Sometimes love hurts but in the case of presumptive Republican nominee for U.S. president John McCain, the media’s love of his maverick persona maybe protecting him from the bad press he has earned but has yet to endure.
According to an independent study conducted by the Center for Media and Public Affairs at George Mason University, when moderators, reporters and pundits issue their opinions on the two candidates, McCain fares better than his Democratic rival, Barack Obama. The senator from Illinois receives negative remarks 72 percent of the time, dwarfing McCain’s 57 percent, the study concludes. On the flip-side, Obama receives positive responses 28 percent of the time while McCain does 43 percent of the time. The survey shows that Obama get tougher treatment from the three news networks, too: ABC, NBC, and CBS.
There is no doubt that Republican pundits will dismiss the study’s findings as more liberal lies. Conservative members of the blogosphere and of FOX News will sound the horn of "liberal media" prejudices. However, I have to point out that the Center for Media and Public Affairs has conducted independent studies of the network news giants for 20 years. Also, the same pundits who disregard the study’s researchers today praised them in 2006 when their findings supported Republican claims.
Perhaps the media is tougher on Obama because he is newer to the national and international political scene. Regardless, he is graded on a different standard. While Obama prepped for his trip abroad, the media suggested it was a risky move – he might make gaffes that would ruin him. But what of John McCain’s? He touts his foreign policy experience yet repeatedly talks about Czechoslovakia as if it exists today. He repeatedly confused Shiites and Sunnis. He admitted little economic knowledge and appointed former Senator Phil Gramm (a major contributor to the mortgage crisis) as his economic guru. And, the Arizona senator couldn’t quite grasp when the Anbar Awakening took place in Iraq. Imaging the coverage and the criticism if Obama made those same mistakes. Yet McCain, who use to refer to the media as his base, got a pass. And with a straight face, he has the audacity to whine that the media is in love with Obama.
The media fell in love first with McCain and deemed him a maverick because he seemed to be an independent agent within the Republican Party. He coined himself a "straight talker" and the media ate it up. But few outlets are ready to report that the straight talker has contorted his message. He didn’t support the Bush tax cuts for the richest of Americans then later he did. He was against off shore drilling then he was for it. He was for running a clean campaign then he reneged — producing an ad that lies about everything but the names of the candidates.
So far, the media’s infatuation with McCain is hurting the political discourse. For the love of country, the American media must do more to educate voters about both presidential candidates.