Thursday, July 24, 2008

The McCain Myth: Yet another example of the media's abominable coverage of the presidential race

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Look, it's yet another ongoing series at The Reaction -- of which there will no doubt be many parts throughout the current campaign for the White House. It's called:

Yet another example of
the media's abominable coverage of the presidential race

The first installment (with a slightly different name for the series), on breathless reporting of Obama's trips to the gym last week, is here.


(Update: You know what they say about great minds. Creature has also posted on the media's pro-McCain bias -- see here.)

This installment has to do with the media's ongoing narrative -- and it's been ongoing for years and years -- that buys into, and propagates, the myth of McCain as an expert on foreign policy and national security issues. He's been touting his military background, experience, and alleged expertise throughout his political career, well before his '00 and '08 presidential runs but especially now, and his admirers in the media -- and there are many of them (and many more who simply like him and give him the benefit of the doubt) -- have been happy to help.

And yet the current campaign has witnessed a steady stream of gaffes from this alleged expert: mixing up Sunni and Shiite, referring to the Czech Republic as Czechoslovakia, mentioning the non-existent Iraq-Pakistan border, etc. Critics have understandably guffawed in response, but, for the most part, the media have either written them off as symptoms of being old or ignored them altogether. Over at Slate, Fred Kaplan explains what's wrong with this:

If Obama had blurted even one of those inanities (especially the one about the Iraq-Pakistan border), the media and the McCain campaign would have been all over him like red ants on a wounded puppy.

McCain caught almost no hell for his statements -- they were barely noted in the mainstream press -- most likely because they didn't fit the campaign's "narrative." McCain is "experienced" in national-security matters; therefore, if he says something that's dumb or factually wrong, it's a gaffe or he's tired. Obama is "inexperienced," so if he were to go off the rails, it would be a sign of his clear unsuitability for the job of commander in chief.

It may be time to reassess this narrative's premise -- or to abandon it altogether and simply examine the evidence before us.

I'd prefer abandonment over reassessment, but I'd settle for either. The media need to be shaken up. But who is about to do that? The media themselves? While they've shown signs of moving away from the narrative, it would be far too optimistic to expect them to dismiss it entirely. More McCain gaffes of this sort, however, could finally force them to reevaluate their long-standing love affair with the Arizona senator.

And there is a deeper problem: "Quite apart from the gaffes, in formal prepared speeches, McCain has proposed certain actions and policies that raise serious questions about his suitability for the highest office," including calling for Russia to be expelled from the G8 and proposing the creation of a so-called League of Democracy. What's more, McCain has in recent years morphed into a blend of Cold Warrior and neoconservative. Perhaps worse than Bush, he is now one of the chief warmongers, and not just with respect to Iraq.

The narrative that excuses his gaffes also avoids any real, sustained confrontation with his actual policy positions. And so while Obama is under the microscope, where any slip-up would derail his campaign, McCain carries on making mistakes -- and proposing bad and perhaps disastrous policies -- beyond the media glare. The flip side to all this is that while Obama is getting most of the attention, and most of the media coverage, especially recently on his global tour, McCain is being ignored, or at least relegated to second-candidate status. McCain may want more attention, but being ignored, that is, not having his gaffes and inane policy positions prominently exposed, might just be the best thing for him.

So far, Obama has weathered the scrutiny extremely well. Still, it is time for a new narrative. How about one based on the truth?

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  • It is absolutely STUNNING that you people have deluded yourself into thinking the MSM is biased towards McCain.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:58 PM  

  • I don't need the media to understand that Senator Obama is turning out to be a real disappointment and a very dangerous man. Moving the war on terror to Pakistan could have disastrous consequences on both the political stability in the region, and in the broader balance of power. Scholars such as Richard Betts accurately point out that beyond Iran or North Korea, “Pakistan may harbor the greatest potential danger of all.” With the current instability in Pakistan, Betts points to the danger that a pro-Taliban government would pose in a nuclear Pakistan. This is no minor point to be made. While the Shi’a in Iran are highly unlikely to proliferate WMD to their Sunni enemies, the Pakistanis harbor no such enmity toward Sunni terrorist organizations. Should a pro-Taliban or other similar type of government come to power in Pakistan, Al-Qaeda’s chances of gaining access to nuclear weapons would dramatically increase overnight.

