Throughout the summer, Barack Obama has been able to win himself some media cycles, but he's never been successful at generating an authentic media backlash against John McCain. Until, perhaps, now. Paced by his willingness to actually use the term "lie" in a campaign ad, and Rick Davis' flat-out goofy call for the media to demonstrate "deference" to their heretofore unknown vice-presidential candidate, the political press seems to be reaching a point where they've decided that there is some dirt they're just not going to eat.
I got to throw some props to our own Rachel Sklar on this, by the way. She caught the "media victimization" meme right as Sarah Palin turned the spigot on during her RNC speech and immediately shot back with some hot fire. From there, it hasn't extinguished: the press has been active in calling out the McCain camp's "bridge to nowhere" prevarications (here's McCain losing the Wall Street Journal), they just aren't having any part of the victimization agenda (here's Joe Klein calling it "nonsense...hogwash"), and there's significant resistance to the notion that Sarah Palin deserves a chance to sequester herself until such time that the press is ready to accommodate her comfort (here's David Frum, wet-blanketing that poppycock).
And I'd be remiss if I didn't highlight Mark Halperin efforts in this regard. Halperin went on AC360 last night and straight-up bare-knuckled it -- accusing the press of indulging McCain's "crocodile tears," calling the media's unwillingness to hold Palin to accounts "embarrassing," and -- significantly -- dismissing and deflecting the McCain camp's attempt to change the conversation by making a mountain out of Obama's "lipstick on a pig" molehill. Halperin's het up with no let up in this clip, ably carrying Rachel's baton.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, listen, you can say all you want, John McCain said this about Hillary's health care proposal. But it was still foolish for Barack Obama to say because every night is precious for him, Anderson, in terms of getting his message out. This is one night lost on your program where his message got muffled by this silliness over lipstick on a pig.
COOPER: Mark, you're shaking your head.
MARK HALPERIN, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Stop the madness. I think, with all due respect to the program's focus on, listen to David just said. I think this is the press just absolutely playing into the McCain campaign's crocodile tears.
COOPER: Crocodile tears.
COOPER: They knew exactly what it is.
HALPERIN: They knew exactly what he was saying. It's an expression. And this is a victory for the McCain campaign in the sense that every day they can make this a pig fight in the mud. It's good for them because it's reducing Barack Obama's message even more. But I think this is a low point in the day and one of the low days of our collective coverage of this campaign. To spend even a minute on this expression, I think, is amazing and outrageous.
COOPER: Let's move on. David Gergen, what do you make of the McCain campaign's continuing use of Sarah Palin's line about the "bridge to nowhere," that she said thanks, but no thanks when clearly she supported it initially, then later on she changed her position, though she still took all the tens of millions, hundreds of millions of dollars that was supposed to go to the bridge and used it on other pet projects around Alaska?
GERGEN: Well, I'm surprised they're doing that. You know, and they've got enormous momentum. They still -- Ohio has changed over in her direction, as John King will soon report. But I'm surprised that they're continuing on that. I'm surprised that they're not letting her speak to the public. She's not taking public questions as she's moved about. She goes on her airplane and it's off the record for the press. You can't quote her there. They still haven't talked to the press. At the end of this week on 9/11 and very conveniently the day her son is going off to Iraq she's going to have her first press interview. I'm surprised by all of that. And I just tell you -- where I traveled -- I was in Washington today and Boston today talking to people, and there are just a lot of people now getting on both sides of this who are getting really angry or upset on both sides. Getting upset at the other side for what they think are -- I think Mark is right. There's a lot of lowness in all of this.
COOPER: Mark, has there ever been a vice presidential candidate who has yet to talk to the press at this point in the race?
HALPERIN: No. It's another thing that, again, I'm embarrassed about our profession for. She should be held more accountable for that. The "bridge to nowhere" thing is outrageous. And if you press them on it, they'll fall because they know they can't defend what they're saying. They're staying it on the stump as a core part of their message, it's in their advertising. I'm not saying the press should be out to get John McCain and Sarah Palin. But if a core part of their message is something that every journalist -- journalism organization in the country has looked at and says it's demonstrably false, again, we're not doing our jobs if we just treat this as one of many things that's happening.
COOPER: And yet, we're getting tons of e-mails from people saying that we're attacking Palin by looking at her record. It's fascinating to see how polarized people are.
HALPERIN: The other three people who are on the national ticket have been scrutinized for months and in cases, years. We've got less than 60 days to do this. We'd better get about doing it. And if she doesn't cooperate in that more than she has, the public should be told that clearly.
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