Monday, April 07, 2008

The Media's False Narrative on McCain

Two peas in the media pod

Glenn Greenwald, HuffPo: Great American Hypocrites: McCain's Old Packaging

An excerpt from Greenwald's new book, Great American Hypocrites: Toppling the Myths of Republican Politics. Think about this when you hear the media say, reflexively, the buzzwords they have adopted to help brand McCain: maverick, iconoclast, foreign policy credentials, convictions, truthteller, etc.

The press's veneration of McCain as "a different type of Republican" has echoes of how George Bush was built into an iconic hero. In 2000, we were inundated with claims that Bush was a departure from the hard-core, Gingrichian right-wing Republican. Bush was no mere conservative, but a "compassionate conservative," someone who, exactly like McCain, combined the most admirable virtues of the conservative man with a streak of idiosyncratic independence that rendered him substantially different -- better -- than the standard right-wing Republican.

And exactly like the media's hero worship of McCain now, Bush in 2000 was presented as the sole figure capable of healing our partisan rift. He was a "uniter, not a divider," who venerated solutions above partisan bickering. Bush would reach across the aisle, recruit Democrats to his side, and just as he changed the tenor of politics in Texas, so, too, would he bridge the partisan divide in Washington after eight long years of Clintonian divisiveness.

Here is how then-RNC chairman Jim Nicholson put it during his 2000 Convention speech: "My friends, this is going to be a different kind of convention for a different kind of Republican." Bush spokesman Ray Sullivan mouthed a similar line during the campaign: "Gov. Bush has shown time and time again that he is a different kind of Republican."

Replace "McCain" in 2008 with "Bush" in 2000, and the cliché-ridden script has barely changed. Both then and now, the GOP nominee, despite a virtually unbroken record of standard conservative orthodoxy, is depicted as far too honorable and independent to be considered an ordinary politician, let alone a standard conservative partisan. Both the 2000 Bush and the 2008 McCain were mavericks -- inspiring, honest figures who transcend partisan warfare and piously float far above the muck of traditional politics.

Indeed, the central praise typically heaped by journalists on McCain -- that no matter what one thinks of his views, he always says what he thinks, because he is a man of real conviction -- is exactly the marketing package in which George Bush was wrapped
, particularly when he ran for reelection. Just compare McCain's media reputation as a plain-spoken, truth-telling maverick with the crown jewel of George Bush's 2004 GOP Convention acceptance speech:

THE PRESIDENT: In the last four years, you and I have come to know each other. Even when we don't agree, at least you know what I believe and where I stand.

The depiction of McCain as a truth-telling, apolitical maverick is just about as accurate as previous similar depictions of Bush were. On virtually every policy issue of significance, McCain's positions -- not his rhetoric but his actual positions -- ultimately transform into those held by the dominant right-wing faction of the Republican Party and, even more so, are identical to the positions that shaped and defined the failed Bush presidency.

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