Media Blog

NY Times on McCain

This multi-thousand word hit piece on McCain in today’s NY Times is actually part of a series of articles on the candidates called “The Long Run,” which looks “at the lives of the presidential candidates to understand better how they think, what influenced them and how they performed in public life or private endeavors.” 

The previous article in the series was on Barack Obama and was criticized on the left for its non-bombshell pronouncement that drugs didn’t play a large part in Barack Obama’s early life.  Here are the first few paragraphs:

Old Friends Say Drugs Played Bit Part in Obama’s Young Life
Nearly three decades ago, Barack Obama stood out on the small campus of Occidental College in Los Angeles for his eloquence, intellect and activism against apartheid in South Africa. But Mr. Obama, then known as Barry, also joined in the party scene.
Years later in his 1995 memoir, he mentioned smoking “reefer” in “the dorm room of some brother” and talked about “getting high.” Before Occidental, he indulged in marijuana, alcohol and sometimes cocaine as a high school student in Hawaii, according to the book. He made “some bad decisions” as a teenager involving drugs and drinking, Senator Obama, now a presidential candidate, told high school students in New Hampshire last November.
Mr. Obama’s admissions are rare for a politician (his book, “Dreams From My Father,” was written before he ran for office.) They briefly became a campaign issue in December when an adviser to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Mr. Obama’s chief Democratic rival, suggested that his history with drugs would make him vulnerable to Republican attacks if he became his party’s nominee.
Mr. Obama, of Illinois, has never quantified his illicit drug use or provided many details. He wrote about his two years at Occidental, a predominantly white liberal arts college, as a gradual but profound awakening from a slumber of indifference that gave rise to his activism there and his fears that drugs could lead him to addiction or apathy, as they had for many other black men.
Mr. Obama’s account of his younger self and drugs, though, significantly differs from the recollections of others who do not recall his drug use. That could suggest he was so private about his usage that few people were aware of it, that the memories of those who knew him decades ago are fuzzy or rosier out of a desire to protect him, or that he added some writerly touches in his memoir to make the challenges he overcame seem more dramatic.

The similarity of the Obama and McCain pieces are striking.  Both have zero news value.  And both were released at a time where they could do no real harm to the candidate, but would still have reader appeal.  The date of the Obama non-story is February 9, days after Super-Duper-Tuesday. 
With the McCain piece, the Times needs to answer why they held this piece until after McCain won the nomination, as well as the Times’ endorsement before the New York primary.  If the Times thinks eight-year-old allegations and innuendo are newsworthy, they had a duty to bring this up in their endorsement of McCain.  They did not.

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