BROOKE GLADSTONE: From WNYC in New York, this is NPR’s On the Media. I'm Brooke Gladstone. BOB GARFIELD: And I'm Bob Garfield. JOHN McCAIN: Tomorrow morning I'll suspend my campaign and return to Washington after speaking at the Clinton Global Initiative. I've spoken to Senator Obama and informed him of my decision, and I've asked him to join me. BOB GARFIELD: With the world economy on the brink and his own presidential hopes in the equation, Republican candidate John McCain on Wednesday announced he would rush to Washington for congressional negotiations on the proposed 700-billion-dollar Wall Street bailout.
The not-quite-shut-down McCain/Palin campaign described the gesture as an act that put the country above political self-interest, but much of the media were having none of it.
WOLF BLITZER: John McCain’s decision to suspend his campaign is being described as a “Hail Mary” by some Democrats. CHRIS MATTHEWS: And I think you see that every time the issue of the economy gets stronger, he goes to a razzle-dazzle play. And I think we saw it again tonight, calling for a delay of the debate. JEFF GREENFIELD: The danger is, does anybody see this as non-political or is this going to be seen as Sarah Palin, part two. BOB GARFIELD: That was Wolf Blitzer on CNN, Chris Matthews on MSNBC and Jeff Greenfield on CBS. But, of course, the media aren't only the news media. DAVID LETTERMAN: You know, this just doesn't smell right because this is not the way a tested hero behaves. Somebody’s putting something in his Metamucil. [LAUGHTER] BOB GARFIELD: McCain had cancelled his Wednesday night appearance on Late Night with David Letterman, explaining he was jumping on a plane to D.C. DAVID LETTERMAN: We're suspending the campaign. PAUL SCHAFER: Yeah. [LAUGHTER] DAVID LETTERMAN: Are we suspending it because there’s an economic crisis or because the poll numbers are sliding? BOB GARFIELD: Then, informed that McCain was at that moment with Katie Couric, Letterman showed a live shot of the senator sitting with the CBS anchor, being dusted with makeup in a studio a few Manhattan blocks away. And Letterman just like totally went off. DAVID LETTERMAN: Let's just see what he has to say here. This’ll be interesting. I wonder if he'll mention me? Hey, John, I got a question. [AUDIENCE LAUGHTER] You need a ride to the airport? [AUDIENCE LAUGHTER] BROOKE GLADSTONE: For the McCain campaign, this was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad media week, beginning with a mutiny by reporters who threatened not to acknowledge Governor Sarah Palin’s visits with real live heads of state at the U.N. unless they were actually permitted to cover the conversations.
The campaign responded by letting a single pool reporter witness 29 seconds of baby chat between Palin and Afghan President Hamid Karzai. HAMID KARZAI: Now he’s begun to say Daddy - SARAH PALIN: Good. What is his name? HAMID KARZAI: Mirwais. SARAH PALIN: Mirwais. HAMID KARZAI: Mirwais which means “The light of the house.” SARAH PALIN: Oh nice. HAMID KARZAI: He is the, he is the only one we have. [OVERTALK] SARAH PALIN: Yes, all precious - BROOKE GLADSTONE: Sure, the news outlets succumbed to the photo ops, but they also questioned why an executive experienced vice-presidential aspirant, potentially one septuagenarian heartbeat away from the presidency, needs protection from the press. CNN’s Anderson Cooper:
ANDERSON COOPER: It makes them look like they're afraid of her abilities, that she’s going to say something. I mean, if she’s - MAN: Right. ANDERSON COOPER: - capable enough to meet with world leaders, not all of them are going to be - MAN: Right. ANDERSON COOPER: - as friendly, frankly, as a bunch of reporters are. MAN: Absolutely right. BROOKE GLADSTONE: Palin did make herself available for a long-scheduled interview with Couric, for which she had weeks to prepare. It was – illuminating.
KATIE COURIC: You've cited Alaska’s proximity to Russia - SARAH PALIN: Mm-hmm. KATIE COURIC: - as part of your foreign policy experience. What did you mean by that? SARAH PALIN: That Alaska has a very narrow maritime border between a foreign country, Russia, and on our other side, the land boundary that we have with Canada. It, it’s funny that a comment like that was kind of made to – cari – I don't know – you know – reporters - KATIE COURIC: Mocked? SARAH PALIN: Yeah, mocked, I guess that’s the word. Yeah. BOB GARFIELD: The McCain/Palin campaign has alleged that the media are out to destroy the GOP ticket. But this week, the press’ sharpest attack came in the form of simply reporting what was said aloud. After a New York Times story about campaign manager Rick Davis’ lobbying ties to the collapsing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, McCain’s senior advisor Steve Schmidt said those lobbying ties were cut years ago and accused The Times of being, quote, “150 percent in the tank for Barack Obama.” The next day, The Times confirmed payments to Davis through last month.
As for the coverage of the mostly inaccessible Governor Palin, the charges of sexism the campaign has long fired at the media boomeranged when CNN’s Campbell Brown accused the campaign of keeping Palin chauvinistically under wraps. CAMPBELL BROWN: End this chauvinistic treatment of her now! Let her have a real news conference with real questions. By treating Sarah Palin different from the other candidates in this race, you’re not showing her the respect she deserves. Free Sarah Palin. BROOKE GLADSTONE: The bad media news for Barack Obama was that McCain and Palin, along with the financial crisis, dominated the headlines. The good media news for Barack Obama was that McCain and Palin, along with the financial crisis, dominated the headlines.