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Tilting at Windmills

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September 12, 2008

'DIVORCED' FROM EVERYDAY CHALLENGES.... At last night's forum on national service, John McCain made an unusual concession: "Listen, mayors have the toughest job, I think, in America. It's easy for me to go to Washington and, frankly, be somewhat divorced from the day-to-day challenges people have."

The context wasn't helpful. Instead of explaining how he really can relate to everyday challenges facing regular Americans, McCain simply moved on to talking about how much he admires mayors and others who get involved in their communities.

Now, I suppose I know what McCain was trying to say. His point, I guess, was that those who serve at the local level see firsthand the challenges people face in their daily lives, while for long-time congressman, like McCain, those problems can be more of an abstraction. I doubt he was literally admitting, on national television, that he's wildly out of touch. Nevertheless, that is what he said.

Not only was it a foolish remark, but it happens to play directly into one of the Obama campaign's most frequent criticisms of McCain. It could, in theory, be a moment akin to H.W. Bush's checkout-scanner flap from 1992. (I know most of that story is bogus, but the myth lingers.) Indeed, it's surprisingly straightforward -- Obama accused McCain of being out of touch, and McCain told a national television audience that he finds it "easy" to be "divorced from the day-to-day challenges people have."

So, here's my question: why isn't this the single biggest story of the day? Why wouldn't this rival, say, the "lipstick on a pig" nonsense? Why aren't the cable networks spending the afternoon analyzing the consequences of McCain's horrendous and humiliating mistake?

Put it this way -- imagine if Obama told a national television audience last night that he feels like a "celebrity," and finds it easy to think that he's "better and smarter than everyone else." What do you suppose the reaction would be from the political world?

Before you say, "The Obama campaign isn't pushing this aggressively," realize that the Obama campaign held a conference call this morning, with Dick Durbin and Rahm Emanuel, precisely to push this story as hard as they could.

And yet, this probably isn't going anywhere. Joe Scarborough said this week that the media will talk about "whatever the McCain campaign wants us to talk about." NBC News Washington bureau chief Mark Whitaker praised the McCain campaign for its ability to "drive the news cycle day after day."

I get the feeling there's a media decoder ring, and the Obama campaign doesn't have one.

Steve Benen 12:42 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (52)

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Steve Benen wrote: "I get the feeling there's a media decoder ring, and the Obama campaign doesn't have one."

The media decoder ring is huge tax cuts for the ultra-rich corporate aristocracy, and deregulation of media ownership. If Obama were to embrace those policies, the corporate-owned mass media might support him.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on September 12, 2008 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

You know who gets even closer to "people's day-to-day challenges" than a mayor? Community organizers.

Posted by: jonas on September 12, 2008 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

NBC News Washington bureau chief Mark Whitaker praised the McCain campaign for its ability to "drive the news cycle day after day."

Isn't that a bit like a referee praising a player for getting away with so many uncalled fouls?

Posted by: Danp on September 12, 2008 at 12:54 PM | PERMALINK

HELLOOOOO...the magic decoder ring is on the hand(s) of the media corporate owners who loan it out to Limpballs, INSANNITY, Drudge, and others...of course Obama doesn't have it (one)...then little Wolfie, Tweety, Grampy Scheiffer, Georgie and others just follow the bread crumbs the BIG BOYS throw out...

Posted by: Dancer on September 12, 2008 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

It's not news until it's a headline on Drudge.

Posted by: LC on September 12, 2008 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

No matter what the Obama camp does Scarborough will be saying tut, tut.
If Obama was hitting back hard like Scarborough claims he should be, Scarborough would say you can't talk that way about a war hero and a poor defenseless female.


Posted by: msw on September 12, 2008 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

NBC appears to be McCain's chosen whipping boy for this election, so I'm sure everything they do from now on will be designed to get back in his good graces, including the above quote.

The problem, of course, is that Obama wants to talk about issues, and McCain wants to talk about garbage. The media care nothing about the first and absolutely adore the second.

Posted by: sophronia on September 12, 2008 at 1:00 PM | PERMALINK

I think that instead of trying the match the Republicans in ginning up outrage over McCain-Palin, the Democrats should just make fun of them instead. They'll never compete with the right wing noise machine in the outrage department, so try something different. Bring the funny; sure, the right wingers will go nuts calling you elitist, but they do that anyway, no matter what you do and say. Might as well channel your inner Molly Ivins and have some fun. Think of it as dog-whistle speak to your base.

