At last the media have found a use for Mr. One Percent, former presidential aspirant Gary Bauer. All but ignored while he was in the race, except for his press conference denying he was an adulterer, Bauer is now being treated by the press as a brilliant and respected figure, a world-class political power who can move mountains by sheer force of his moral authority.
Last we heard from Bauer, he was speaking to audiences of two dozen about the evils of trading with China. Now we are supposed to imagine the little guy to be a giant in our midst. What has he done right, according to the media? He took the sure-fire fast-track to one day of fame: he endorsed John McCain. Suddenly, the backwoods fundamentalist know-nothing has been transformed into the second most beloved politician in America. Such is the outrageous and unrelenting media campaign for Senator Strangelove.
But just as endorsing the Beltway Bandit wins you a day of plaudits, attacking him elicits a barrage of hate. Consider a sidebar to a fawning, drooling "news" item on the wonders of McCain by New York Times writer Peter Marks, in which he also blasts away at a publication most of its readers had never heard of. It’s called World Magazine, and it has a massive paid print circulation of 109,000, making it one of the nation’s leading weeklies. Its audience: evangelical Christians. Its crime: daring to disagree with the media consensus that McCain is the new political messiah.
The paper accused this heretofore ignored publication of "shouting its hostility" toward McCain. Even before we find out the substance of the article, the NYT takes the low road of disparaging the family name of the author of the lead article: "Bob Jones IV, scion of the family that founded the fundamentalist Bob Jones University in South Carolina." Moreover, its editor, Marvin Olasky, "has served as an informal adviser" to Bush. Four more paragraphs follow on the "links" between Olasky, Bush, Bob Jones, fundamentalism (eek!), and every other seedy aspect of American life.
On his way to the substance of the piece — he’s getting there, really — Peter pauses again to poison the well: "The piece, written more in the style of an editorial than a news article…" No irony intended, we presume: no one would ever do that at the Times! Yet look at the piece by Pete’s colleague on the same page. Alison Mitchell, more in the style of a Harlequin Romance than a news story, writes that "Mr McCain soared high and lofty above the fray" to air a "biographical commercial, which includes riveting scenes of him being held prisoner of war in Vietnam."
What’s driving the McCain boosters crazy is that World actually paused in the official parade of accolades to draw attention to a few inconvenient facts about McCain. The article pointed out that McCain’s campaign finance reform would end up helping the left by crippling the ability of groups like the National Rifle Association and National Right to Life to weigh in on behalf of candidates. The article further points out that McCain invokes the Marxian language of class war when discussing tax cuts, and was the biggest booster of the cigarette tax increase, even as he has been silent on the booze industry that has backed his rise to power.
And there’s this hilarious image of press fawning from the World piece: "TV cameras caught Tucker Carlson, a Weekly Standard reporter, seated next to the candidate aboard his campaign bus, the Straight Talk Express. As Mr. McCain held forth, Mr. Carlson leaned into him, his head cocked to one side, practically resting on the senator’s shoulderu2014a pose oddly reminiscent of John and Jesus in Da Vinci’s rendition of the Last Supper."
But the real contribution of the magazine was to draw attention to the disturbing personal history of McCain, who at 45 dumped his devoted wife to pick up with a 25-year-old Hawaiian dish with loads of family cash to fund his political career. Later she became addicted to barbiturates and was caught stealing them from a third-world relief agency with which she was affiliated. Rather than do jail time, she was allowed to enroll in a federal diversion program. When asked about it, her husband said he didn’t know anything about the addiction, even though she had previously checked herself into a nearby clinic! Jones comments that McCain does not appear to be a "particularly attentive husband."
This final remark sent William Safire over the top. He used his precious column inches to blast World merely for reporting what other publications have refused to report. At least in his column, unlike the "news" story on the subject, Safire recounts the actual content of the publication. But he never bothers to refute a single contention or fact in the article, and instead he too recounts the evil of the magazine’s affiliations. In conclusion, Safire writes in his McCain for President Press Release, World’s article is "a repugnant anti-McCain campaign document" and an example of "religio-political sleaze in action."
To the media elite, even to criticize McCain is self-evidently sleazy, and to praise him is statesman-like. That’s all there is to it. If you doubt the press bias is that intense, turn to another piece in the same issue of World, where you discover that:
"U.S. News reporter Roger Simon passively reported Mr. McCain’s use of the word gook, an ethnic slur against Vietnamese. Mr. McCain joked at a 1998 GOP fundraiser that Chelsea Clinton looked like the love child of Janet Reno and Hillary Clinton. No reporter blinked. While George W. Bush drew media brickbats for not knowing the leader of Chechnya, nobody passed it on when Mr. McCain couldn’t name the current governor of Vermont. Fox News Channel recently showed the candidate making a crude sexual reference while calling on a woman reporter on her knees with a microphone. Fox was the only outlet to mention it."
And that’s just the beginning of what’s chronicled by Tim Graham of the Media Research Center. Actually, the trouble with the World articles is that they don’t go far enough. They never mentioned the key point about McCain: his views on war. As I’ve written elsewhere, love of war is the very soul of McCainian politics. And the worst of it is that his background would provide him latitude in drafting and sending America’s youth to foreign wars. The question to keep in mind: do you want this man’s finger on the button?
The McCain campaign has become a model of the strange politico-herd mentality of the mass media. You have to get halfway through a NYT story headlined "Bush Loses Luster" to discover that Bush polls 8 points ahead of McCain in a contest against Gore, and that Bush is preferred by Republicans by a wide margin of 20 points. That didn’t appear on the front page. The primaries may end up being a test case in discovering just how much power the old media still has in times when, at last, voters have access to other sources of information.
Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr., is editor of a daily news site, LewRockwell.com.