‘Divorced’ from everyday challenges

‘DIVORCED’ FROM EVERYDAY CHALLENGES…. At last night’s forum on national service, John McCain made an unusual concession: “Listen, mayors have the toughest job, I think, in America. It’s easy for me to go to Washington and, frankly, be somewhat divorced from the day-to-day challenges people have.”

The context wasn’t helpful. Instead of explaining how he really can relate to everyday challenges facing regular Americans, McCain simply moved on to talking about how much he admires mayors and others who get involved in their communities.

Now, I suppose I know what McCain was trying to say. His point, I guess, was that those who serve at the local level see firsthand the challenges people face in their daily lives, while for long-time congressman, like McCain, those problems can be more of an abstraction. I doubt he was literally admitting, on national television, that he’s wildly out of touch. Nevertheless, that is what he said.

Not only was it a foolish remark, but it happens to play directly into one of the Obama campaign’s most frequent criticisms of McCain. It could, in theory, be a moment akin to H.W. Bush’s checkout-scanner flap from 1992. (I know most of that story is bogus, but the myth lingers.) Indeed, it’s surprisingly straightforward — Obama accused McCain of being out of touch, and McCain told a national television audience that he finds it “easy” to be “divorced from the day-to-day challenges people have.”

So, here’s my question: why isn’t this the single biggest story of the day? Why wouldn’t this rival, say, the “lipstick on a pig” nonsense? Why aren’t the cable networks spending the afternoon analyzing the consequences of McCain’s horrendous and humiliating mistake?

Put it this way — imagine if Obama told a national television audience last night that he feels like a “celebrity,” and finds it easy to think that he’s “better and smarter than everyone else.” What do you suppose the reaction would be from the political world?

Before you say, “The Obama campaign isn’t pushing this aggressively,” realize that the Obama campaign held a conference call this morning, with Dick Durbin and Rahm Emanuel, precisely to push this story as hard as they could.

And yet, this probably isn’t going anywhere. Joe Scarborough said this week that the media will talk about “whatever the McCain campaign wants us to talk about.” NBC News Washington bureau chief Mark Whitaker praised the McCain campaign for its ability to “drive the news cycle day after day.”

I get the feeling there’s a media decoder ring, and the Obama campaign doesn’t have one.