    There are, of course, two sides to every argument; and this argument is no exception. On the one hand, some insist that American forces are needed in order to maintain political stability and to prevent such a government from rising to power. On the other hand, there are those who believe that a deliberate attack against Pakistan’s state sovereignty will only further enrage its radical population, and serve to radicalize its moderates. I offer the following in support of this latter argument:

    Pakistan has approximately 160 million people; better than half of the population of the entire Arab world. Pakistan also has some of the deepest underlying ethnic fissures in the region, which could lead to long-term disintegration of the state if exacerbated. Even with an impressive growth in GDP (second only to China in all of Asia), it could be decades before wide-spread poverty is alleviated and a stable middle class is established in Pakistan.

    Furthermore, the absence of a deeply embedded democratic system in Pakistan presents perhaps the greatest danger to stability. In this country, upon which the facade of democracy has been thrust by outside forces and the current regime came to power by coup, the army fulfills the role of “referee within the political boxing ring.” However, this referee demonstrates a “strong personal interest in the outcome of many of the fights and a strong tendency to make up the rules as he goes along.” The Pakistani army “also has a long record of either joining in the fight on one side or the other, or clubbing both boxers to the ground and taking the prize himself” (Lieven, 2006:43).

    Pakistan’s army is also unusually large. Thathiah Ravi (2006:119, 121) observes that the army has “outgrown its watchdog role to become the master of this nation state.” Ravi attributes America’s less than dependable alliance with Pakistan to the nature of its army. “Occasionally, it perceives the Pakistan Army as an inescapable ally and at other times as a threat to regional peace and [a] non-proliferation regime.” According to Ravi, India and Afghanistan blame the conflict in Kashmir and the Durand line on the Pakistan Army, accusing it of “inciting, abetting and encouraging terrorism from its soil.” Ravi also blames the “flagrant violations in nuclear proliferation by Pakistan, both as an originator and as a conduit for China and North Korea” on the Pakistan Army, because of its support for terrorists.

    The point to be made is that the stability of Pakistan depends upon maintaining the delicate balance of power both within the state of Pakistan, and in the broader region. Pakistan is not an island, it has alliances and enemies. Moving American troops into Pakistan will no doubt not only serve to radicalize its population and fuel the popular call for Jihad, it could also spark a proxy war with China that could have long-lasting economic repercussions. Focusing on the more immediate impact American troops would have on the Pakistani population; let’s consider a few past encounters:

    On January 13, 2006, the United States launched a missile strike on the village of Damadola, Pakistan. Rather than kill the targeted Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s deputy leader, the strike instead slaughtered 17 locals. This only served to further weaken the Musharraf government and further destabilize the entire area. In a nuclear state like Pakistan, this was not only unfortunate, it was outright stupid.

    On October 30, 2006, the Pakistani military, under pressure from the US, attacked a madrassah in the Northwest Frontier province in Pakistan. Immediately following the attack, local residents, convinced that the US military was behind the attack, burned American flags and effigies of President Bush, and shouted “Death to America!” Outraged over an attack on school children, the local residents viewed the attack as an assault against Islam.
    On November 7, 2006, a suicide bomber retaliated. Further outrage ensued when President Bush extended his condolences to the families of the victims of the suicide attack, and President Musharraf did the same, adding that terrorism will be eliminated “with an iron hand.” The point to be driven home is that the attack on the madrassah was kept as quiet as possible, while the suicide bombing was publicized as a tragedy, and one more reason to maintain the war on terror.

    Last year trouble escalated when the Pakistani government laid siege to the Red Mosque and more than 100 people were killed. “Even before his soldiers had overrun the Lal Masjid ... the retaliations began.” Suicide attacks originating from both Afghan Taliban and Pakistani tribal militants targeted military convoys and a police recruiting center. Guerrilla attacks that demonstrated a shocking degree of organization and speed-not to mention strategic cunning revealed that they were orchestrated by none other than al-Qaeda’s number two man, Ayman Al-Zawahiri; a fact confirmed by Pakistani and Taliban officials. One such attack occurred on July 15, 2007, when a suicide bomber killed 24 Pakistani troops and injured some 30 others in the village of Daznaray (20 miles to the north of Miran Shah, in North Waziristan). Musharraf ordered thousands of troops into the region to attempt to restore order. But radical groups swore to retaliate against the government for its siege of the mosque and its cooperation with the United States.

