McCain's reversals don't stop Harwood from continuing to use "maverick" moniker

››› ››› JEREMY HOLDEN & LILY YAN

In his latest New York Times article, CNBC's John Harwood continued a pattern of repeatedly and uncritically referring to Sen. John McCain as a maverick, without noting his own role in promoting that reputation or noting McCain's rightward shift on high-profile issues or acknowledging his numerous falsehoods. Harwood has also frequently referred to McCain as a maverick while reporting on the primary and general election campaigns for NBC, MSNBC, and CNBC.

In an August 4 article, New York Times political writer and CNBC chief Washington correspondent John Harwood claimed that "[t]he fervor inspired by Mr. [Barack] Obama's history-making candidacy poses challenges. Just as it partially obscured Mrs. [Hillary] Clinton's own assault on the glass ceiling limiting women in politics, it has overshadowed Mr. [John] McCain's war-hero biography and reputation as a maverick." In referring to McCain's "reputation as a maverick," Harwood continued a pattern of repeatedly and uncritically referring to McCain as a maverick, having the reputation of a maverick, or having a maverick brand, without noting his own role in promoting that reputation or noting McCain's rightward shift on high-profile issues such as immigration and taxes, or acknowledging his numerous falsehoods.

Harwood has previously written: "Mr. McCain's maverick stances could strengthen his brand of Republicanism by distinguishing it from that of a president with an approval rating around 30 percent. Moreover, race-based resistance to Mr. Obama's bid to become the first black president will prove greater with the general electorate than inside the left-leaning universe of Democratic primary voters."

In addition to his reference to McCain as a maverick in print, Harwood has also frequently referred to him as such while reporting on the primary and general election campaigns for NBC, MSNBC, and CNBC:

  • During the July 11 edition of MSNBC's Race for the White House, Harwood claimed: "[A]ny campaign has to have message discipline to try to succeed. The problem is that John McCain's message is not inherently coherent because of who he is. Yes, he is a maverick. Yes, he's also a conservative Republican."
  • During the June 10 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, Harwood claimed: "Well, I think with John McCain -- he doesn't fit the -- our political types quite as neatly as some other potential nominees might have. I think they see somebody who sort of shines through as a maverick, a hero, the whole Vietnam War hero thing."
  • During the June 9 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, Harwood claimed that McCain's criticism of the media is in part "a way for John McCain, who has been such a maverick, to try to unify the Republican Party."
  • During the June 2 edition of Race for the White House, Harwood said to host David Gregory: "[Y]ou're going to see a lot more of that maverick status beginning tomorrow night, David, when he gives that speech on Tuesday night in Louisiana, even more forcefully distancing himself from President Bush. And we're going to see some of that John McCain we saw in 2000."
  • During the May 13 edition of Morning Joe, Harwood stated: "And in this election, who rose to the top? But -- not the establishment candidates, not the off-the-rack Republican, Mitt Romney ... or the establishment candidate, Hillary Clinton. It's John McCain, maverick, at odds with Bush on some things."
  • During the May 11 edition of CNBC's Wall Street Journal Report, Harwood claimed: "Energy is where the divide gets fuzzier. Clinton favors a cap and trade system to regulate carbon emissions. Obama favors the same thing, but so does John McCain, so often a maverick Republican."
  • During the April 30 edition of Hardball, Harwood said to host Chris Matthews: "You know, John McCain's brand, Chris, has been pretty well-established since 2000. He's likable. He's a maverick. He's a war hero. All of that redounds to his benefit."
  • During the April 16 edition of Morning Joe, Harwood stated that "[t]he maverick brand is intact for John McCain."

Additionally, during an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in June, Harwood referred to McCain as a maverick:

Q: What do you think has to be done to fix gridlock?

A: I don't think it's an accident that we have different kinds of Democratic and Republican nominees. The establishment Democrat, Clinton, lost. And all of the guys trying to be the establishment Republican lost to the maverick Republican, McCain. Each party has nominated someone who has explicitly embraced the idea of crossing divides.

