Well, this is odd


The John McCain camp puts out a web ad complaining that the media are soft on Obama. Stipulate that it’s true: even then, what strategic end is being served by putting this ad out?


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Well, this is odd

  1. You’ve explained this before. It’s another rehash of the Nixon strategy. He’s attempting to link the media “elites” with Obama, thus setting up an easy opportunity to divide the “elites” from the “jes’ plain folk”, and thereby shaming those people who might want to vote for Obama, but don’t want to consider themselves as elites.

    It’s part and parcel of the damage that’s been done when the idea of working smarter, not harder, is frowned upon, and when taking the time to research and think about issues as opposed to parroting the authority’s lines is taken as an affront to all those decent, hardworking people who don’t think.. especially if you dare have the temerity to point out that they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.

  2. T. Thwin’s explanation accepted, this isn’t a very effective ad AT ALL…..

  3. “My opponent is so wildly charismatic the entire press corps swoons at his god-like feet!”

    Yeah, that oughta work.

  4. “The idea that reporters are trying to help Obama win in November has grown by five percentage points over the past month. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey, taken just before the new controversy involving the New York Times erupted, found that 49% of voters believe most reporters will try to help the Democrat with their coverage, up from 44% a month ago.” Rasmussen Reports – July 21

    He’s reinforcing the belief of 50% of the electorate who believe media will do/say anything to get Obama elected. I also liked that version of Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, so maybe he’s trying to appeal to people who like proper music.

  5. I think T. Thwim’s right, but I think it’s also aimed at mobilizing the Republican base. Nothing gets my conservative friends as fiesty and wound-up like discussions about the “liberal media”…

  6. It might be an attempt to mobilize his base, kind of like the Tories using the “CBC bias” to raise money.

    Not sure it’s a great strategy, but he might be trying to create an “us against them” mentality.

  7. I’ll explain.

    This polling data.

    49% of voters believe most reporters will try to help the Democrat with their coverage, up from 44% a month ago. …

    As for unaffiliated voters, 50% see a pro-Obama bias and 21% see unbiased coverage. Just 12% of those not affiliated with either major party believe the reporters are trying to help McCain. …

    A separate survey released this morning also found that 50% of voters believe most reporters want to make the economy seem worse than it is. A plurality believes that the media has also tried to make the war in Iraq appear worse that it really is.

    Feed the meme…

  8. I think this just might be a little display of heartbreak since the media sent McCain a Dear John letter and ran off with the new guy.

  9. Given the topic, a shout out is due Dan Gardner – in the comment string above – his new book is on topic and should be required reading for anyone prior to forming an opinion on just about anything more important than the colour of their socks for the day.

  10. Is this intended to rile the troops into action? OK, it may be frustrating to watch if you support the other guy, but they presented it so happily that you’re left scratching your head.

  11. I can think of three other reasons:

    * an effort to get at least some of the media to self-censor prior to the Democratic convention

    * an effort to set the cat amongst the pigeons between Clinton’s people and Obama’s people before the big show of unity they’ll be trying to create at the Democratic convention

    * eventually all media love-affairs with politicians come to an abrupt end, and are followed by a massive feeding-frenzy (and if you don’t believe that, you weren’t here for the Kim Campbell leadership campaign and prime ministership); so this may also be an effort to hurry that up a bit

    Remember, it doesn’t have to be witty to be effective (viz all the Conservative ads about Dion). And I also concur with the comments higher up about appealing to the base, especially in terms of opening their wallets.

  12. If McCain is trying to appeal to his base, as some above suggest, he’s wasting his time. The Republican ‘base’ pretty much loathe McCain and will only be voting for him because Obama is basically a socialist and that would be worse, but only slightly.

  13. Establishing the contents of the ad as truth is probably the purpose of the ad. If you can spread that truth around enough, it might actually get the Obama lovers in the media to start thinking twice about their coverage.

    Alternatively, if the media wants to keep being in the tank for Obama, it tries to establish enough of a narrative so that maybe some independents get a whiff of it, too, which is I think the point that Ben was getting at above with the polling data.