Posted by: Sherri on September 12, 2008 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

McCain drives the NBC cycle day after day because the head of GE called the head of NBC and told him that NBC is going to support McCain. The change in the way NBC and MSNBC covers the election is obvious. They are bending over backward to push McCain's daily narrative.

Posted by: Ron Byers on September 12, 2008 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

Is 'somewhat divorced' kinda like 'somewhat pregnant'?

George Orwell: "If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they don't want to hear."

Posted by: MsNThrope on September 12, 2008 at 1:03 PM | PERMALINK

yes, the msm sucks, but the reason that the above story went nowhere is partly that Obama and Biden themselves weren't pushing it

p.s. the poster above has a great idea: humor is the way to go; use some snarkiness; make fun of these idiots

Posted by: sjw on September 12, 2008 at 1:04 PM | PERMALINK

Mass media ownership has to be trust busted. No candidate can make this an issue because the corporate owned mass media would bury them.

Posted by: Brojo on September 12, 2008 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

The fact that McCain is a liar is sticking, and we have at least 76 examples to back that truth up with.

Obama should consider reporting a new lie (i.e. flip flop--depending on the audience) every day between now and the election.

Posted by: CJ on September 12, 2008 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

Mayors? Yeah, that's the ticket.

I think Dems are missing one leg of Peter Daou's triangle. THE TRIANGLE


That's Just What I Said

Posted by: Dale on September 12, 2008 at 1:09 PM | PERMALINK

Were you surprised at the McCain bounce since the GOP convention? If so, you have forgotten recent history, when the GOP puts on a fine show each quadrennial, displaying its singular talent to define not just its own candidate, but the Democratic nominee as well.

The Democratic convention was an opportunity lost, its theme, is there was one, lost. The GOP not only erased whatever message the Democrats were trying to say, but also reinvented themselves, co-opting Obama’s “change” theme. Just by saying it over and over, the Republicans realize, some people will buy it.

The fact that Governor Palin did not kill the “bridge to nowhere” or that McCain’s promise to lower taxes is a virtual impossibility doesn’t matter. The GOP knows the American public has a shallow understanding and interest in such things, and the fact checkers days later won’t have 30 million viewers.

The Republicans have always been scrappy fighters, eager to ravage their opponents. If you can’t build up yourself, tear down the opponent, goes the strategy. The GOP boldly and brashly says anything with even a morsel of credibility, and hopes it sticks. They don’t take the defensive, but always play offense.

The GOP historically relies on a combination of three emotions to prevail: fear (bin Laden, criminals) anger (Willie Horton, illegal immigrants) and hate (gays). They know that voters are swayed by emotional appeals, not rational discussions of policies.

Republicans know the value of symbolism. On 9/11/08, McCain gave a speech at Ground Zero, and then went to another 9/11 memorial in Pennsylvania, while Obama merely left a written message and departed to meet with Bill Clinton. And how long did it take Obama to wear the American flag pin on his lapel?

That McCain and Obama would be tied in the polls at a time when the nation yearns for change shows how the hapless Democrats miss opportunities staring at them. Obama doesn’t talk of the 4,000+ US troops killed in a mistaken war (where McCain is willing to have our troops for 100 years), the national debt increasing even more as we take on the debt of Fanny Mae (and the CEO’s platinum parachutes), the unemployment rate at a five year high, McCain confusing the Shiites and Sunnis (and Lieberman having to correct him), McCain saying that “the economy isn’t my strong suit,” or the fact that most of the economic recessions of the past 70 years have occurred during Republican administrations.

Democrats already have stopped talking of McCain’s many houses and his $600 shoes. You can bet the Reps will tell of Obama’s $1.6 million Chicago house bought from a man later convicted of a crime, and the ads showing Hillary and Biden saying that Obama is inexperienced are sure to be on the way.

Posted by: Samos on September 12, 2008 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

Show a little truth and humility 10% of the time and you are redeemed for the other 90% of the time in the McCain-Press world. Ohhh ... the Johnny we love is back! And the truth is that politicians in Washington are in a bubble. They are so absorbed in making the right connections to maintain their own and their parties' war chests that they really don't connect to the real world of us who have to hump for a living. And their bubble does not getting any clearer when they are on the campaign trail.

