David Ignatius Presents the Fable of John McCain

08/08/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

If ever there was a piece that exemplified the media love affair with John McCain it is today's article by David Ignatius -- McCain's True Voice. It is obvious from the article that Ignatius is disappointed in the slimy way that McCain has run his campaign so far -- but he never explicitly states that for the audience. Instead he does the opposite!

He tells you what a great guy John McCain is and how his actions must not really be what he believes inside. When presented with evidence that John McCain in fact is not the swell guy Ignatius has been fawning over for decades, he turns that evidence on its head and says it is the opposite of the "true" McCain.

How does Ignatius know the true McCain as opposed to the one who is impersonating him on the campaign trail? Because he read his autobiography! Oh, I see. That's some investigative journalism.

It turns out that McCain was humble in his autobiography about the courage of the men he served with when he was held as a prisoner of war. That is true, but what was he supposed to say, "They were all pretty brave, but none as brave as I!"?

There is the additional irony of how people like Ignatius buy into the myth of how John McCain never talks about his time as a POW as they quote a book he wrote about his time as a POW.

It seems nearly every argument defending McCain comes back to this point. He was a POW, and hence, he has a lot of foreign policy experience. He was a POW, and hence, he is fit to be commander-in-chief. He was a POW, and hence, he must be a great guy who would never knowingly run misleading ads about his political opponent.

These are all non-sequiturs. The real truth is that he was a POW, and he showed extraordinary courage and perseverance. If you want to commend him for that, that makes perfect sense. But these other nonsensical conclusions are nothing but mindless hero-worship. By this same logic, every POW is fit to be our president and would never do anything untoward in their lives again. Should only POWs run for office from now on?

John McCain was a hero at that time. The way he has run his campaign at this time is not heroic. It is downright despicable. Our media has to be bright enough to understand that distinction. The press is not supposed to be myth-makers. Their job is not to build our legends and our fables. Their job is supposed to be to report the truth.

The truth at this time is that John McCain is running a Karl Rove like campaign that tries to bury its opponent in a pile of dirty campaign ads not remotely related to the facts.

But reporters like Ignatius have built up a fable in their own mind. It is of a legendary John McCain who would never do wrong, who is almost superhuman in his nobility and his independent maverickness. Their thirst for such a man, especially on the Republican side (so they can tell themselves they are being unbiased -- see how much I love John McCain and he is a Republican), has led them to create this man, whether he actually exists in the real world or not.

And today's piece by Ignatius is the perfect example. He takes evidence of human frailty and dishonesty and turns it into a love fest about the man who must secretly be behind this veil of immorality. The moral hero who is going to ride to the rescue when he throws off the cloak of his dastardly advisers.

Ignatius knows that noble man must be in there somewhere because he is the one who wrote that story in the first place. The man he created can't let him down by not living up to the legend Ignatius created in his own mind. And hence, this brilliant and scary piece of cognitive dissonance you see today.

If the truth doesn't fit the narrative, instead of changing the narrative, the Washington media changes the truth.