    Either way, I think they’re trying to disrupt the effect of the Obama worship in the media. Because, if it is indeed true, and it doesn’t stop, then McCain has even less of a chance of stealing this thing from the Democrats.

    Just like the Tories did with the Dion ads, McCain is desperately trying to plant a seed of truth that they hope will grow soon enough.

  14. I thought it might be a little early for the McCain camp to display this level of desperation. Apparently not.

    And I’m not sure what this ad will accomplish. The vast majority of American mainstream media were “in the tank” for going ahead with the Iraq invasion in 2003, and we all know how that turned out.

  15. Take out the Lou Dobbs quote and the MacAuliffe quote and you could rerun it as a Democratic ad. (I’d laugh so hard if the did that!)

    Just my opinion, but WORST AD EVER.

    I’m not the target of course, but to me the whole ad seems to be saying “my opponent is young, charismatic, and everybody loves him”. Way to hit ’em where it hurts John.

    I’d say it does a good job of emphasizing what Colbert said last night was the exciting theme of the McCain campaign of late: “I’m old, and no one likes me”.

    I wonder if they’ll put that on a McCain ’08 bumper sticker?

  16. Hey, it’s the Republican-Conservative game of playing the victim card….that’s their strategy.

    Harper uses it – in fact, he’s cried Liberal media bias forever and his fans believe him.

    McCain has always been a media darling and now suddenly Obama is…..the paranoids can’t take it.

  17. A shy reader pointed out to me a plausible theory by email: McCain has a bigger problem of plausibility within his own camp than any major-party nominee in a long time. Remember Rush promising to go to the wall to stop McCain from becoming president if he was the nominee? (Rush doesn’t, but never mind for a minute). Consolidating the base is more pressing business for McCain than for almost anyone we can remember.
    So he puts himself on the “us” side of an us-vs.-them debate by putting out an ad like this. It speaks only to the base, not to swing voters. It says: “Don’t people who think like this MAKE YOU CRAZY? Me too. Because I’m like you.”
    Accentuate the base-only appeal by putting it on the website, not buying broadcast time. (Although come to think of it, that’s problematic because a base that doesn’t like McCain won’t go looking for anything on his website, but of course, soon it goes viral and pops up in strange places like Inkless Wells…anyway.)
    This makes more sense to me than most explanations I’ve read.

  18. Lou Dobbs, Tucker Carlson, and underrated Republican hack Howard Kurtz are of course not talking about loving Obama. They’re talking about the media loving Obama.

    McCain’s cozy relationship with the media evidently has a downfall — He’s old news. They’ve gotten so much access to him that access to him is no longer interesting. Obama is elusive because he has enough money to go over the media’s head with his message. The media wants any scoop they can get on him — Interview at minimum, evidence of dark scary past at best.

  19. Hey Sandi : Of course there is at present a Liberla Bias in both Canadian and USA media this is so plainly self evident it does not require one to be a ” Fan ‘ of Harper or McCain. As an experiement awhile back to prove a bet to a friend who is also in denail as he works in the media : I bookmarked and scanned the headlines of 26 canadian papers and 23 of them had headlines and content that left absolutley no doubt that they were anti-Conservative : As to the USA the recent trip of Obama spells that out loud and clear no to mention the fact that Obama’s coverage by all the ancillary media re: entertainment tonight – Oprah etc etc etc it is patently obvious the way the wind is blowing and most especially by the denial of the media which is a sure fire sign that you are on to the truth.

  20. To me, Dennis’ idea makes the most sense. I think if Republican base watch this, they will think
    McCain was courting the NY Times crowd (it’s one of the multiple reasons why Repubs dislike McCain) and now he has been eclipsed and whinging about it.

    I think McCain strategy, if there is one at all, is to try and get media to look at themselves and their coverage and tone it down a bit.

