Wednesday, June 4, 2008

McCain has already lost.

This article in the conspicuously pro-White House WaPo contains a number of interesting rhetorical flourishes that if taken as true, present a bleak outlook for the McCain campaign. I've long complained about the tendency of media to impose a fiction of their own via narrative framing (see: horse race). Lately, I've turned this into a tool (kind of a contrary indicator) in an attempt to divine the inherent prejudices of the media as a whole.

While much hay has been made over the media's seeming "free pass" to McCain on many, MANY issues, I believe this article, IF TRUE, betrays a change in the winds for McCain. Put simply, it may turn out Obama sells more papers than McCain. If that's the case, McCain cannot count on the media in the way the GOP has over the last eight years.

A few paragraphs in, WaPo reports:
Two McCain aides said his speech was the beginning of a "great debate" on the direction of the country. It will be followed quickly by a television ad campaign aimed at reinforcing McCain's core message: that Obama's sweeping rhetoric offers little real promise of changing the political culture in Washington.
If McCain's "core message" is "the other guy's a dunce", he's already lost. Not that his campaign actually believes or operates in this manner, but if "the media" takes this narrative to heart, McCain is stuck operating a "negative" campaign. Further, he's perpetually on the defense. As JC Watts famously said: "If you're explaining, you're losing."

Another kind of analysis displays the comical attempts of journalists to imbue their writing with a sense of motion, by employing "action verbs" (not as redundant as you'd first think). This is done by comparing the subject with the attached verb. A few examnples:

McCain wasted - McCain began - McCain said - Obama spoke - McCain began - McCain said - McCain explicitly rejected - McCain highlighted - Obama honored - Obama said - Obama mocked - McCain said - McCain decried - etc, etc.

What leaps out at me is the usage of "said" versus "spoke". "Spoke" seems to conjure a sense of purpose and precognition. "Said" is so broad and general as to be bereft of any distinct meaning, other than it doesn't quite carry the poise of "spoke."

These are only cursory reactions to what I'm reading. To be clear, I certainly have my own political biases (not a McCain fan, that's fer sure!), but I'm incensed that I still cannot depend on the US press to provide anything useful.

What say ye?

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