08/26/2010 11:55 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Think Again -- Media to McCain: How Long Has This Been Going On?

So Arizona, apparently Sen. John McCain is going to retain his Senate seat in your state after beating ultraconservative primary challenger J.D. Hayworth. True, it cost him over $20 million mostly on negative advertising, and he was running against a nobody with nothing but nutty views about almost everything. Even so, many in the mainstream media appear to be in mourning.

Carol Felsenthal, writing on The Hill's "Pundit's Blog," says, "It seems clear now that no one lost more in the 2008 campaign than John McCain. He lost not only the election; he also lost the distinctive qualities -- including his sense of humor -- that made him, well, made him John McCain." And according to The Onion, the embrace of Hayworth's campaign by the likes of Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and Ann Coulter were based on, among other reasons, the fact that "McCain is soft on hate," and "fears McCain will take away America's God-given right to torture a Muslim."

Those statements may have appeared on the humor website, The Onion, but they were still not as funny as some of the things real pundits have written about McCain in the past. I collected some of these during the 2008 election for The Nation. They included pundits calling McCain "a cool dude" (Jake Tapper, Salon); "a man of unshakable character, willing to stand up for his convictions" (the late R.W. Apple Jr., New York Times); "kind of like a Martin Luther" (Chris Matthews, MSNBC's Hardball); "the bravest candidate in the presidential race" (Dana Milbank, Washington Post); "an affable man of zealous, unbending beliefs" and "the hero [who] still does things his own way" (Richard Cohen, Washington Post); and a man who, in "an age of deep cynicism about politicians of both the rare exception who is not assumed to be willing to sacrifice personal credibility to prevail in any contest" (David Broder, Washington Post).

Tucker Carlson explained the source of all this affection in his book Politicians, Partisans, and Parasites: My Adventures in Cable News. "McCain ran an entire presidential campaign aimed primarily at journalists.... To a greater degree than any candidate in thirty years, McCain offered reporters the three things they want most: total access all the time, an endless stream of amusing quotes, and vast quantities of free booze."

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