Now, an objection to that which the Republicans offer is, "Yeah, but he [Obama] is really a liberal Democrat and that's his program." That's mostly true. However, you cannot ignore the meaning of what the guy has embraced as his overall theme. So I think he wouldn't necessarily govern as a one-party leader.

John McCain is somebody who has quite openly defied his party time and time again. He voted against Bush's tax cuts. He pushed through campaign reform; conservatives hated it. He's for a cap on carbon emissions. That makes him different. I think both of these guys ... are going to draw on different sources of support, both financially and in votes, than Kerry and Bush did. And the more you scramble the bases underneath the politicians, the more chance there is for new arrangements in Washington.

From the July 11 edition of MSNBC's Race for the White House with David Gregory:

NOAH OPPENHEIM [co-author, The Intellectual Devotional]: You know, instead of trying to pander and try to get the base going, they should -- you know, John McCain is the maverick reformer. That is who he is. John McCain is not somebody who's going to light an arena on fire, and John McCain is not a guy who's going to excite, you know, James Dobson. It's just not going to happen. But John McCain does have a message that could resonate with the things that, you know, Reihan [Salam, panelist and The Atlantic associate editor] pointed out people are caring about right now, which is that the institutions in this country are failing the average American and they need to be fixed.

GREGORY: Does John -- does the McCain campaign have to emulate Bush of '04? Does it have to be run like a Fortune 500 company when that's not who he is?

HARWOOD: Well, any campaign has to have message discipline to try to succeed. The problem is that John McCain's message is not inherently coherent because of who he is. Yes, he is a maverick. Yes, he's also a conservative Republican. He makes it difficult for his campaign as well. And let's face it, the John McCain that Noah's talking about -- the maverick reformer -- is not particularly popular within the Republican Party, and he needs an enthusiastic Republican Party if he's going to win this election. It's a very, very tough spot that he's in.

From the June 10 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:

MATTHEWS: John, when people look at John McCain, do they look at security or do they look at familiarity? What do they really see there?

HARWOOD: Well, I think with John McCain -- he doesn't fit the -- our political types quite as neatly as some other potential nominees might have. I think they see somebody who sort of shines through as a maverick, a hero, the whole Vietnam War hero thing. I think people haven't quite gotten a fix, Chris, on exactly what he would mean economically. On Iraq, he certainly has the national security bona fides in a broad sense, but the Iraq war is also unpopular. So there are a lot of crosscurrents there.

From the June 2 edition of MSNBC's Race for the White House:

GREGORY: You know, John, the question, though, for McCain is how much of his maverick status, how much of his political outsider status can he preserve as the standard-bearer of the party? You always look at him and at times, do you think it's just an uncomfortable fit?

HARWOOD: Well, you're going to see a lot more of that maverick status beginning tomorrow night, David, when he gives that speech on Tuesday night in Louisiana, even more forcefully distancing himself from President Bush. And we're going to see some of that John McCain we saw in 2000, 'cause the only way he can stay alive in this race -- the one other thing about serving only one term, think about the Democratic majorities that he's likely to face in Congress if he is elected. They're going to be bigger than they are right now, if you look at the current situation and what the polls are telling us. It'll be an awfully tough situation for a lame duck president to go in with stronger Democratic majorities.

From the May 11 edition of CNBC's Wall Street Journal Report (according to the Nexis transcript):

HARWOOD: Energy is where the divide gets fuzzier. Clinton favors a cap and trade system to regulate carbon emissions. Obama favors the same thing, but so does John McCain, so often a maverick Republican. And we may see more maverick stances this fall as both sides fight for the votes of independents.

Network/Outlet
CNBC, MSNBC, NBC, The New York Times
Person
John Harwood
Stories/Interests
John McCain, 2008 Elections
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