Posted by: lou on September 12, 2008 at 1:12 PM | PERMALINK

McCain should run for mayor then!!!
He could be "The Maverick Mayor!" or the "POW Mayor"
THe possibilities are endless!!!

Posted by: JB on September 12, 2008 at 1:13 PM | PERMALINK

"You know who gets even closer to "people's day-to-day challenges" than a mayor? Community organizers."

+1.

Posted by: cha cha cha on September 12, 2008 at 1:21 PM | PERMALINK

So where's the Obama ad taking McCain's remark out of context (even though it doesn't even have to be)? How long would it have taken for McCain to approve that commercial if Obama had said that??

Posted by: alan on September 12, 2008 at 1:23 PM | PERMALINK

McCain simply moved on to talking about how much he admires mayors and others who get involved in their communities.

Like, say, community organizers?

Posted by: folkbum on September 12, 2008 at 1:26 PM | PERMALINK

Why didn't Obama have that clip in an ad this morning? Where's his rapid response team?

Bill Clinton's war room in 1992 didn't need an internet guru, but Obama's surely does. Who is it? Is it someone who is alive? Has cognitive function?

Where's the uppercut? The jab? The combination? Dancing around with sober issue ads ain't going to cut it.

Posted by: truth on September 12, 2008 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

I was watching Chris Mathews (who is sometimes a little too much for me)last night and he brought up a valid point. These messages end with "I'm John McCain and I approved this ad" Why has no journalist asked him to his face " Do you really believe that Obama wants sex education for kindigarten? " He needs to be held personally responsible for the slim his campaign is slinging over the fence. I am sure he would stutter and blurb his way out of it as he did last night when responding to the Community Organizer slurs. Accountability is what it should be about.

Posted by: john r on September 12, 2008 at 1:31 PM | PERMALINK

Why are they not hammering McCain on his healthcare tax hike? Or perpetual war or taxes?

I can't believe that "McCain is a computer illiterate ad". Do you know how many computer illiterate voters there are out there? Geeze!

Who the hell is making these calls for the dems? Karl Rove?

Posted by: Becca on September 12, 2008 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

Because it isn't batshit insane, like lipstick on a pig was. The Republicans making a big deal out of it was so out there, so totally surreal, that the story took off. We live in a "shock-based" entertainment society, where Brittany has to shave her head to get attention. So if you want to "win" the news cycle, you need to find something they say that is totally innocuous, and make a big deal about it.

Posted by: Bahrad on September 12, 2008 at 1:35 PM | PERMALINK

"...why isn't this the single biggest story of the day? Why wouldn't this rival, say, the "lipstick on a pig" nonsense? Why aren't the cable networks spending the afternoon analyzing the consequences of McCain's horrendous and humiliating mistake?"

Simple answer: because we have a corrupt corporate media establishment more concerned with keeping their side in power than in reporting the truth. Until we smash the existing media complex, this will continue.

Posted by: Jamie on September 12, 2008 at 1:36 PM | PERMALINK

"Listen, mayors have the toughest job, I think, in America. It's easy for me to go to Washington and, frankly, be somewhat divorced from the day-to-day challenges people have."

I don't think this kind of "gotcha" parsing does any good and it distracts from the issues. Sure, McCain made a comment that could imply he's admitting that he's out of touch, but if anyone jumped on him for it he'd merely say, "That's why I have to work hard on the stump, so I keep in touch with the people, and that's why elitist, professorial Obama is out of touch because he won't go on this town meeting tour I suggested and meet with the real folks who work hard for a living and truth and justice in the American way blah blah blah . . . POW."

It's just a game of twisting words and taking them out of context and making a big deal out of it. When there's no substantive trivial story to parade around the news cycle, the media gets into parsing. You can parse anything any way you want to make a point. It's just gotcha word games.

Posted by: hark on September 12, 2008 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

I've said this on a few other sites and I'll say it here. These kind of gaffes have to be brought up again and again until the MSM has to report on them. Could you imagine if this had been Obama? The entire wingnutosphere would be pounding this mercilessly, and like Steve pointed out, it would be "driving the news cycle". We've got to do the same as the wingnuts. And remember, we've got truth on our side! So please, everyone. Get out there and drive this story every chance you get. It's your civic duty!!!

Posted by: Geneva Mike on September 12, 2008 at 1:38 PM | PERMALINK

john r:I saw Joy on "the View" ask him that very question. McCain's response was silly, to say the least.

