Salter: ‘He is the Old McCain. He Just Doesn’t Know What Happened to the Old Press Corps’

By Nitya

Oct 21, 2008 8:35am

In an interview with our friend Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic, the top adviser to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Mark Salter, takes aim at a recent New York Times story he found wanting, and with the media in general.

"Starting with the Democratic primary, there has been a different standard for Obama than there has been for any candidate running against Barack Obama," Salter says. "And maybe this should have set off more warning bells with me.  I think much of the media has a thumb on the scale for Obama.  I think the thumb has been there the entire time.  There are many honorable exceptions, I don’t mean to tar everybody, but I think there’s one standard for us, and one standard for Obama.  He has run more negative ads than McCain has run ads.  They run from the quite misleading to the blatantly untrue."

Salter goes on to explain and defend McCain’s pick of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, and says the media is ignoring important aspects of the economic crisis.

"Obama is blaming the ‘deregulators,’ George Bush and John McCain, for creating this whole mess," Salter says, "when everyone knows how this mess got started: people pushing sub-prime loans on people who can’t afford to pay them back.  That’s how it got started.  Which party is more culpable for that phenomenon?  The Democrats!  The Democrats are.  We say, if you want to pin political blame, pin it on the Democrats for the Community Reinvestment Act and all the things they did protecting Fannie and Freddie, a position Barack Obama wholly shared.  But what do we get in the media? That Rick Davis lobbied for Fannie Mae. We get no competing narrative."

He says Obama "is much more negative, by some almost immeasurable factor.  His message on McCain has been consistently negative since the North Carolina primary.  Barack Obama has not made a public statement in this country which did not include a full-throated attack on McCain.  It’s just a fact.  They have ads saying McCain opposed stem cell research.  McCain voted for stem cell research as he got ready to run for president.  He offered, against the consensus advice of his staff, the immigration bill.  Obama runs an ad saying, ‘He’s turned his back on you.’  For three weeks Obama has walked around this country calling McCain a liar, dishonorable, and erratic.  Those are character-based attacks that he has been leveling at us for weeks and weeks and not a single reporter has called him on it.  It’s just insane.  McCain won’t even use Rev. Wright, out of an abundance of caution. So he raises the next guy, Bill Ayers, and you know what we get?  We get called racist.  How is that racist?  You got me.

"I’m trying not to draw general lessons about the press or us or the meaning of life out of all of this," says McCain’s co-author. "Otherwise I’d despair. I think the media is driven by a need to see this history happen.  And I think they’ve rationalized it, they think they’re on the level with McCain, that he’s not the old McCain.  But he is the old McCain.  He just doesn’t know what happened to the old press corps.  They rationalize a reason to go get him.  Every Obama attack they carry.  Every McCain criticism of Obama, they rush to blunt, even before Obama does."

Salter raises some very interesting points.  What do you think?

- jpt

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