A couple of days ago, Paul Mirengoff announced that he was going to be doing some “good, old-fashioned hard reporting” from New Hampshire. Whenever conservative bloggers start yodeling about the incompetence of “the MSM” while cheering on the blogosphere for cutting through the bullshit, I’m just going to remind them of Mirengoff’s first offering, which is an apparent non-parody of campaign journalism.
The Straight Talk Express is divided into two segments. The first consists of eight comfortable chairs. This is where the campaign staff works. The second, separated from the first by a curtain, consists of a round semi-circular sofa. It’s there, with journalists squeezed onto the sofa with him, that McCain holds court, taking question after question and not ducking any of them.
The “campaign” is essentially absent at “court.” Occasionally a staffer will stand by the curtain and listen in, but they don’t impinge on the proceedings. I recall McCain interacting with the campaign on the bus only three times yesterday. Once he asked a staffer to remind him to call the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq. Once a staffer brought a blackberry and showed McCain a message. He said he’d deal with it later. Once, as we were boarding the bus after a stop, the Senator and his top confidante Mark Salter went to the back for a meeting. It lasted maybe a minute. The rest of the time it was just McCain and us.
After a leg or two, we run out of questions, so “court” becomes a conversation about politics and public policy. By the final leg, the conversation has drifted into away from politics and public policy, and into history and sports. McCain sprinkles the conversation with anecdotes – some about his travels; some about famous people he’s known. He also asks a trivia question or two.
Sweet bleeding Jesus. Really, it’s enough to make the reporting of Elisabeth Bumiller seem like a black-site interrogation. I’m almost embarrassed for these guys. I mean, did Mirengoff save the juice box McCain offered him? Did he get the trivia questions right? Who was the most famousest person McCain’s ever met? Is he ever going to be able to wash his right hand again?
Mirengoff concludes the piece with an incoherent meditation on why McCain’s chummy relationship with bloggers and reporters somehow makes him more capably presidential. Nowhere does he surrender any specifics about the questions that McCain bravely refuses to duck, none of which I suspect pertained to the dead kid whose mother he was supposed to console. But hey, the furniture was comfy and the trivia was flowing like grape Hi-C, so why spoil a pleasant bus ride?