It is a truism of modern campaigns that Republican candidates will take umbrage with perceived liberal media bias. And often, the target of their condemnation is the New York Times, a paper of record but nevertheless the scourge of many a conservative.
John McCain was different. He enjoyed close relations with much of the fourth estate and, it was reported, took particular delight in winning plaudits from editorial boards, including that of the Times.
That McCain is no longer. Today, the Arizona Republican's presidential campaign went to war with the Grey Lady. Asked to respond to an article that brought to light the fact that McCain campaign manager Rick Davis had earned nearly $2 million in lobbying fees from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (based, almost primarily, on his access to McCain) at the same time that he was attacking Barack Obama for his own ties to those very institutions, aides to McCain went off.
"We are first amendment absolutists on this campaign and the press and everyone who wishes to cover this race from a blogosphere and media perspective is constitutionally protected to write whatever they want," said Steve Schmidt, the campaign's chief strategist. "But whatever the New York Times once was, it is today not by any standard a journalistic organization. It is a pro-Obama advocacy organization that every day attacks the McCain campaign, attacks Gov. Palin and excuses Sen. Obama. There is no public vetting... there is no level of outrage directed at his deceitful ads... This is an organization that is completely and totally 150 percent in the tank for the Democratic candidate.... Everything that is read in the New York Times should be evaluated by the American people from that perspective. It is an organization that has made a decision to cast aside its journalistic integrity and advocate for the defeat of one candidate and the election of another."
Davis himself provided a more cordial, yet equally indignant, response.
"First of all, I appreciate all the exposure I get from the New York Times," he said. "I feel like they must have some sort of Davis envy going on... I was the public face of an organization that promoted home ownership for many years. And Fannie and Freddie were a part of 19 organizations in that group... I never lobbied a single day. Sure, I had relationships there. But you will also notice John McCain's track record even when I was involved in the home ownership alliance... I'm not exactly sure what the tie in is. You look at the track record for Barack Obama when it comes to having friends at the highest levels," and it's the opposite, Davis said.
Usually, going to war with the press produces fantastic results for Republican candidates. It rallies the compassion and support of conservative voters while encouraging more negative coverage on the opposition (driven by an editorial decision by the paper that their reporting must be more "even-handed.") But this campaign has proven a bit different. News outlets have called McCain out for his distortions lies with a general tone of confidence. We shall see how the Times' responds to this latest salvo.