War on the Media

Wednesday morning

The McCain campaign is aiming its fire at the media, which campaign strategist Steve Schmidt telling Howard Kurtz that he feels “under siege” by questions about Sarah Palin and that reporters are “on a mission to destroy” their prospective Republican VP nominee.

It actually sounds not just like a campaign strategy, but genuine frustration.  Why else would they cancel an appearance on Larry King? Who ever has not benefited from an hour on the CNN program?

But there is no doubt that they are pushing back. Last night I passed Howard Fineman, who was complaining that the McCain camp is falsely charging him with spreading word that Palin may have to step down from the ticket.

I’m skeptical that such a media-is-after-us line of attack can work. In the short term it can rally the base, play into the sense that they are being unfairly attacked and even victimized and, in some cases, get the media to back off.

But the strategy rarely seems to go much beyond a few days of complaints. John Edwards shunned Fox News, but other than an ill-advised press conference in which he went on the war path against Rupert Murdoch, he dropped it as a campaign talking point. Barack Obama complained about his treatment at an ABC News debate, but it sounded whiny and was quickly dropped. Hillary Clinton used it rather effectively in her race, but what seems to have gotten the press taking a harder look at Obama was a “Saturday Night Live” sketch. (And so far late night comics aren’t sympathetic. David Letterman last night: “It turns out she and her entire family once had a chair throwing brawl with Jerry Springer.”)

Fred Thompson, of all people, said the media was in a “panic” over Palin — an interesting comment from a man who has borne the brunt of the media’s fire, but also hugely benefited from all of the attention when he was a prospective presidential candidate.

My sense is that these things rarely work, and if Palin gives a rousing speech tonight, the talk will die down by Thursday.

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