It doesn't even take a hell of a lot of digging to find the pattern McCain has played all along. He hasn't bothered to hide it so much as count on people not to pay much attention, which is usually a sure thing. He has been very good at picking the issues and events to burnish his high-profile party heterodoxy, while maintaining full establishment cred. He's about as much a "truth to power" threat to The Man as a warm apple pie on a window sill, but he's managed to ride that pony forever.
Much of it hinges on McCain's sharp wit and ability to engage individuals in the press, who are as subject to flattery and off-color witticisms and in-crowd clubbiness as anyone, maybe more so given the nature of their subjects. But they are also frequently lazy or at least diffident when it comes to countering conventional narratives, and having to ask more pointed questions of people they have come to know and like on even a small personal basis. It is at that point that the responsible press person might want to remove themselves from the proximity of that person, if they can't maintain their objectivity.
Since about the Great Applesauce Avalanche of last week, a parallel meme to Obama's
My friends, that is some grade-A industrial strength bullshit. McCain, like Obama, like Bush, like Al Gore and both Clintons and anyone else who has attained political office and plans to hold it or advance, is in the game fully knowing. No sane person would enjoy the gladhanding tedium of artlessly staged props and handpicked shills; if they did they'd have made a career of selling Flowbies and Shamwows in the first place.
But this weird notion that after thirty years in national politics, McCain is still just too real, man, to avoid showing disdain for what is inherently disdainful, is moronic. Look, a real straight-shooter would not bother standing in the applesauce aisle with some handpicked milf pretending he knows the price of milk in the first place. By definition he would call the set piece for what it is and refuse to do it.
Only the most gullible chump could possibly think it has anything to do with his reg'lar-guyness. These are the same halfwits that believed that George Walker Bush, son of a president, grandson of a senator, distant cousin of another president (Franklin Pierce), was a Washington outsider. There's no convincing someone that fucking stupid of anything otherwise.
McCain, as Billmon and others have pointed out, appears awkward because he doesn't feel like he should have to do these things, because it's beneath him. And it is, but at the same time it really isn't. I think most of us would just as soon see these cheesy photo-ops abandoned at once and just concentrate on substantive policy issues, but clearly a lot of people still need to be stroked. And considering that we're talking about a very select group of people whose every move is within a tightly controlled, rarefied environment, maybe even contrived minglings with the peons are better than nothing at all.
And maybe there's a glimmer of hope, as Billmon says, that some of the media goons are finally getting wise to McCain's M.O., and might even start acting accordingly. Things toughen up after the conventions usually, and come debate time it's going to be ugly; if anything, Obama will probably have to hold back so as not to look like he's beating the shit out of an angry, incoherent codger. Not that that matters terribly, as we saw Dubya flail like Ralph Wiggum against Kerry and Gore in debates past, and still somehow come out relatively unscathed. But this time, as Obama is not charisma-challenged the way his Donk predecessors are, it may turn out different.
In the meantime, Obama's crew would counterintuitively (for them) win some major points by smacking back against the barrage of cheap baiting McCain's camp has deployed. Comparing Obama with Britney and Paris, thus implying he's a vacuous retard and he wants to fuck all the white women? Respond not with a whinging J'accuse, but with a quick-cut Daily Show montage of Junior's greatest misses, eight goddamned years of them, ending with Straight Talk's big ol' bear hug of Captain Fuckup. A couple verses of Dido's White Flag or something similarly schmaltzy playing in the background. Easy money.
No more crying, Donks. It sucks getting kicked in the nuts by these paste-eating douchebags, but no one respects the guy who just grabs his nuts in pain and complains about getting cheap-shotted. You get cockpunched, you fucking punch back right in the throat, and then go Mike Tyson on his ass while he's trying to breathe. The only thing these Marquess of Queensberry rules get you is either a narrow sliver of compromised victory, with the attendant ankle-biting throughout the term, or ignominious loss. You gotta stop trying to squeak by on a fucking field goal and throw the ball deep once in a while, especially against an opponent with such a suspect defense.