John McCain and the press have been through a lot together – obsessive love, a bittersweet break-up, an attempt to work things out again. Mainstream media is torn. For conservatives like Rush Limbaugh, however, McCain is nothing short of a bête noire.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: And I'm Brooke Gladstone. The big media story this week concerns an erstwhile media darling. Can you guess? [CLIP] [MUSIC UP AND UNDER] POLITICAL ADVERTISEMENT: One candidate voted against the Bush tax cuts both times and pushed more restrictions on gun owners’ rights. The same candidate joined Ted Kennedy to sponsor amnesty for illegals. Hillary Clinton? No. John McCain — John McCain, surprisingly liberal. [END CLIP] BROOKE GLADSTONE: Arizona Senator John McCain, once revered and then reviled by political pundits when he pandered to Pat Robertson, whom he once likened to Louis Farrakhan, mocked by TV pundits in the Op-Ed page of The New York Times when his straight-talk express blew out all its tires last summer, is currently riding a wave that could lead to the Republican nomination.
But now he confronts the fiercest, most relentless enemy of his life – not counting the Vietcong – no, not Mitt or Hillary or Bill, or even Karl. They're pikers compared to the legions of Rush. Limbaugh inveighs against him hour after hour. [CLIP] RUSH LIMBAUGH: So the McCain camp is doing its best to say that private sector business experience is irrelevant. [END CLIP] BROOKE GLADSTONE: Take a bathroom break. Go out to lunch. You won't miss anything. [CLIP] [CROWD SOUNDS] RUSH LIMBAUGH: He is not the choice of conservatives as opposed to the choice of a Republican establishment. BROOKE GLADSTONE: But the Republican establishment is no defense against the onrush. [CLIP] RUSH LIMBAUGH: He has curtailed free political speech. It was called McCain-Feingold. He opposed tax cuts, one of only a few Republicans to do so. [END CLIP] BROOKE GLADSTONE: We took that last clip from Thursday’s O’Reilly Factor on Fox News, where former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum attacked McCain and conservative WABC radio talk show host Monica Crowley defended him – sort of. [CLIP] MONICA CROWLEY: He’s bad on illegal immigration, bad on the Bush tax cuts, bad on anti-torture legislation, bad on campaign finance reform. But, for 30 years before that, John McCain has had a long, extensive conservative record of backing tax cuts and cutting federal spending and being a deficit hawk, being a national security hawk and has been consistency pro-life. BROOKE GLADSTONE: The O’Reilly segment was called John McCain and Conservative Angst, and there’s a lot of it. And though it might hurt conservatives to hear it, the Republican Party is beginning to look an awful lot like the Democrats of yore. That intra-party cracking sound is audible throughout the conservative media.
In a recent post from the conservative blog called RedState, McCain is slammed as, quote, “the voice of the Republican party.” The blogger writes, “If I have to put up with a lying, slimy president, I would much rather have a Democrat that gave lip service to the far left to get elected than a Republican that ignores the conservative right.”
Meanwhile, after pronouncing McCain’s campaign stone dead for months, the mainstream media are wiping egg off their face, a motion so continuous this season it has to be causing repetitive stress syndrome – and dizziness. They love him, mock him, condemn him as a hypocrite, resurrect him as a hero. But he keeps slipping out of their grip.
It probably doesn't matter. The mainstream media are irrelevant when it comes to John McCain. He has bigger fish to fry – namely, a bumping and biting bull shark, endless circling, called Rush.