Going to war for the wrong reasons:
McCain’s declaration of war with the media was an attempt to connect to “everyday” people at home. McCain could have doubled up his interviews, gotten people to see his “softer side,” or even done more work to appear more approachable. Instead, he decided he needed a war because in his opinion the best defense is offense.
Lack of diplomacy or restraint:A lack of diplomacy got McCain to this position in the first place, but rather than “talk to the enemy,” McCain (and his VP choice) decided to use cowboy diplomacy filled with bravado and spite. The RNC’s main theme was “Bring it on!” to the media, a rally for the crusade of the conservative right. The overall message: “If you aren’t with us, you are against us – U-S-A!” Rather than inspire fear in the enemy, he rallied them, as indicated by the money raised for Obama that very week.
McCain’s war focuses on the networks and the editors of the major newspapers. What he doesn’t understand is that the definition of media has completely changed over the last decade. The people are getting their information from both 24 hour cable news shows to Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report.”
Even the radio waves are no longer a safe heaven, as Talk Radio programs like Air America are increasingly popular with the disaffected public.
Perhaps more importantly, he has underestimated the power of the blogsphere and of social networking. McCain was not prepared for the onslaught from the underground online masses. Never in history has the common person had the ability to easily express individual beliefs and information and share them with thousands of people instantly. When people like Perez Hilton can become political commentators, McCain’s enemy is no longer clearly defined. The enemy becomes endless, faceless and ever growing.
McCains best allies in this war are those who most hurt him. When his top economic adviser Phil Graham calls people struggling in this economy a nation of whiners, Carly Fiorina says he and his running mate aren’t qualified to run a public company, when a spokesman insists McCain invented the Canadian-made Blackberry, when Karl Rove criticizes the “truthiness” of McCain commercials, when his own VP candidate places herself on the top of the ticket, it shows the lack of cohesiveness of his own coalition.
No Exit plan:
Perhaps the greatest shortcoming of McCain’s war is he has no strategy for peace. He needs the media and he knows it. Without them, McCain must spend his money promoting his own message via commercial channels, which will cost him much more than the 85 Million he has in his campaign to use. This is probably why the Campaign is looking to test to limits of fundraising under the rule limits. Should he win, he will need the media to recapture the hearts and minds of half of America, and have at least the semblance of a honeymoon period in the White House.
Instead, McCain accuses commentators (wrongfully) of being Obama supporters, shows visible testiness on air, and even limits their access to his VP, only allowing interviews at their discretion and when Palin is practiced in her talking points.
This is no way to plan for an end to his war. The last thing McCain needs is to delve into a perpetual battle with the Media, or whatever gains he achieves, even that includes the White House, will be short lived at best.
His only chance at winning this war is with the surge he gained by picking the moose hunting hockey mom who calls herself various types of aggressive animals. The Surge, at first glance seemed to be working. His polls went up, his based was energized, and for a while, he seemed to have an upper hand. But he has squandered this surge with lies and questionable tactics.
McCain is looking for another surge, a way to keep the media on defense so he can push his agenda through. He tried with the “lipsticked pig” controversy, which backfired. McCain’s best chance to victory is to claim victim and get his people to be angry at supposed unfair accusations. His strategy is to pick a fight, a reason to be angry because he hopes it produces the attention he needs.
His war continues to expand:
McCain is now expanding his war from the media to wall street, first by calling for resignations of the SEC chair (of which he has no jurisdiction), than trying to connect his opponents any way he can to the fall out. People have begun to see the pattern emerging – rather than find a solution to a problem, McCain looks for an enemy to destroy.
There can be no victory without the people:
Eventually, McCain will need to end his campaign against the media, in victory or defeat, he will move on. While he is busy battling the media, the people continue to struggle. As was evident this week, he can distract people with his surges for some time, but the reality on the ground will keep taking forefront.
By continuing to fight, he risks not only his chance at the presidency but his legacy. McCain risks being seen not as a maverick but as a marauder, and may very well go down in history as a man who, in order to win an election, lead himself into his own personal quagmire.