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Monday, October 13, 2008

Maverick, maverick, maverick

Reader-submitted question: Wondering what you make of this article?

Well, I think it's good that Rolling Stone is doing in-depth political stories. They've endorsed Barack Obama, so I'm not surprised that they're critical of McCain.

This story's pretty harsh. Harsh is not necessarily bad if it's deserved, but I honestly don't know if this level of criticism is fair.

I do not agree with attacks on regular folks, but politicians deserve a different level of scrutiny than the rest of us. In fact, if this story was about anyone who is not running for the top job in the government, it would probably be over the line. In the past few weeks, we've heard stories from Alaska that would never, ever have been national news if Sarah Palin wasn't in the position she's in now. I think most journalists would agree that candidates need to be thoroughly scrutinised: the rules aren't the same as those that govern reporting on average Joes, city councillors or the small-business owner across the street. Sometimes harsh coverage is needed.

The question for me is not whether it's too mean, but whether the information is correct and leads fairly to the conclusions the reporter has drawn.

I agree with some things in the story. McCain does seem to have become the sort of politician he ran against in 2000. It took me months to accept this: I didn't want to believe it. I bet he is a bit of a jerk sometimes. (I can be, too.) I know he has a temper.

The reporter dwells on McCain's experience as a prisoner of war, suggesting that the real story is not nearly as honourable as some would have us believe. I'm sure that McCain wasn't an unusual POW. I bet he really was just one of 600 in the camp. But that's what I already thought. Nobody's claiming that he single-handedly rescued everyone in the camp.

And another thing: POWs who give up information are not traitors. I can't blame McCain for telling his captors that his father was an admiral. In the same situation, any of us would probably have said the same thing. People who are tortured are usually willing to say anything to make the torture stop. Nobody blamed William Sampson for giving a false confession. I probably wouldn't have lasted an hour under the same circumstances.

It seems like almost everyone who was quoted for this story dislikes Mr. McCain. This is not an automatic indication that the story is flawed, but it does raise some flags. People seem to either love it or hate it, which makes me think it's probably unfair. I don't have enough background to know that for sure, though. The people who hate it don't seem to be debunking the main points; they seem to be upset that Rolling Stone published the story at all.

I bet my readers will have opinions about the story. Thanks for your question.


scribe said...

McCain was never a maverick. He has consistently voted (over 90%) of the time with the Repubs. Just because you call yourself something doesn't make it so. Having said that, I think anyone who buys Rolling Stone knows they're not getting a balanced story about anything. Jann Wenner is as inauthentic as John McCain.