  21. Hey Sandi : Of course there is at present a Liberla Bias in both Canadian and USA media this is so plainly self evident it does not require one to be a ” Fan ‘ of Harper or McCain. As an experiement awhile back to prove a bet to a friend who is also in denail as he works in the media : I bookmarked and scanned the headlines of 26 canadian papers and 23 of them had headlines and content that left absolutley no doubt that they were anti-Conservative

    I find this hard to believe, I really do.

  22. Sometimes reality is biased too.

  23. Wayne,

    Just because the neo-cons are getting bad press doesn’t mean they don’t deserve it. Remember — in both Canada and America the cons are in charge. Remember too — in both Canada and America the economy is teetering, wars are going badly, and scandals are bubbling. How on earth could even a Con-positive media source like Macleans spin good news out of that?

    Oh right… attempt to resurrect the abortion debate. Never mind…

  24. Allow me to play the skeptical cynic, one who doesn’t think that every political campaign is pure genius waiting to be uncovered by the pundits, and that political science is an oxymoron.

    I’ve made videos before with my computer – lacking any specific training-just programs that come with Windows, and as such I can state as an “expert” that compiling a bunch of media clips, overdubbed with music and cute graphics costs next to nothing, and can involve no “brilliant strategy”.

    Maybe the “brilliant strategy” is that you can stick anything up on a political website, costing the campaign zilch, and the “best political writers in [fill in blank of choice]” will analyze its brilliance, or search for its brilliance, proving ultimately that all are brilliant.

  25. Hey G; I am not talking about bad press articles I am talking about patently slanted and untrue content and headlines from pundits as well as journalists (sometimes one and the same sometimes not) my favorite are several articles making it appear to be something negative and showing a quote ‘ Serious ‘ problem with Conservatives in that they don’t have a majority in the polls : this is a classic non-sequitor and has no basis as a story as no party has a majority and it pre-supposes my boy Stevie even wants a majority after all as long as we have the liberal Party as it is we don’t need one! The rest of the articles were all Control Freak this, Bully That etc etc ad nauseum and in point of fact the articles really had nothing to do with any news as they were invariably concerned with pseudo-scandals re: he said this, she said that, no witnesses no charges in otherwords no news just heresay.

  26. Nice Paul.

    I must have missed that one for being distracted by the pro-Walmart and Iraq war issues.

    Wayne: fair enough. Insert journalist joke here. Now try reading Canadian and American newspapers as a real leftie. Did anybody notice the Globe and Mail’s recent relatively neutral coverage of socialism issues? Did anybody else find it crazy to see a real left issue receive any coverage without being accompanied by a nutbar screech?

  27. Call me an elitist, but I’m not certain the average voter gets out of this ad what the Inkless regulars do. I mean, I know which pundits are mocking the sentiment and which are sincere, but that’s ’cause I know who these people are. Throughout most of the ad the clips are played pretty straight. I know Tucker Carlson is mocking the puppy dog love because I know who Tucker Carlson is. If you don’t know who Tucker Carlson is, doesn’t his quote kinda play like “this Obama’s SO inspiring that people aren’t just behind him they’re swooning! He’s inspiring a whole generation! They’re madly in love!” To me, there’s little difference in the ad between Carlson, Matthews or the Fox and friends, for the most part, unless you know who they are. Is it at least possible that voters don’t watch 24/7 news as much as we all do?

    Now, of course, regular voters aren’t the target, but once the ad goes viral, is it still helping McCain?

    I don’t claim to understand the American psyche, but “vote for me, I’m less popular” doesn’t seem like a great pitch to an American audience. I also agree with those above that to those who get the message, it’s an awfully whiny message.

    So add “bitter and whiny” to old, less popular, and dull as a post. I like McCain, but his campaign so far has been pretty horrific imho.

  28. Discussions of media bias in the States, which (cough, cough) “influence” our discussions of the subject, presuppose the American dynamic of either/or, Dem/Republican, liberal/con, etc. etc. etc.

    On the one hand, we don’t have that neat Manichaean thing in our party politics; on the other, believe it or not there are political points of view which don’t fit the left-right model.

