In spite of the fire McCain is taking right now on the ethics front, the “baseline” in the campaign — in response to generous access — is that the press has either been blowing kisses or looking the other way.
In light of this tendency, coupled with the backlash to this week’s NYT story on Mac’s supposed affair with a lobbyist, an obvious question to ask is how much the press will now be (however unwittingly) running interference for the campaign. The day after the NYT McCain/Iseman/Paxon story broke, it was curious how YahooNews, the popular purveyor of newswire imagery, broke McCain’s way on a key dimension of the story.
As Marc Ambinder at the Atlantic pointed out, the obvious “fall guy” in the dust up with The Times is McCain’s former chief strategist, John Weaver. Dumped last July with the campaign DOA, Weaver was one of the only named sources in the NYT story. And, although he kept the campaign informed of exactly what he told The Times, Weaver’s comments — addressing the campaign’s escalating concern over Iseman, and his subsequent banishment of her — seemed to offer the paper enough of a sense that something illicit was going on.
In doing a search for “McCain Weaver” on YahooNews between Thursday and Friday (one and two days after the sloppy bombshell from The Times), four images were offered. Let’s just say, knowing how many photos of Weaver and McCain the newswires have on file, that this group wasn’t the most flattering for one of them.
In the lead shot above, you see Weaver behind McCain’s back (where some people have been known to get stabbed), looking over the (preoccupied) candidate’s shoulder with an almost diabolical look.
In the second shot, the theme of marginalization mixes with the sense, in the next few shots, of the lone agent. Here, Weaver — wearing another dark face during this coffee shop meet-and-greet — is set off behind John and Cindy like a third wheel, if not an interloper. The third and fourth shots — innocent enough on their own — lend a particular connotation given the context — especially when the caption (from #4) emphasizes how:
Weaver is the only former McCain aide who has spoken on the record with the New York Times and Washington Post for stories about McCain and telecommunications lobbyist Vicki Iseman.
Framed that way, the intense focus on the Blackberry — while the candidate connects with you and me from that empty arena — gives the sense of Weaver as disconnected in favor of his own agenda. And the last shot gives the sense that Weaver — not exactly dignified by the floor — is out there alone on this one, again preoccupied with his own narrative.
… And then, did I mention that images 1, 2 and 4 weren’t even taken during the current campaign, but were, instead, pulled from the file of McCain’s run in 2000?
(image 1, 2 & 4: Brian Snyder/Reuters. January 26/27th, 2000. New Hampshire. image 3: Stephan Savoia/AP. September 18, 2006. Boston College. Via YahooNews)