Thursday, October 2, 2008

McCain Plane Flak

As detailed earlier this week, the McCain camp revoked Maureen Dowd's campaign plane privileges. They basically dumped her on the side of the road in Pittsburgh and left her for dead. Tim McNulty of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette describes it thusly:

It all started when Maureen covered an Aug. 30 McCain-Palin rally in Washington, Pa., then wasn't let on the McCain plane afterward, Maureen Dowd/Vanity Fairforcing her to overnight at a Pittsburgh airport hotel while the traveling press went on without her.
Being on the press plane is not just a perk, it is the only realistic way a journalist can keep up with a fast moving campaign. And news organiztions pay premium for the privilege. Again McNulty:
The McCain campaign has barred her from flying in the McCain and Palin press planes, even though major media outlets routinely pay thousands to the campaigns every day for travel and expenses (and also begs the question, why didn't her media colleagues Man Up and get her aboard anyway?)
He quotes an e-mail from Dowd:
"I had had a great relationship with John McCain for 16 years, through columns he liked and didn't like. So at first I thought it was a mistake and doublechecked with the press office. They said I was banned from both planes for 'the foreseeable future.' Then [McCain spokeswoman] Nicole Wallace was gloating about it to reporters on the Palin plane," Dowd wrote in an email.

"It was disappointing because I didn't think John McCain would ever be as dismissive of the First Amendment as Dick Cheney."
Comparing McCain to Cheney is fighting words, but some see the shabby treatment of Dowd as just a skirmish in a bigger battle with the Times. Back on September 22, Sam Stein at the Huffington Post reported this:
Today, the Arizona Republican's presidential campaign went to war with the Grey Lady. Asked to respond to an article that brought to light the fact that McCain campaign manager Rick Davis had earned nearly $2 million in lobbying fees from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (based, almost primarily, on his access to McCain) at the same time that he was attacking Barack Obama for his own ties to those very institutions, aides to McCain went off.

"We are first amendment absolutists on this campaign and the press and everyone who wishes to cover this race from a blogosphere and media perspective is constitutionally protected to write whatever they want," said Steve Schmidt, the campaign's chief strategist. "But whatever the New York Times once was, it is today not by any standard a journalistic organization. It is a pro-Obama advocacy organization that every day attacks the McCain campaign, attacks Gov. Palin and excuses Sen. Obama..."
Dowd of course hadn't been making friends since her August 24 column called him out on his POW Get Of Jail Free card tactics. And then there were the five columns in a row holding Sarah Palin up to ridicule.

But Maureen doesn't seem to be gathering a whole lot of sympathy. At the County Fair blog on the Media Matters website (which is decidedly liberal and frequently anti-Dowd), Eric Boehlert said:
Of course we don't like the idea of any campaign "banning" a journalist because the candidate doesn't like what was written or said about them. That's petty and wrong and disrespectful toward journalism.
But in reference to the Cheney crack, he added:
We're torn because we can't think of a single elite columnist who we'd rather not have invoking the solemn rights of the Constitution in a press fight, simply because we don't think Dowd is a serious journalist. So we're not comfortable with her representing any sort of professional journalism community.
Harsh. If a columnist for the New York Times isn't a professional journalist, who is? The Pushback blog takes a mixed stand on the issue:
John McCain’s war on the media has resulted in yet another casualty: Maureen Dowd’s access to McCain’s press plane. Let’s all remove our hats and share a moment of silence.

Now that a single manly tear has been shed by all of us, I have to confess something: I’m of two minds about this. On the one hand, the McCain campaign’s open aggression against the press is both absurd and frightening. Whether or not you think that The New York Times is a good news source, it’s flat-out ridiculous to say that it’s “not … a journalistic organization.” And kicking Times staffers off the press plane for doing their job sets a pretty scary precedent.

But that’s not to say that keeping Maureen Dowd very far away from news is a bad thing. The Times is certainly a journalistic organization, but there’s no serious definition under which Dowd is a legitimate journalist...
Uh, they don't give out Pulitzer Prizes to just anybody.

FishbowlNY kind of comes to her defense:
It's not like we don't have our own numerous issues with Maureen Dowd, but kicking her off the press plane? That's just not okay.
It isn't okay, and the rest of the pres should be taking greater umbrage. Hoops And Pop Culture probably says it best:
Nothing says, "Straight Talk" like trying to intimidate and silence your critics in the press.
Bullies pick on the weak and hope to cow others. Dowd has few friends among the right-wing, but the fact that liberal guardians of free-speech are not outraged, is in itself an outrage. If this is how McCain manages his issues with the press during the campaign, how will he act if he is president? What we see so far does not bode well.

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