    Thus, if a certain quantum of media is “anti-Harper” (as revealed by scientists), it does not follow that they are pro-Liberal! Or pro-NDP! Or pro-your mother! Ditto if they are AGAINST your mother! It does not follow that they are pro-Harper.

    My own theory is that most people are drawn to binary thinking in politics because they’re not actually in favour of a particular point of view, they’re just cheesed off at (Liberals / abortion / capitalism / Subway / GWB).

  29. Sigh…can’t find a good image from our Naomi Klein cover interview. That was Sept. 20, 2007.

  30. Ha.

    N. Klein fits, but doesn’t Layton qualify as a centrist now?

    Dumping on Bush became cliche four years too late.

  31. Hillary Clinton (remember her?) complained that the media was soft on Obama as well. We now know how well that worked. But then again, as Mr. Wells commented on the shy email he recieved, it worked Hillary’s base up into a lather quite nicely.

  32. Remember, we’re supposed to assume that the ad is true. If it is, then I don’t see how it can be a red meat appeal-to-the-base tactic. Again, I think they’re trying to plant a seed.

    Personally, while I think the media is ga-ga over Obama, I also sense some skepticism regarding his experience and depth. I expect this angle to develop more fully as crunch time approaches.

    Democrats might want change as an end in itself. Don’t think the American public as a whole does. They need more.

  33. I think it is effective.

    The surest way to make someone uncool is to show how everyone thinks he is cool. Sort of like the way teenagers dislike bands that “sell out”, which is a way of saying the band makes music that everybody likes.

  34. I’m skeptical of Obama as a candidate but what impresses me about him, and Harper too, is that they’re sopisticated enough fellows to avoid the pitfalls of personally buying into the gross adulation of their supporters.

    In fact Obama has used his personality cult very constructively. Harper perhaps not quite as much but he’s been trying!

    I’ll bet you Obama “gets real” and pulls a mega “Emerson” right off the bat of his Presidency.

  35. Just a couple of comments.

    1. I agree with what a few others have said that pointing out how obviously pro-Obama the media is may make some of the ‘real’ journalists out there re-evaluate their coverage, forcing Obama to answer some tougher questions. That said, the press coverage wasn’t particularly rosy during the Jeremiah Wright saga. That quickly changed though when the pundits were saying that his speech was the greatest speech ever.
    Obama is getting a (relatively) free pass, and I think it may come back to bite him in the long run. It’s still early days. (Note: I don’t think McCain has a real chance, as Republicans are gonna’ get ripped this time around, but just because Canadians would likely elect Obama, doesn’t mean Americans will.) Don’t you think Clinton could easily have made the same argument the McCain team makes? I mean, if you want to look at a real press issue, talk about the coverage of Clinton. I don’t think she was ever mentioned without people talking about how much a large percentage of the population hates her.
    It seems to me that the advantage in American politics is to be little-known. How many people knew much about Bush, Jr. before 2000, despite his father? I hear pundits always say how difficult it is for a candidate without name recognition; this always rings hollow for me. As long as you’ve got some institutional support and access to money, the less name recognition, the more you can make a name for yourself. Or, if you’re a Liberal leader, let the other guys do it for you.

    2. Wayne:

    Canadian journalists ‘tend’ to lean to the liberal end of the spectrum, true, but they’re intelligent people (for the most part) that do their jobs. They question whomever is the party in power. If you look at coverage during the Chretien or Martin reigns, you’d see some fairly negative portraits of Liberals. I don’t know about you, but that’s what I want my press doing. Make Harper answer the tough questions (if he’ll talk to you), ’cause we know the Liberals won’t. Same went for Chretien.