Posted by: Rhonda W on September 12, 2008 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

I agree that what McCain said makes him seem wildly out of touch, but there's no indication that he is not, in fact, wildly out of touch. I also have to ask, unimportant as it is, what is "bogus" about GHWB not having seen a supermarket barcode scanner? He genuinely did not know what it is; there is video of his remarks and it makes it quite clear the entire concept was novel to him.

Posted by: sponson on September 12, 2008 at 1:51 PM | PERMALINK

Am I the only one thinking that McCain was trying to build up the "experience" of his running mate in the mind's-eye of the audience? I.e., "But at least Sarah Palin will be there to keep me grounded. She was a mayor, you know."

Posted by: Bernard Gilroy on September 12, 2008 at 1:58 PM | PERMALINK

Now is it just me, or does the first frame of that movie look exactly like a BUSH smug ass, fuck you all smirk?

A smirk, I think, we'll all carry with us for the rest of time.

Posted by: troll_bait on September 12, 2008 at 2:01 PM | PERMALINK

The media decorder ring is actually pretty simple.

When the RNC (it's not McCain it's been going on for over a decade) wants to push a story, they get 5000 talking heads to push the exact same angle to the exact same story. they talk with one voice on every issue. And they do it issue after issue.

The dems don't do that.

Watch any talking head TV show and the republican talking head wins 80% of the time because he's more prepared. Even when he loses he or she never abandons the prepared script, he just gets angry that his script isn't being believed.

On those occasions where they do lose, you can be certain the that some republican official in some capacity will write a letter or make a call to put pressure on the network to be more "fair" by which they mean be more accepting of lies.

The republican media machine is vastly superior to the democratic one. Instead of complaining about it for 15 years the dems should be doing something about it.

it's becoming a scandal how we get pushed around in the media every election.

Posted by: Eric on September 12, 2008 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

The media decorder ring is actually pretty simple.

When the RNC (it's not McCain it's been going on for over a decade) wants to push a story, they get 5000 talking heads to push the exact same angle to the exact same story. they talk with one voice on every issue. And they do it issue after issue.

The dems don't do that.

Watch any talking head TV show and the republican talking head wins 80% of the time because he's more prepared. Even when he loses he or she never abandons the prepared script, he just gets angry that his script isn't being believed.

On those occasions where they do lose, you can be certain the that some republican official in some capacity will write a letter or make a call to put pressure on the network to be more "fair" by which they mean be more accepting of lies.

The republican media machine is vastly superior to the democratic one. Instead of complaining about it for 15 years the dems should be doing something about it.

it's becoming a scandal how we get pushed around in the media every election.

Posted by: Eric on September 12, 2008 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

How about a goddam video link instead of a mile long transcript? I can't very well send that to uninformed indies and wingnuts and expect them to read it.

Posted by: markg8 on September 12, 2008 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

"Mr. McCain, do you think community organizers are in touch with the day to day challenges people in their communities face?"

Oh, wait, nobody asked him that one.

Posted by: MFA on September 12, 2008 at 2:09 PM | PERMALINK

It was pretty obvious that McCain was trying to bolster Palin (former mayor) and dis Obama (experience in Washington).

But, in order to do that, he had to be somewhat self-deprecating in that regard. Because, obviously, he's been in Washington a lot longer than Obama has.

It was a very subtle thing.

Posted by: Hesiod on September 12, 2008 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

Steve, you missed the "get" entirely.

What McCain was trying to say is that Gov. Whazzup, formerly Mayor (of) Whazzup, connects with the "real people."

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on September 12, 2008 at 2:14 PM | PERMALINK

How about a commercial like this?

John McCain is being honest for a change.

Soundbite: It's easy for me to go to Washington and, frankly, be somewhat divorced from the day-to-day challenges people have."

500 dollar shoes

And how many houses? He doesn’t even know.

Soundbite: "I think — I'll have my staff get to you,"

Of course, it’s tough to keep track of how many multi-million dollar houses you own when your luxurious lifestyle is being financed by your millionaire heiress wife…

Soundbite repeat: “divorced from the day-to-day challenges people have.”

26 years in Washington… and no plan to help working Americans, just more tax cuts for the rich… rich people like… the McCains.

So we believe John McCain when he says… : “It's easy for me to go to Washington and, frankly, be somewhat divorced from the day-to-day challenges people have."

