How the conservative media duped McCain

The coverage of the Democratic convention goaded the imprudent McCain into making a rash choice for his running mate.

Published September 2, 2008 8:17PM (EDT)

OK, I've been blogging a lot about Sarah Palin the past two days and, with readers' indulgence, would like to pull the lens back a bit and offer a broader analytical conclusion: The so-called liberal media (SCLM) is responsible for John McCain's blundered move in choosing Sarah Palin as his vice-presidential running mate.

Allow me to work through the logic of this:

  1. The SCLM (but, in fact, quite conservative media) was determined to make far more of the "disunity" theme in Denver last week. Stories about PUMAs and other disgruntled Democrats and Obama-Clinton rifts, plus the replaying of quotes from the likes of James Carville and Paul Begala, made for a great narrative that was promptly run through the copier at 187 percent and broadcast as fact.
  2. John McCain, who enjoys sticking the knife in the front, peered deeply into his television screen last week and, after absorbing all these overblown reports of the purported Democratic Party disunity, saw what he thought was a chance to fatally stab that neophyte Barack Obama for his supposedly horrible, unforgivable slights against Hillary Clinton.

  3. Ever the opportunist -- this is a man, mind you, who dumped his first wife for the second, richer one with the key hookups he'd need for a political future, and who later turned the greatest blemish of that career (Keating 5 scandal) into some polished-up badge of reformist honor -- McCain thought to himself, "I will surprise everyone, prove I'm a real maverick, and steal all those female voters the media says are up for grabs by, aha, by picking a female running mate. I don't need to really check her out -- my instincts tell me she's good, and if I know one thing it's that my instincts are always right."

  4. Put it all together and what do you get? Ladies and gentlemen, the Republican nominee for vice president of the United States, Gov. Sarah Palin!

What irony, indeed: Burned by the very conservative media he was relying on to help him win this thing.

By Thomas Schaller

Thomas F. Schaller is professor of political science at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the author of "Whistling Past Dixie: How Democrats Can Win Without the South." Follow him @schaller67.

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2008 Elections John Mccain R-ariz. Sarah Palin