Presidential candidate John McCain's refusal to give free and immediate media access to VP nominee Sarah Palin - his decision to present her only under tightly controlled situations and restrictions of his own choosing - reveals a sense of arrogance and contempt for the American democratic process that should be considered unacceptable in the man seeking the highest office in the land.
This is especially significant when that politician being "shielded from the press" could be a heartbeat away from the most powerful job in the world; when that politician could be in a position to make decisions that launch our nation into major international conflicts or put at risk the lives of millions of people.
Yet the media's apparently casual acceptance of McCain's "rules of conduct" with regards to how and when they may question Palin reveals something even more disturbing - a timid press that, over the year, has been whipped into submission by political leaders who, from arrogance or self-preservation, do not hesitate to flout the rules governing the public's right to know. The media nibbles around the fundamental issue of Palin's qualification through tepid "investigative pieces," such as questioning the accuracy of her statements on "the bridge to nowhere," but it does not simply confront McCain and demand that Palin present herself for questioning.
The media's reaction reveals the presence of a new generation of reporters who, growing up in the age of tabloid journalism, seem to confuse political office with show business. They see nothing wrong with McCain demanding the celebrity treatment for Sarah Palin; with Rick Davis, McCain's campaign manager, telling them that Palin will only sit for interviews "when she'll be treated with respect and deference."
Such behavior from McCain's camp is more in line with that of Hollywood publicity managers who sniff that the media should treat their B-movie clients like respectable actresses. It should be unacceptable in the political arena, for it undermines the democratic principles that built our country. It sets a dangerous precedence for politicians, who will come to believe they can arbitrarily withhold critical information that could help determine whether or not a public official has violated the law or is fit to hold office.
The instant Sarah Palin accepted the VP nomination, she relinquished her right to the same degree of privacy enjoyed by common citizens. Common citizens do not apply for jobs where their actions could determine the fate of the world. Common citizens do not have the government spending millions of taxpayers' dollars and thousands of man hours to protect them.
Paying for her protection, and considering her for such a powerful position, the American people have earned the right to demand she prove her qualification for the job - and not necessarily at her convenience. She must prove she is a leader; not someone who, with proper rehearsal and coaching, can play the part well.
A defiant attitude toward the press was the hallmark of the Bush administration; it now seems to be the fundamental principle by which McCain intends to govern in the White House.
If the media does not push back, it will have once again failed the American people.
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