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Kaus Gets Something Half Right

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Kaus:

The Refs Dream They’re Being Worked: When McCain’s campaign attacks the press, he’s not “working the refs.” That implies McCain’s strategists still care how the “refs” make calls. I think it’s pretty clear they’re doing something else (and they’re perfectly happy if the refs keep making calls against them). … P.S.: Of course the MSM “refs” like to think McCain’s “working the refs,” because that implies they’re worth working–that their refereeing role is still all-important (as opposed to their role as, say, a totemic focus of political, class and cultural resentment!)..

I think that this is correct; attacks on the media by the McCain campaign no longer have the traditional “work the refs” angle, because McCain doesn’t want good coverage from the mainstream media. He’s determined that it’s more useful to use such attacks to rile up a base primed for years by anti-media rhetoric. McCain now seems to think that MSM attacks are good for him, and as such the intent is to provoke such criticisms rather than to force the media into a faux-even-handed “Democrats say this, but Republicans say this” narrative.

I think it’s important to add, though, that this is likely to be a disastrous strategy for McCain. It might have worked for Mike Huckabee, but John McCain is a creature of the mainstream media; the only reason that he’s a prominent Republican politician and not just another random Mountain West Republican Senator is that the mainstream media fell in love with him back in 2000. Moreover, an “enthuse the base” strategy is a really, really bad way to go in 2008, when the Republican base is at a substantial disadvantage to its Democratic counterpart. However, I’m also wondering at this point whether the national GOP is even capable of a strategy other than “enthuse the base”; such a strategy may have been so imprinted on the GOP electoral machine by Karl Rove in 2000 and 2004 that McCain had no alternative.

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