The McCaining of the press…

There’s no getting away from end-o’-the-year wrap-ups and year-ahead prognosticating. Why fight it? Enjoy it for the entertainment it is. John Podhoretz makes a prediction, however, that I find particularly interesting:

Presidential contender John F. Kerry will become the new Al Gore. With the original Al Gore out of the race, American politics will need a yin to George W. Bush’s yang–a polar opposite for a polarized electorate. The junior senator from Massachusetts is wooden, humorless, self-aggrandizing and fancies himself an intellectual. Sound familiar?

Kerry will put off reporters who follow him around. Friends will protest that in private he’s incredibly charming. But nobody will believe those friends. He will be ripe for spoof and satire, and the parodies of him will quickly become better-known than Kerry himself.

In other words, the press has been permanently McCained (background).

There’s much that is distressing about this situation (whether or not Podhoretz’ prediction comes true). For me, the McCaining of the press points up a lack of critical thinking necessary to reporting on the complicated issues and policies that surround a political campaign, especially one as important as the race for the presidency.

Ooops. Wait a minute. Policy? That’s not what reporters report from the campaign trail. Nope. It’s all about the horse race. And the press have now become players, or courtiers, in this race. To be McCained is to be sucked into the process by allowing oneself to be taken in by personal attention. To be ignored personally then becomes a major political transgression by the candidate–necessitating retaliation by the press. A much less flattering way to say this is: It appears many political reporters have become nothing more than sycophants.