Time: 'Prickly' McCain vs. Not Tough Enough Obama

August 28th, 2008 1:22 PM

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is "prickly" with the press, particularly Time magazine, reporters for the publication insist on the heels of a recent interview. Yet reporters for the same publication had a decidedly less confrontational chat last week with Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), although they did question if he was tough enough to topple McCain in November.

In the August 28 item, "McCain's Prickly TIME Interview," Time editors prefaced the transcript of James Carney and Michael Scherer's interview by lamenting McCain's less frequent engagement of the press as compared to his 2000 Republican primary run. They then insisted that McCain "quickly soured" and refused to "stray off message" during a Time interview:

McCain at first seemed happy enough to do the interview. But his mood quickly soured. The McCain on display in the 24-minute interview was prickly, at times abrasive, and determined not to stray off message.

By contrast, Time editors didn't add prefatory commentary to a relative soft August 20 interview, "Obama on His Veep Thinking" by Karen Tumulty and David von Drehle. That interview began with two questions on Obama's toughness, particularly from the perspective of nervous partisan Democrats:

TIME: Your speeches seem to be getting far tougher.


There are Democrats who are nervous that you are not tough enough for the general election.

Obama, the worry goes, is too much of a softy while McCain is too stubbornly sticking to his tough, well-crafted attack message, according to Time.

In the August 28 Carney/Scherer, the reporters sought to soak McCain with a gotcha question on the definition of "honor" -- perhaps to hit him with a question on his "aggressive" Obama ads -- and then prodded him for one thing he'd take back or do differently so far in the 2008 campaign (Time's questions are in bold):

There's a theme that recurs in your books and your speeches, both about putting country first but also about honor. I wonder if you could define honor for us?
Read it in my books.

I've read your books.
No, I'm not going to define it.

But honor in politics?
I defined it in five books. Read my books.

[Your] campaign today is more disciplined, more traditional, more aggressive. From your point of view, why the change?
I will do as much as we possibly can do to provide as much access to the press as possible.

But beyond the press, sir, just in terms of ...
I think we're running a fine campaign, and this is where we are.

Do you miss the old way of doing it?
I don't know what you're talking about.

Really? Come on, Senator.
I'll provide as much access as possible ...

In 2000, after the primaries, you went back to South Carolina to talk about what you felt was a mistake you had made on the Confederate flag. Is there anything so far about this campaign that you wish you could take back or you might revisit when it's over?

By contrast, Tumulty and von Drehle had a far more pleasant chat with Obama, with most of the questions being softballs. The only query that hinted at Obama's liberal leanings suggested that Obama's read more liberal books than the average American, not that he believes more liberal ideas than most voters:

Do you agree that you were more exposed to left ideas than the average guy who ends up running for President? Hard to picture most of them reading Frantz Fanon or saying, "Stokely Carmichael is in town, I'm going to go hear him."