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 2008 Election:  McCain's book Obama's book Biden's book Palin's booklet Keyes' book Nader's book Barr's book      2008   Debates 

2008 presidential race

2009 State of the Union speech
Presidential Debates: Third Obama-McCain Debate - Second Obama-McCain Debate - V.P. debate, Biden vs. Palin - First Obama-McCain Debate
Vice Presidential background materials:

Gov. Sarah Palin: Booklet - Debate - Profile - Wasilla - Governor
Sen. Joe Biden: Bio - Profile - Debates
Convention coverage:
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McCain-Obama joint appearances:
Aug.16 -Jul.12 -Jun.28 -
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2008 Democratic primary debates
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2008 Republican primary debates
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2008 Green primary debates
Feb.3 -Jan.13
2007 Republican primary debates
Dec.22 -Dec.12 -Dec.9 -Nov.28 -Oct.21 -Oct.9 -Sep.27 -Sep.17 -Sep.5 -Aug.5 -Jun.5 -May 15 -May 3
2007 Democratic primary debates
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Excerpts from Books by and about 2008 candidates
Sen. John McCain (R, AZ)
Why Courage Matters
Sen. Barack Obama(D, IL)
Dreams From My Father
Sen. Joe Biden (D, DE)
Promises to Keep
Gov. Sarah Palin (R, AK)
New Energy for Alaska
Rep. Bob Barr (L)
The Meaning of IS
Rep. Cynthia McKinney (G)
Green Party Debate
Ralph Nader (I)
The Good Fight
Alan Keyes (NAIP)
Our Character, Our Future

Sen. Hillary Clinton
It Takes A Village
Mayor Rudy Giuliani
Gov. Mike Huckabee
Character Makes A Difference
Amb. Alan Keyes
Our Character, Our Future
Rep. Ron Paul
Freedom Under Siege
Gov. Mitt Romney

(click a book cover for excerpts and a review or other books by or about the presidency from

Free Ride:
John McCain and the Media,

by David Brock and Paul Waldman

(Click for Amazon book review)


This is an anti-McCain book, but more specifically, it's anti-McCain-and-the-media. The authors' thesis is, as the title implies, that John McCain has been given a free ride by the media, while other presidential candidates have been subject to harsh press scrutiny. The book provides example after example of how McCain is characterized positively for the same things for which other candidates receive negative press. McCain's flip-flopping on abortion, for example, is labeled by the press as a "maverick" or "straight-talking" stance, while Hillary Clinton's consistent stand on abortion is labeled by the press as "pandering to the base."

In summary, as highlighted on the book's cover, "The press loves McCain. We're his base," citing McCain's most enthusiastic press supporter, MSNBC's Chris Matthews. The "base" refers to fact that McCain is considered to have suspect credentials by the neoconservatives and the Christian conservatives, the usual Republican base, but makes up for it with consistently positive press.

The authors explain WHY the press loves McCain, in a chapter entitled "How He Won Their Hearts:", separated into "The Three Foundations":

  1. Vietnam: McCain's POW years make for a compelling background story.
  2. Campaign Finance Reform: The press has traditionally exposed fat-cat lobbyist-based special-interests, and McCain's signature issue plays to that long-standing animosity.
  3. Press style: McCain speaks freely to the press, which the authors characterize as intentional and carefully arranged.
On the last "Foundation", the authors cite charts of how much TV coverage each potential presidential candidate received from Sept. 2005 through Dec. 2006. McCain wins with 33,683 mentions and 21 hours of TV time. Hillary Clinton scores a distant second with 24,288 mentions, and Joe Biden scores a second on the other measurement with 18 hours of TV time.

I found those charts to be typical anti-candidate spin. And by association, since they encapsulate the authors' thesis, I found the entire thesis to be anti-McCain spin. I accept that McCain gets the most TV time and the most TV mentions. But I think the authors are mixing up cause and effect. One could just as easily conclude that McCain makes himself more AVAILABLE to the press, rather than conclude that the press makes itself more available for McCain's use. Certainly here at OnTheIssues we have experienced that directly -- McCain's campaign in the New Hampshire primary in 2000 was the only major-candidate campaign where we could consistently expect to see and speak to the candidate. We assume that is even more true for the major mainstream media than for a website in the days before the web was big.

Nevertheless, the authors make a compelling case that McCain is treated differently -- and treated better -- than just about any other politician. But you won't find any anti-McCain dirt here -- that's not the purpose of this book. The purpose is to point out that the mainstream media has NOT dug sufficiently for anti-McCain dirt. You can read our other anti-McCain book reviews (linked below) to see lots of anti-McCain dirt -- which demonstrates that the press is certainly willing to report anti-McCain dirt!

-- Jesse Gordon,, April 2008
   Hillary Clinton: Long-held moderate stance focuses on reducing abortions.
   Hillary Clinton: Consistently uses Dem. Party line, "safe, legal, and rare".
   John McCain: 2000: Pro-lifers attack McCain since CFR limits their power.
   John McCain: Intentionally fuzzy on abortion; wants no litmus test.
Budget & Economy
   John McCain: 1980s Keating Five: biggest financial scandal in US history.
Civil Rights
   John McCain: Supported CA Prop. 209, canceling affirmative action quotas.
   John McCain: Pro-Confederacy activist continues as top S.C. adviser.
   John McCain: Recuses from alcohol votes because wife owns Anheiser-Busch.
   John McCain: View has evolved on intelligent design vs. evolution.
Energy & Oil
   John McCain: Ethanol subsidy OK at $40/bbl oil; opposed it at $60/bbl.
Foreign Policy
   John Kerry: 1994: Worked with John McCain to normalize Vietnam relations.
   John McCain: 1994: Worked with John Kerry to normalize Vietnam relations.
Government Reform
   John McCain: 5-year struggle for CFR portrayed in press as epic tale.
   John McCain: CFR cut soft money & increased hard money; both helped GOP.
   John McCain: 1993: Proposed barring campaign funds for personal expenses.
Health Care
   John McCain: 1997: Give FDA more regulatory powers over tobacco.
Homeland Security
   Hillary Clinton: Long-held pro-defense spending stance; not a move to center.
   John McCain: 1973: America is better country than when I left 6 years ago.
   Russell Feingold: Sole Senate vote against Patriot Act.
Principles & Values
   George W. Bush: 2000: Won SC primary, & killed McCain's run with negatives.
   Jim Webb: Opponent's "macaca" comment won election for Webb.
   John McCain: McCain has actively & successfully courted the press.
   John McCain: 1980: Second marriage only 3 months after first divorce.
   John McCain: 1980s: Paid back $112,000 in donations from Charles Keating.
   John McCain: Keating scandal made McCain averse to partisanship.
   John McCain: 2000: Positioned himself as anti-establishment underdog.
   John McCain: OpEd: Senator Hothead nickname is well-earned.
   John McCain: OpEd: McCain's racial slurs are called "candor" by press.
   John McCain: OpEd: McCain hustles donations like others; no more; no less.
   John McCain: 2004: Press speculated about Kerry-McCain, but McCain didn't.
   John McCain: Known as a "staunch conservative" until 1999.
   John McCain: Holds record for press mentions & appearances.
   Al Gore: 1991: Pushed funding for first web browser.
   John McCain: $686K in donations from telecoms as chair of telecom cmte.
War & Peace
   John McCain: Proudest moment: opposing Reagan on Lebanon deployment.
   John McCain: 1998: Remove Saddam by force without UN approval.

The above quotations are from Free Ride:
John McCain and the Media,

by David Brock and Paul Waldman .

All material copyright 1999-2015
Reprinting by permission only.

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