Reporter Laments Loss of Old, Media-Friendly McCain

Reporter Jim Rutenberg pined for the old John McCain, media darling, in Thursday's "Old Friends in the Media See a New Side of McCain."

When Republicans gathered at Madison Square Garden to celebrate President Bush's second nomination four years ago, Senator John McCain gathered at a restaurant uptown with some of the biggest stars in journalism to celebrate his birthday. Among those mingling over cocktails and fine French food with Mr. McCain and his wife, Cindy, were Tom Brokaw, Peter Jennings, Bob Schieffer, Maureen Dowd, Tim Russert - "our people," as an old campaign hand reminisced on Wednesday.

Those there that night now feel as if they are living in some sort of alternate reality in the Xcel Energy Center here, where Mr. McCain is to accept the Republican nomination on Thursday.

The convention has already included some of the most intense attacks against journalists by a campaign in memory, with Mr. McCain's aides accusing them of biased, sexist and generally unfair coverage of his running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska.

The McCain camp, you see, "has sent out news releases criticizing individual reporters for their coverage" and "dismissed as 'fiction'" a Times article by Elisabeth Bumiller about the allegedly rushed vetting process for Sarah Palin. (At least one part of which, Palin's "membership" in the Alaska Independence Party,indeed turned out to be fictional.)

Rutenberg evidently sees only a campaign tactic, no underlying truth, in conservative charges of liberal bias:

If there is one mission Mr. McCain wants to accomplish at his convention, it is to galvanize conservative voters who have shown signs of depression this year. Traditionally, one surefire way to do that has been to attack the "elitist," mainstream news media....But the campaign's attacks on the news media have been viewed by journalists and some strategists here as also serving tactical needs. Among them are to build a case that Ms. Palin is a victim of sexism, to change the subject, or, in the words of Leonard Downie Jr., the executive editor of The Washington Post, "to put boundaries on the press's pursuit of the Palin story."