McCain and the Press: Be Careful What You Wish For

mccain_press_blog_20080206045206.jpgIt’s no secret that John McCain has been demonizing the press of late: it’s an old trick that often works in the candidates advantage, however McCain, once the favorite son of the media may have taken it a step too far. Yesterday, during a conference call McCain campaign brain Steve Schmidt roundly criticized the NYT for being, among other things, a “pro-Obama advocacy organization,” also, Politico is “in the tank” for Obama. Of course, recent relations between the New York Times and McCain have been tenuous at best since the Times did their front page work-up about McCain, which included some sketchily sourced claims of extra-marital affairs. Still, Politico‘s Ben Smith reports that the conference call, ostensibly called because top campaign aids are tired of being labeled “liars,” was “so rife with simple, often inexplicable misstatements of fact, that it may have had the opposite effect: to deepen the perception, dangerous to McCain, that he and his aides have little regard for factual accuracy.”

Even better! What if the press begins to question why they are covering McCain at all! At least that’s what Jay Rosen seems to be suggesting in a blistering letter posted on Romenesko today.

If the McCain campaign says, on the record and before the national press, that the New York Times is not a legitimate news organization, or a journalistic enterprise at all, but a political action committee working for Obama…then why does the Times have to treat the McCain crew as a “normal” campaign organization, rather than a bunch of rogue operators willing to say absolutely anything to gain power and lie to the nation once in office? I mean, really. How far can you stretch, “they’re just blaming the messenger, a common tactic when frustrated…?” Does that kind of placid response cover all cases? At what point does an extreme attempt to de-legitimate the press actually de-legitimate the candidate as an extremist in the eyes of the press? Does anyone know? And if no one knows, how can the press even cover the McCain campaign? I know there’s a good, sound, at-the-ready answer to these questions; I just can’t think of what it is.

Suggestions welcome.