CATAPULTING THE PROPAGANDA…. On “60 Minutes” the other day, John McCain was asked why Sarah Palin has largely ignored journalists covering the campaign, and refuses to hold press conferences the way other candidates for national office have done for years. McCain responded, “The American people are vetting her.”

The answer didn’t exactly make sense. Hand-picked crowds get to hear Palin read from a teleprompter, but that’s not “vetting.” Voters get to read articles about Palin, but that’s the media vetting Palin, not the “American people.”

Regardless, the McCain campaign has made up its mind: if they’re going to win this thing, they’re going to do it without answering questions. The Washington Post’s Michael Shear reported:

As of this writing, it has been 39 days and 22 hours since Sen. John McCain last held a news conference (despite having promised to hold weekly Q&A sessions with the press if he’s elected). According to the Democrats, it’s been 24 days and 11 hours since his running mate, Sarah Palin, held one.

Not the most important issue of the day, perhaps. But maybe the most ironic, given where McCain and Palin were Monday: In Media, Pa.

Where they didn’t take questions.

Also yesterday, Jonathan Martin noted, “Palin has yet to hold a single press conference or take questions from any group of reporters.”

Let’s also not lose sight of the context here. 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.

What reporters may not have appreciated at the time is that they were being played. When it suited McCain’s interests to be accessible, he was accessible. When it suits his interests to shut of access, he shuts off access. It’s about winning news cycles, not promoting discourse.

Whether McCain pays a price for these tactics now is up to the reporters who are being snubbed.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.