NYT Just Can't Stay Classy in Editorial on John McCain: 'Debased Level' of His 2008 Campaign

August 27th, 2018 2:57 PM

The New York Times lead editorial Monday was dedicated to Arizona Republican Senator John McCain, who passed away on Saturday: “A Scarred but Happy Warrior.” But the liberal editorial page just couldn’t stay classy for the entire 12 paragraph tribute, lapsing into accusations that McCain’s obituary Robert McFadden mostly managed to avoid.

Even in praise, a smug liberal tone permeated the piece:

With John McCain, you never quite knew. That was a big part of his appeal, one of the things that made him interesting, and also one of the things that drove people who value ideological consistency a bit batty.

As a professed maverick, Mr. McCain, who died Saturday at the age of 81, was bound to make somebody unhappy. Though for much of his career his votes on the Senate floor were mostly along party lines, his periodic challenges to Republican orthodoxy made him more popular among independents, Democrats and the tattered remnants of his party’s moderate wing than with the absolutists in the party’s base. Five years of torture in a North Vietnamese prison camp appeared to have left him with a pretty good idea of who he was, an ability to think for himself and the capacity to tune out partisan noises.

He had principles, and he had flaws, from time to time betraying those principles -- most grievously in the 2008 presidential campaign. But in a Senate mostly devoid of the kind of commanding figures who once roamed its halls, he was a rare bird. And he could surprise you.

An obvious pattern emerged: The editorialists hailed McCain to the exact extent that they agreed with his liberal stands against his party. It continued:

....At a time of confusion and nastiness over immigration, it is worth recalling that he joined with Senator Edward Kennedy in 2005 and then again in 2007 to push a grand compromise that paired stronger controls at the border with a path to citizenship for the nation’s 11 or so million undocumented immigrants.

At a time when the political system is once again drowning in money from special interests, it is worth recalling that back in the early 2000s he co-wrote, with Russ Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat, a landmark bill to tighten the post-Watergate campaign finance reform laws.

But when circumstance pitted McCain against a subject of true media rapture, Democratic nominee Barack Obama in 2008, McCain suddenly became something of a racist:

Mr. McCain’s decision against demanding an eye for an eye when Mr. Bush and his henchmen savaged him and his family in the South Carolina primary campaign, one of the most vicious and depressing in modern times, earned him further credit. Yet he lost it all, and then some, when he deployed the same tactics against Barack Obama in the 2008 campaign. Having stood up at one point to a woman who called Mr. Obama an untrustworthy “Arab” -- Mr. McCain seized her microphone and said: “No, ma’am. He’s a decent family man, citizen” -- he then allowed his own campaign, and himself, to descend to the same debased level, portraying Mr. Obama as a shadowy, untrustworthy and even unpatriotic figure. No campaign decision drew more criticism than his ill-considered selection of a running mate in Sarah Palin, whom he hardly knew and who went so far as to charge Mr. Obama with “palling around with terrorists.”

The editorialists of course didn't explain that Palin was talking about Weather Underground bomber Bill Ayers, who certainly qualifies at least as an unrepentant ex-terrorist and who did know Obama in Chicago.

(National Review's Jim Geraghty and the MRC's Geoffrey Dickens have documented some more of the McCain media hypocrisy.)