    A July 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) concludes that “al Qaeda is resurgent in Pakistan- and more centrally organized than it has been at any time since 9/11.” The NIE reports that al-Qaeda now enjoys sanctuary in Bajaur and North Waziristan, from which they operate “a complex command, control, training and recruitment base” with an “intact hierarchy of top leadership and operational lieutenants.”

    In September 2006 Musharraf signed a peace deal with Pashtun tribal elders in North Waziristan. The deal gave pro-Taliban militants full control of security in the area. Al Qaeda provides funding, training and ideological inspiration, while Afghan Taliban and Pakistani Tribal leaders supply the manpower. These forces are so strong that last year Musharraf sent well over 100,000 trained Pakistani soldiers against them, but they were not able to prevail against them.

    The question remains, what does America do when Pakistan no longer has a Musharraf to bridge the gap? While Musharraf claims that President Bush has assured him of Pakistan’s sovereignty, Senator Obama obviously has no intention of honoring such an assurance. As it is, the Pakistanis do just enough to avoid jeopardizing U.S. support. Musharraf, who is caught between Pakistan’s dependence on American aid and loyalty to the Pakistani people, denies being George Bush’s hand-puppet. Musharraf insists that he is “200 percent certain” that the United States will not unilaterally decide to attack terrorists on Pakistani soil. What happens when we begin to do just that?

    By Blogger Dr. John Maszka, at 3:16 PM  

  • 1) John McCain used the anti-Asian slur 'Gook' publicly for 27 years until he was forced to stop for fear of sabotaging his own presidential ambitions. When asked about his use of the racist term by a news reporter, his response was that 'I hate the gooks.'

    2) John McCain voted against declaring Martin Luther King Day a national holiday, and then voted to rescind it.

    3) John McCain worked to remove the Navajo Di'neh from their lands in Arizona's Black Mesa (and onto an EPA designated toxic site) for the benefit of powerful mining interests.

    4) John McCain endorsed George Wallace, Jr., a favorite speaker among white supremacists.

    5) John McCain was a disciple of Arizona senator Barry Goldwater, a man noted as one of only four nonSouthern Republicans to vote against the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

    6) John McCain is now for banning affirmative steps to ensure equal opportunity for women and racial minority group after a decade of opposing such measures as unnecessary and divisive. (Of course, McCain is FOR affirmative action to ensure that the U.S. military meets its recruitment goals.)

    7) John McCain sought the endorsements of Christian ministers John Hagee and Rod Parsley: Hagee hates Catholics and believes that the Holocaust was ordained by God; Parsley preaches that America's special mission is to destroy Muslims.

    8) John McCain fought to keep the Confederate battle flag flying over South Carolina.

    9) John McCain kicked off his "Service to America Tour" near Philadephia, Mississippi, the epicenter of the states rights movement and opposition to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Civil rights workers Schwerner, Goodman, and Chaney were murdered there in '64. And Ronald Reagan kicked off his 1980 presidential campaign from there with a screed to states rights.

    10) John McCain employs Richard Quinn, a man who believes that Nelson Mandela is a “terrorist”; Martin Luther King, Jr. lead African Americans into "a terrible bondage of body and soul”; and that David Duke is a maverick.”

    11) John McCain's Latin American policies favor rightwing oppressive regimes.

    12) John McCain used the racially charged phrase "tar baby" when responding to a question about divorced fathers posed by a African American.

    13) John McCain threw Latino immigrants under the bus in his lunge to win the nativist GOP vote.

    14) John McCain was introduced in Batavia this way: "You can have your Tiger Woods. We've got Senator McCain."

    15) John McCain promised to start wars in North Korea, Libya, and Iraq during his first presidential campaign.

    16) John McCain promised 100 years war in Iraq; entertained Republicans at a townhall meeting with “Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran”; and he gave his supporters ‘straight talk’ when he declared, “I'm sorry to tell you, there's going to be other wars.”

    17) John McCain sent his own money to the contra guerillas, and even visited their illegal war camp.

    18) John McCain keeps race-baiting swiftboaters and lobbyists for dictators on his campaign payroll.

    19) John McCain’s Vietnam War buddy, political supporter, virulent Islamophobe, Bud Day, was quoted saying “that the Muslims have said either we kneel, or they’re going to kill us.”

    20) John McCain lobbied for an Iraq invasion just days after 9/11, and when it came time to convince the American people, he insisted that the Iraq War would be easily won.

    By Blogger Adam Kratt, at 6:39 PM  

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