    3. Paul:

    Despite the cover stories you’ve posted (some of which I read while I was a subscriber), you can’t really be arguing that Maclean’s doesn’t lean to the conservative end of the spectrum? I mean, isn’t it in Maclean’s interest in making money to sell stories about how awful Bush is? That’s easy, isn’t it? The guy has an approval rating below 30 in his own country, which leans right; what his approval rating in Canada is right now isn’t hard to guess. Is he the worst president in the last 100 years? As I believe the article concluded, we’ll sorta’ have to wait for history to decide that one. Kennedy wasn’t so hot. Nixon kinda’ sucked. Hoover didn’t really rock. Who even knows what will be said of Clinton in the future? I mean, things aren’t looking as nice for him as they were a few years ago.
    As for the other stories, well, since the majority of Canadians lean left, it’s in Maclean’s interest to have covers that appeal to those people in order to sell issues. That doesn’t mean that the general trend in the magazine mirrors those covers though, does it?

  36. D. Jones:

    Of course you’re right. (Or we are, depending on definitions of “right”.) I was having fun with G. Betts, and I’m glad he/she took it that way.

    BUT…we’re simply not a monolithically right-wing publication. We just aren’t. I know, because I used to work at something that much more closely fit that description. I feel far more comfortable here, in terms of my own politics (centre-left to centre-right depending on the issue and my medication) than I did at the National Post when the same guy ran that paper. They were different marketing propositions: The Post sought to enter a crowded market from the right, Maclean’s seeks to continue — and greatly enhance — a century-old role somewhere near the centre of the Canadian conversation.

    You’re right to suspect we consider whether a cover will sell (and by “we,” I mostly mean, of course, “my boss.”) It’s not always obvious how to do that, but we are absolutely unapologetic about hoping our work will find a large audience. Here’s why:


    In an industry suffering a historic cataclysm, it’s going well in our shop. Newsstand sales, a small but sensitive share of our total sales, continue to grow after already more than doubling. Masthead magazine reported recently that, in a market where ad sales dropped 3.7% last quarter from a year earlier, ours declined one-tenth of one percent. And in an industry racked by massive layoffs, the boss continues, very slowly and judiciously, to hire.

    The “general trend of the magazine” is not defined by any five covers you or I might choose. It’s defined by every issue and this entire website, and we keep finding reasons to believe that somewhere in all of that, readers are finding something they like.

  37. Paul:

    You neglect to mention one other thing that you seem to be doing with your choice of covers and lead articles: provoking debate about issues.

    Sometimes you need a shocking photo (Bush dressed up as Saddam Hussein, a child in a burka) to grab some attention to lead readers inside to the article, but it is absolutely true that Maclean’s has accomplished what has been so fleeting in Canada’s magazine industry: it has become somewhat relevant in our national discourse.

    Now, personally, I would prefer to have no discussion about changing abortion laws, they are throwing a pregnant woman in jail for not wanting to be pregnant is not a bad thing; but many many do – especially in this federal government – and there is NO discussion about it at all. Personally, I’m OK with a multicultural Canada, but no one in the mainstream is discussing what that actually means, what divides there are between multicultural urban and less multicultural rural, what problems come with that and need to be addressed. Even if we think this is overall a good thing, it is transforming the country, creating rifts, creating its own problems.

    A good newsmagazine attempts to provoke thought and debate. There is no question that is being accomplished.

    Now I await patiently your full-blown exploration of Canada’s healthcare system compared to those in Europe, which are ranked way way better, and ALL have some significant private health care component. Any of your journalists recently spend some time in France and see their system upclose and first hand?

  38. Paul:

    It was late and I missed some of the playfulness. That said, I’d say the real reason most people read Maclean’s, including me, is that it’s got the best group of assembled writers you can find anywhere in this country.

  39. Good point, D.

    I find the print version pretty inane, but IW & ITQ seems to be the only detailed coverage of what actually goes on in the government. Has anyone else even hinted that most of our major committees are essentially non-functional, and that the Liberals are as much to blame as the Conservatives?

  40. Course, I bring up the Iraq file in light of Dobb’s claim that he’s never seen the media “throw away any pretence of objectivity.”

    Funny that. I have.

    Doesn’t it seem there’s a bit of a mea culpa buried in this latest passion?

  41. 200 000 in the crowd today in Berlin – 3 times the size of Oregon! Man oh man.

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