Posted by: bionicle on September 12, 2008 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

Text:

John McCain cannot help Americans out of this lousy economy because John McCain does not understand our problems. Take John McCain's words for it "It's easy for me to go to Washington and, frankly, be somewhat divorced from the day-to-day challenges people have." [take his voice].

We cannot afford four more years of another President who is "somewhat divorced" from our problems.

When we are struggling to pay our mortgages, John McCain has lost track of how many houses he owns.

When we are struggling to afford health insurance, John McCain wants to raise taxes on our health benefits.

When we are struggling to makes ends meet on Social Security, John McCain wants to put our Social Security funds into the hands of the Wall Street wizards who got us into this mess.

It's time for a change. Barack Obama for President.

I'm Barack Obama and I approve this message, because you deserve a President who understands your problems and has solutions to help solve them.

Posted by: Ephus on September 12, 2008 at 2:45 PM | PERMALINK

If Obama were to embrace those policies, the corporate-owned mass media might support him.

What I don't get is why he doesn't pretend to embrace them, then stab the bastards in the back once he's president?

Posted by: Mr. Conspiracy on September 12, 2008 at 2:55 PM | PERMALINK

He's been hanging around that young thing and Divorce has crossed his feeble mind.

Posted by: ROGNM on September 12, 2008 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder if it's possible that some muckety-mucks in the GOP are wondering what the hell it is that makes John McCain essential to the election.

Posted by: Jeffrey Davis on September 12, 2008 at 3:03 PM | PERMALINK

I thought this was going to be about how John McCain got divorced, then married an heiress, so that he didn't have to deal with everyday challenges anymore.

Posted by: Stephen on September 12, 2008 at 3:06 PM | PERMALINK

Didn't the "lipstick" faux outrage start with a conference call from the McCain campaign? Have the Dems done this with this remark? Why wait for the media to pick this up, when it's obvious they won't.

Posted by: pat on September 12, 2008 at 3:18 PM | PERMALINK

It's easy for me to go to Washington and, frankly, be somewhat divorced from the day-to-day challenges people have."

Truly John McCain _has_ shown a consistent track record of divorcing himself from struggling people whom he no longer finds appealing.

Posted by: FlipYrWhig on September 12, 2008 at 3:24 PM | PERMALINK

This was the same appearance where, when McCain was discussing healthcare, he said (I paraphrase), "People are living longer, and are more active and vital later in life. I'm here to tell you that's true."

Then he chuckled, and by way of making a joke, dropped his head and pretended to snore for a few seconds, before lifting his head and laughing.

This would all be funnier if Palin wasn't the Moose in the woodpile.

Posted by: Jemand von Niemand on September 12, 2008 at 3:36 PM | PERMALINK

it's clear why the media wouldn't pounce on this ... white elitists are obviously role-models; uppity niggers are scary.

Posted by: Gonads on September 12, 2008 at 4:09 PM | PERMALINK

The decoder ring is a slap of ribs and a side of slaw at the McSame's Sedona cribbo....it ain't that tough to figure out...

Posted by: BBQ! on September 12, 2008 at 4:39 PM | PERMALINK

It doesn't help that Ike is the only story which CNN cares about today. I thought I'd see some gasbag commentary on Palin's interview, at least, but nope. It's constant storm coverage every time I flip by.

Posted by: frightwig on September 12, 2008 at 5:11 PM | PERMALINK

Add this one to the Flip Flop File, Steve.

"Listen, mayors have the toughest job, I think, in America. It's easy for me to go to Washington and, frankly, be somewhat divorced from the day-to-day challenges people have."
--9/11/08

VERSUS

"I am prepared. I am prepared. I need no on-the-job training. I wasn't a mayor for a short period of time. I wasn't a governor for a short period of time."
October, 2007 -- when he was running against Giuliani and Romney

Posted by: Grumpy on September 12, 2008 at 5:13 PM | PERMALINK

BILL CLINTON AND THE TELECOMMUNICATIONS ACT OF 1996 RUINED THIS COUNTRY.

THE EXPERIMENT WITH DEMOCRACY IS OVER.

Its not a "media decoder ring" its the blatant pro-republican slant on everything.

You must get the big bucks to have figured that out now, after 8 years of pravda-lite.

Posted by: feckless on September 12, 2008 at 5:21 PM | PERMALINK

John McCain said that a mayor's job is the toughest in America.

What does he think the President's job is like?

Posted by: MarkH on September 12, 2008 at 8:00 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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