Original Link: http://www.marketwatch.com/news/story/palin-predicament-brings-out-worst/story.aspx?guid=%7BAF2B9A29%2D5BA8%2D42E5%2D90A2%2D11EE0A690E84%7D
By Jon Friedman, MarketWatch
The media scrutiny over Gov. Sarah Palin's controversies is bringing out the worst in Republican presidential nominee John McCain.
At a time when it's essential for McCain to show reporters that he is in control of an awkward situation, he is instead showing signs of panic.
One of the reasons McCain rose to prominence was because reporters helped him craft a public image as a so-called maverick. His prisoner-of-war travail during the Vietnam War made him look both tough and sympathetic. His "Straight Talk Express" presidential campaign in 2000 helped cultivate a reputation as a defiant speaker, who wouldn't give in to the same old situation in Washington.
Now, McCain is starting to look and sound like every other politician. When things get tough, blame the media for your woes.
McCain, according to The Wall Street Journal, "abruptly canceled a scheduled appearance on CNN's 'Larry King Live' in retaliation" for an earlier interview when network anchor Campbell Brown of CNN (TWX:time warner inc
TWX 16.33, -0.37, -2.2%) introduced questions about vice-presidential candidate Palin's foreign policy expertise.
When he reacts by blaming journalists for his problems, McCain looks petty and churlish, not icy cool and, well, presidential. He is sending the worst possible signal to the reporters who were responsible for telling America what he stands for.
During the interview, which was shown on Monday night, CNN's Brown asked McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds repeatedly to offer "just one decision" Palin made as commander of the Alaska National Guard. This was relevant because Bounds had highlighted it as proof of her governing experience.
Bounds "dodged the question, saying 'Campbell, certainly you don't mean to belittle every -- every judgment that she makes' in that role,'" according to the Journal.
People can argue that this example is an isolated case and it's unfair to make conclusions based on a single incident. I disagree. McCain made a highly public gesture by trying to punish CNN -- and the media, in general.
He showed that he will use the media as scapegoats if he needs to.
When journalists see someone publicly showing signs of distress, they will begin to suspect that a presidential candidate is panicking. McCain is already facing uncomfortable questions about his decision-making process relating to the choice of Palin.
At first blush, Palin is perceived to be a largely untested Alaska governor and a relative unknown quantity on the national scene. Campbell Brown was completely justified to ask the McCain campaign to defend her experience. The American voters are asking the same sorts of questions, and Brown, like other journalists, is acting as the voters' proxy.
The timing is unfortunate, too. McCain is already getting blasted for what appears to be a deficient vetting process.
The media, despite what naysayers want to believe, will react to hard news, not preconceived notions about the candidates. The media would be writing and talking in triumphant tones if the Republican convention in St. Paul happened to be going smoothly and showed signs of triumph, not chaos.
There is a lot of claptrap about CNN being a liberal outlet, and it's a fair point to argue much of the time. CNN was once dubbed the Clinton News Network by the right during Bill Clinton's presidency -- with possible justification.
But CNN wasn't acting in the interest of liberals or trying to hurt McCain's prospects by asking tough questions. If critics of CNN believe this, they are missing the point.
CNN wanted to break news and the network raised legitimate issues.
And now, it is also fair to suspect that McCain reacted poorly. By shunning CNN at a time when he most needed to clear the air, he made it look like he had something to hide. McCain and his aides should be eager to appear on television news to explain why Palin is qualified, in their view. They're squandering a big opportunity.
Now, McCain looks, in a word, unpresidential.