In his profile of John McCain for the February issue of Vanity Fair, Todd Purdum notes that "the constituency that McCain sometimes jokingly refers to as his base" is -- wait for it -- "the press."
Purdum goes on to acknowledge in so many words that McCain's remark, regardless of how humorously he delivered it, expresses the basic truth that reporters tend to be fans of Arizona's senior senator, which in turn may explain why, during a recent visit to Wisconsin, McCain defended the media's coverage of the Iraq war:
[T]hat afternoon, at a roundtable with more Republicans in Appleton, McCain gets testy with a woman who says that her grandson and granddaughter have served in Iraq and that things there are going better than the American media say.
"The situation is not improving," McCain says shortly. "There's no biased reporting in the number of casualties."
Unsurprisingly, Purdum -- a former New York Times reporter now writing for a stridently liberal magazine -- snipes here and there at conservatives (e.g., the Swift Boat vets "slimed" John Kerry). He likes McCain, but he wonders and worries about the extent to which Sen. Straight Talk, as he seeks the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, will pander to right-wingers:
John McCain has spent this whole day, this whole year, these whole last six years, trying to...square the circle: that is, trying to make the maverick, freethinking impulses that first made him into a political star somehow compatible with the suck-it-up adherence to the orthodoxies required of a Republican presidential front-runner.