THE PLANK JULY 23, 2008
The McCain campaign might want to be careful about its loud (though accurate) complaints about the disproportionate media attention focused on Barack Obama. I'm hardly the first person to point this out, but one of the few ways John McCain is likely to become president is if the entire election is framed as a referendum on Obama--which is pretty much what the media is in the process of making it. If it's a referendum on Bush or the GOP in general, obviously, McCain is finished. Ditto if it's a referendum on domestic policy. Foreign policy and national security once looked relatively strong for McCain, but they look a lot less so following Maliki's calls for withdrawal. And if the campaign is a referendum on any aspect of McCain's candidacy other than his war heroism--his ideological inconstancy, his frequent gaffes, his endless staff turmoil--well, that doesn't look terribly promising either.
The truth is that, while the inordinate coverage of Obama hurts McCain in some ways, it also dramatically decreases the costs of his mistakes. What exactly are the stories McCain wishes the press had paid more attention to during the last few weeks? His mathematically irreconcilable economic promises? Adviser Phil Gramm's "nation of whiners" comment and job at subprime abettor (and alleged tax-evasion specialist) UBS AG? Surrogate Carly Fiorina's confusion over McCain's stance on whether insurance plans should cover birth control? McCain's suggestion that he somehow knows what Maliki wants better than Maliki does? The string of gaffes in his presumed area of expertise (Sunni vs. Shia, Somalia vs. Sudan, Czechoslovakia, the "Iraq-Pakistan border," etc.)?
The truth is, when you're running a campaign as weak as McCain's has been, in a political environment as hostile to the GOP as this one, the less attention anyone pays to you the better off you probably are.