Politico’s report on Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) re-election fight could not have been more flattering to the candidate if his press staff had authored it.
Based on attending a single day of events with McCain, Politico published an August 23 story headlined “The return of ‘Straight Talk’ McCain” that claimed that, at least for that day, he was again “the loose, accessible, happy warrior of Straight Talk Express yesteryear” and was “at ease on the trail” while “running what might be his last campaign in vintage plainspoken style.”
The fawning article relayed anecdotes from reporter Burgess Everett’s travel to a series of McCain campaign events that day. Readers learn that McCain told several jokes over the course of the day, that he was “relaxed enough to kid around about ethnic jokes” during one event and told a light joke at Everett’s expense at another. Everett also reported that McCain criticized Congress and President Obama, and that when asked about Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, the “straight-talker” first dodged the question before eventually saying,“I believe we should do everything we can as Republicans to steer Mr. Trump in the right direction.”
Somehow the article never mentioned that McCain has endorsed Trump. And despite the paeans to the “plainspoken” McCain, it never found space to bring up how the senator hemmed and hawed his way through a stammering nonanswer after being asked earlier this month if he is comfortable with his choice for president of the United States controlling the nuclear arsenal:
The Straight Talk Express is back! Congrats to the senator’s campaign press operation.
Thanks to an intensive, decades-long effort to cultivate the press, McCain has received an unearned reputation from reporters as a maverick and a straight-talker, as detailed in Media Matters’ 2008 book, Free Ride: John McCain and the Media. Yet after his words and actions make clear that he is a Republican like any other, the press regularly finds ways to declare that the “old” McCain is “back.”