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Morgan Warners Headshot

Will the Media Pick McCain VP?

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I don't see McCain backing out of all the insinuations that old age is to blame for his geographic confusion, but it's the media's job to make him try. Recently he's referred to Czechoslovakia three times before catching himself, a country that hasn't existed as such for more than ten years. Then there was the, oops, by Iraq I really meant Afghanistan gaff. Now he's all "isn't it funny."

But it really isn't. At all. With all due respect to him, he should have to prove that he can actually, you know, send missiles at the right targets. Something tells me the White House situation room can be at least as stressful as, say, a town hall style meeting filled mostly with political supporters.

I'm not trying to insinuate that he can't do this--it's just a must. Whether it's actually because of his age, or because he's so caught up in his own rhetoric that the real names and places of countries other than our own no longer matter to him, Senator McCain is going to need to convince a lot of people that he's up to the presidency. And he has to do it fast. Pardon the pun, but he's working against the clock.

Pundits have been saying from the beginning that he'd have to pick someone that made the republican ticket a bit more, well, zesty. And this week the media has made the pundits' prophecy into a self-fulfilling one. With the Post today promoting speculation about McCain's age-related blunders, and Politico's coverage that may have been the tipping point in all this, it's clear that the media have been swarming around the age issue like buzzards looking for carrion. And, of course, the "Obama camp" is fanning the flames.

But, will the buzzards do more than circle? I think they should.

I don't see how a reasonable person can't wonder whether age is an issue, and even if it isn't an issue now, what about in 2, 3, 4, 5,6 years?

Even if he answers this issue satisfactorily now, Senator McCain may need some newcomer-ness on the ticket to keep him from looking like he's in the back seat. But it's a tricky game. We've had eight years of one president looking like a puppet to his VP and a bunch of other arrogant schmucks. And yeah, a lot of people making that charge have been to the left of center. But it's just way too easy to make with a president who is, dare I say it, elderly. The last thing McCain can afford is seeming like the old guy who sends his details man VP to do the complicated stuff.

So what McCain needs in a VP is being decided by media coverage. Some predicted the age problems, but the media are fueling the public perceptions that will decide their resolution. What power! Just think! CBS, NBC, CNN and others with mass market penetration could pick McCain's running mate!

I think that it's now up to the media to follow through, ask the question, "Mr Senator, what effect do you think your age will have on your presidency?" And he'd better have a good answer. He should. If he can give one, then good for him, he wins support. If he tries to say that his age is a non-issue then anyone voting for him will also be voting for a liar. Call it the inconvenient truth of the McCain candidacy.

This week the media seem to have set up the Senator's decision for him. Who he decides on depends on whether they continue to push the age issue. Kind of ironic, considering that he's heir of "the decider." Weird. And, I even think it should be this way! Reporters really doing their jobs will ask hard questions like this point blank. It is entirely reasonable to ask a 71 year old man how his age is going to affect a potential presidency of 4 or 8 years' duration. Why? Because everyone knows that it is an issue. It makes sense. It isn't a sign of prejudice to ask such a reasonable question, though some may shoot back with those charges.

Now, as I asked before, will media outlets push the candidate for a satisfactory answer? Not yet, they haven't. But whether they do or don't, they're helping define his ticket and his chances, and by proxy the future of our country. The media have a role to play in American democracy that goes beyond treading lightly. Everyone should embrace that fact.

So go on, CNN. Ask the question.