One of the American mainstream media's favorite John McCain memes is that South Carolina voters rejected the Arizona Republican in 2000 because of a baseless smear campaign about McCain's personal life. That bias is so infectious it's now a global pandemic, just witness this item from the January 18 edition of the London-based Financial Times:

McCain hopes to avoid repeat of 2000

For John McCain, victory in tomorrow's Republican primary in South Carolina would exorcise the ghosts of the bitterest moment in his political career.

It was in South Carolina in 2000 that his first presidential campaign crumbled after a vicious smear campaign by supporters of his opponent, George W. Bush.

A barrage of misinformation was spread through phone calls and leaflets, including claims the Arizona senator had fathered an illegitimate black child and that his wife was a drug addict.

The smears reinforced doubts about Mr McCain among social conservatives and helped deliver Mr Bush a victory that set him on course for the Republican nomination.

The problem, of course is that the smear tactics were not only never proven to be linked to the Bush campaign, they are taken on face value as THE driving factor rather than conservative distaste for the more liberal stances of John McCain when set in contrast to then-Gov. Bush.

For example, McCain ran, to be charitable, gun-shy on income tax cuts compared to then-Gov. Bush's tax cut plans. What's more, McCain actually pushed some tax hikes and demagogic rhetoric about a major industry in South Carolina centered on the state's most profitable cash crop, tobacco.

Take this Nexis transcript excerpt from Linda Douglass's report on the Feb. 3, 2000 edition of ABC's "World News Tonight" (emphasis mine):

Writing in the January 16 Financial Times, reporter Marc Frank takes a look at Cuban politics as though it were an actual liberal democracy, not a Marxist dictatorship. Frank finds no irony or contradiction-in-terms in the way he qualifies the election as a public ratification of a pre-determined outcome. And in what amounts to a laughable print edition subheading, Frank's editor wrote this in the subhead to "Castro keeps world guessing on retirement":

Even if the head of state stands down, he may still be able to exert power from the sidelines, writes Marc Frank.

Gee, ya think?!

Here are the first few paragraphs of Frank's page 3 report, with my emphasis added:

Despite his war wounds, can Bob Kerrey still kick Chris Matthews' butt? We might soon find out, because on this evening's Hardball Matthews lumped Kerrey into a group of Clinton sycophants he derided as "castratos" and a "eunuch chorus."

Chris was kvetching about the way a variety of Hillary Clinton supporters including Kerrey have lined up to take shots at Barack Obama. In endorsing Hillary yesterday, the former Nebraska senator went out of his way to draw attention to Obama's Muslim background.

View video here.

Here's a substantive critique of Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), from the international stage no less, that I've seen unreported in American media thus far.

The Democratic presidential candidate is under fire from a European trade official who suggests that her hinted support for more trade protectionism would prove harmful to the global economy.

The December 6 Financial Times reported the comments by European Union trade commissioner Peter Mandelson above-the-fold on its front page (emphasis mine):

The Financial Times (FT) is reporting that an Iran-bound ship seized by the United Arab Emirates last month "contained materials banned by UN Security Council resolutions 1737 and 1747, while the purchaser of the materials has been barred by the same resolutions."

Those resolutions were put in place, FT writers Simeon Kerr and Najmeh Bozorgmehr noted in their December 5 article, "to curtail its [Iran's] nuclear development programme."

Although Kerr and Bozorgmehr's Emirati government source "declined to identify the contents of the cargo or the Iranian company" that ordered them, the development is newsworthy, particularly in light of the shift in the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), that now concludes that Iran stopped its nuclear program in 2003.

A search of the December 5 Washington Post found no articles similar to Kerr and Bozorgmehr's, although it's unclear if the FT reporters have an exclusive scoop.

On December 4, the Post ran two above-the-fold front page stories about the 2007 NIE, including a news analysis piece by Peter Baker and Robin Wright entitled "A Blow to Bush's Tehran Policy."