Was the New York Times unfair to John McCain?
I’m not usually in the habit of defending Republicans. But when Sen. John McCain, R.-AZ, takes to the Senate floor to denounce as “ugly and unfortunate” personal attacks made on a Democratic State department aide by his fellow Republicans—one of them (Michele Bachmann) a recent presidential candidate—I don’t see how the New York Times can justify, a mere ten days later, slapping onto Page One the headline, “Once A Rebel, McCain Now Walks The Party Line.” The story itself, by Jennifer Steinhauer, reads like it once matched the headline, but underwent radical surgery after McCain’s gutsy floor speech. Now it is merely incoherent. It posits three McCains. Once he was a maverick. (Correct.) Then he tacked far to the right to win re-election in 2010. (Correct.) Now he is a “partisan warrior and party stalwart.” Huh?
Sensing that this narrative doesn’t really work, Steinhauer changes it after the jump. After his defeat in the 2008 presidential election, McCain spent three years sulking, much as Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., did after his 2004 presidential defeat. “It took me three years of feeling sorry for myself,” McCain is quoted saying to a group of reporters. Now he has re-emerged as “a polestar on nearly every major issue consuming the Senate.” If you say so. Exhibit A is McCain, “in all of his McCain-ness,” deriding Bachmann and Co. So … he is a maverick again? Actually, he doesn’t know what he is! Here I begin to picture Times editors as emergency room doctors, jumping onto this story and pounding on its chest in an attempt to bring its point—any point—to life.
Timothy Noah — “Defending McCain”