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McCain was torn down by the same press that savages Trump

How quickly we forget.

John McCain, who was presidential material and would have made a good president in 2008, was being victimized by the liberal media exactly 10 years ago this month.

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But the news media waved the patriotic flag frenetically this week upon the announcement of the Arizona senator’s passing.

Those who shape the mainstream narrative have made him into a lion beyond reproach, someone who would fight the media bogey-man named Donald Trump until his last breath.

In 2008 the mainstream press rather enjoyed McCain as a primary candidate, at least initially, because the man was sympathetic toward the Democrats’ positions and could never be counted on by his party as a solid Republican. In fact, he seemed to fight his own party as much as he’d battle the opposing one.

But the moment he chose Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate, the media turned its fire-breathing dragons on him.

Facts back up this unhappy allegation:

The Pew Research Center found that McCain received four times as many negative stories as positive ones after his nomination.

Barack Obama, on the other hand, was the subject of twice as many laudatory stories as McCain.

Coverage of McCain was lopsidedly unfavorable, and became even more so over time, the research shows, as the nation prepared to vote in the General Election that November.

For Obama during this period, a third of the stories were clearly positive, a third neutral, and 29 percent were mixed.

Conversely, 75 percent of the stories about McCain were negative.

The media does the same savaging day after day to President Trump, and yet he seems to just keep on being himself, and being president.

McCain clearly never liked Donald Trump, and swiped at him at every opportunity; the president swiped back. McCain likely could not understand how the country could elect a man with a bad comb-over and a New York businessman’s brashness, while not allowing a true war hero like himself to lead the country.

Both men were alpha males, both full of themselves, both regarding their own talents as extraordinary.

Trump didn’t take lightly to the insults and said some regrettable things about McCain. The grudge stuck, on both sides, and it never seemed to ease.

Today, the bitterness of the McCain family toward the sitting president spilled over to the ceremonies that featured a eulogy by his daughter, Meghan McCain, which carried the grudge match forward into the next generation, even while she mourned her beloved father:

“We gather here to mourn the passing of American greatness. The real thing, not cheap rhetoric from men who will never come near the sacrifice he gave so willingly,” she said, emotionally.

“The America of John McCain has no need to be made great again, because America was always great.” The crowd roared its approval.

“We live in an era where we knock down old American heroes for all their imperfections when no leader wants to admit to fault or failure. You were an exception and gave us an ideal to strive for.”

No one should speak ill of the dead, but this is the Hatfields and McCoys of the political realm. It was sad to see the family lose their loved one, but it was also sad to see the lack of restraint; instead, the McCains made it about Trump, who went to play golf and tweeted about Canada today. Trump had added to the drama earlier in the week by only lowering the flag over the White House for just a day to mark McCain’s passing. Public pressure finally prevailed and he ordered the flag back to half-staff until the senator is in his final resting place.

The remarks of former President Barack Obama during the memorial service were also pointed criticisms of Donald Trump, and spoke of McCain in ways that were entirely opposite to how he portrayed him in 2008, when he unleashed a series of attack ads that even the New York Times said were false.

At McCain’s apparent request, his former running mate Sarah Palin was disinvited to the memorial services, as were several members of his campaign staff from the 2008 failed presidential run. But the Obamas were there.

Families are entitled to bury their dead in the way they see fit, but this memorial week has devolved into a bit of theater that will make many Republicans glad when it’s all over. For many, McCain was a man they admired for many attributes, who they tolerated for other attributes, and who they wanted to like.

The late Sen. Ted Stevens understood these mixed feelings toward McCain better than most. He and McCain were often at odds on policy issues, especially Alaska spending programs, and their personal rapport was none too warm, either.  It was Sen. McCain who popularized the “bridge to nowhere” description of the proposed Ketchikan bridge and, to the enduring dismay of the entire Alaska delegation, made it a rhetorical centerpiece of his 2008 presidential campaign.

Like Trump, McCain often made liking him a difficult task. His memorial service only scratched the scab on that dichotomy of the patriotic desire to honor the hero, yet wanting the drama between McCain and the president to — for the love of all things holy — be put to rest.

[Watch the memorial service here on CSPAN.]


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Suzanne Downing
Suzanne Downing
Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.


  1. Very well written objective review of current event. Thank you for your “no smoke and mirrors” perspective of politics today.

  2. Early in his career, I was a big McCain supporter and voted for him in the 2008 Presidential election.

    If half of the people that are now praising the late Senator would have voted for him in 2008, he would have been elected President. The likely fact is that many of those that are so generous in their praise today voted for his opponent and did not consider voting for the Arizona Senator. I suspect that many valued Senator McCain simply because he was someone to be defeated by the candidate that gave them a thrill down their leg.

    I hope Senator McCain rests in peace and I wish his family well. That said, the honors afforded the late Senator are out of proportion to those of similar or greater accomplishments. The late Senator Ted Stevens, for example, served in the Senate longer, held more and higher leadership positions and was an equally highly decorated airman.

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