. We publish stories when we think they are ready. It was a long time in the works [including lawyers looking at it]. No one has challenged what we have reported" [what the aides said]. Questions remain with Joe of MSNBC about the placement of the story and the timing of its release. Mike Huckabee has responded with supportive comments about Senator McCain.

When this news came out, a phrase popped into my head and it has not left. "This is a watchbird watching you," from Askville, refers to a cartoon character that I used to shame my children into behaving back in the late 1950s. I regret that I did that. I learned later that it was not the way to change children's behavior. I was not a model for an appropriate nonjudgmental attitude. Hootsbuddy's Place explains the phrase for us:

"This is a Watchbird..."

This is what I think of as a "Watchbird" post. I haven't come to any conclusions yet, but I have enough reservations about both links to read what they have said with respect.

The Watchbird was a creation of
Munro Leaf whose cartoons from the fifties always ended with "This is a Watchbird watching a [whatever]. And this is a Watchbird watching YOU." Maybe it was this early training that made part of me into a Watchbird. I dunno. In any case, it missed the mark. I was suppose to identify with someone in the cartoon, not the Watchbird. I guess even at that early age I was more prone to judging than being judged.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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