THERE HE WENT AGAIN! Senator Straight-Talk has flipped once again. How will the press corps proceed? // link // print // previous // next //
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 21, 2006
THERE HE WENT AGAIN: Senator Straight-Talk seems to have flipped on the subject of abortion—again! In truth, were not sure if his latest flip really occurred on Sundays This Week, as some liberal sites have suggested. When George Stephanopoulos questioned McCain on the subject, he seemed to know what the great solons answer would be. For the record, heres the exchange:
STEPHANOPOULOS (11/19/06): Let me ask one question about abortion, then I want to turn to Iraq. Youre for a constitutional amendment banning abortion with some exceptions for life and rape and incest.McCain supports a constitutional amendment—and hopes the Court will overturn Roe. But his position didnt surprise Stephanopoulos—and just this fall, the straight-talking solon had supported South Dakotas proposed ban on all abortions. But this current position is a clear flip from stands McCain took during Campaign 2000—when, to be fair, he managed to take all possible stands on this subject (link below). For the record, heres Tim Grieves run-down of McCains positions on abortion in 1998, 2000 and now. In this post, Think Progress cites a McCain stance from 1999.
Yes, McCain has taken almost every conceivable stand on this subject. The question: How will the press corps regard his continued shape-shifting? Will McCain retain his reputation as the straightest-talking of all known men? Or will the corps add this to the list of his flips—and let it affect their pro-McCain scripts?
As weve noted, we think the ground has shifted a bit under the feet of McCain; some press members have begun to mention his endless reversals and flips (see below). But as we watch the mainstream press corps try to process McCains latest flip, we might want to recall the way this same cohort hounded and harried Candidate Gore on this same issue. In fact, Gore had always been pro-choice; when he served in the House, hed opposed federal funding of abortion, but he had always supported a womans right to choose. No matter! The press corps beat the bushes hard, trying to prove that Gore had flipped, or that hed misstated his own past positions. Taking their various scripts from Saint Bradley, they tortured the simplest elements of abortion logic to prove that Gore had flipped (link below).
So heres our question: What standards will the corps now bring to its examination of McCain? For years, theyve declared that hes our greatest straight-talker, while beating the bushes in efforts to prove that Big Dems are troubling flip-floppers. On abortion, Gore had actually been quite consistent; McCain has been all over the lot (see below). But that didnt affect their scripts back then; the question, of course, is what happens now.
What can we do about the media issue? Christy Harden Smith asked in this recent post. Here is one part of our answer: When we critique the media, lets adopt frameworks that take us back through the misconduct of the past fifteen years. We need to describe what theyve done to our guys in the past—not just what theyre doing right now.
VISIT OUR INCOMPARABLE ARCHIVES: McCain was all over the lot during Campaign 2000. See THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/24/00.
During Campaign 2000, Saint Bradley kept saying that Gore had flipped on abortion—and the mainstream press was reciting his copy. The Boston Globes coverage was especially gruesome (for example, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 2/4/00). For a later examination of these issues, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/24/00. For a follow-up, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 5/25/00. Scroll down to Good question.
COULD PROVIDE AN EXCUSE: Tell me something I dont know, Chris Matthews said on The Chris Matthews Show. And Kathleen Parker—shes from South Carolina—told him a harrowing tale:
MATTHEWS (11/19/06): Welcome back. Kathleen, tell me something I don't know.I just know, Parker said—and most likely, she does. Her statement struck us as very bad news. Many pundits will be looking for ways to maintain their preferred Hero Tales RE McCain. Its getting harder to maintain these scripts because of the senators endless reversals. This type of nasty persecution could give them a way to proceed.
ALTERED STATES: Jonathan Alter has always been the straightest shooter among pundits of his class. And uh-oh! Last night, on Countdown, he actually let McCains behavior alter traditional scripts:
OLBERMANN (11/20/06): With Rudy Giuliani obviously at his left, Senator McCain seeming intent on fitting into the groove occupied by his former competitor for the party nominations, George W. Bush. Is that a fair assumption at this point?We know what his real position is? Were not sure why Alter said that. (In Campaign 2000, McCain didnt seem to have a real position on a wide range of domestic issues.) But Alter, who is reality-based, has clearly adjusted his view of McCain. Our question: Will others follow suit? Remember: Theres nothing our Big Pundit Class loves more than sticking to memorized scripts.