THE PRICKLY TALK EXPRESS…. John McCain became a media darling by offering extraordinary access to campaign reporters. The candidate and the journalists would spend hours hanging out on a bus, enjoying the gabfests, on and off the record, about any subject that came to mind. The media ate it up, and rewarded McCain with the kind of fawning, sycophantic coverage most politicians can only dream of.
Asked during the primaries if he’d maintain his signature style if he got the Republican nomination, McCain told reporters, “You think I could survive if I didn’t? We’d never be forgiven.” McCain even had a sofa installed on his plane, in order to make his chats with the media more relaxed.
That was, of course, before Karl Rove’s team took over the McCain campaign operation. Howard Kurtz recently had a good item detailing the remarkably curtailed access the senator now offers reporters, and the ways in which McCain replaced “straight talk” with stale talking points. To see just how dramatic a transformation this has been, take a minute to read this fascinating interview between McCain and Time’s James Carney and Michael Scherer.
There’s a theme that recurs in your books and your speeches, both about putting country first but also about honor. I wonder if you could define honor for us?
Read it in my books.
I’ve read your books.
No, I’m not going to define it.
But honor in politics?
I defined it in five books. Read my books.
[Your] campaign today is more disciplined, more traditional, more aggressive. From your point of view, why the change?
I will do as much as we possibly can do to provide as much access to the press as possible.
But beyond the press, sir, just in terms of …
I think we’re running a fine campaign, and this is where we are.
Do you miss the old way of doing it?
I don’t know what you’re talking about.
Really? Come on, Senator.
I’ll provide as much access as possible …
In 2000, after the primaries, you went back to South Carolina to talk about what you felt was a mistake you had made on the Confederate flag. Is there anything so far about this campaign that you wish you could take back or you might revisit when it’s over?
[Does not answer.]
Do I know you? [Says with a laugh.]
[Long pause.] I’m very happy with the way our campaign has been conducted, and I am very pleased and humbled to have the nomination of the Republican Party.
You do acknowledge there was a change in the campaign, in the way you had run the campaign?
[Shakes his head.]
Note to reporters: this isn’t the guy you fell in love with. He was replaced with an angry, overly-scripted ideologue.