Meghan McCain says what the press won't about Cheney and Rove

Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

As little interest I have in legitimizing daughter McCain's place at the forefront of our media landscape, during her recent appearance on The View (this whole premise pains me....) she said out loud what virtually nobody inside the Beltway press has dared to in recent weeks. McCain was discussing Karl Rove and Dick Cheney's relentless attack campaign against Obama. Y'know, the guy they lost to--badly--in November.

Said McCain:

It's very unprecedented for someone like Karl Rove or Dick Cheney to be criticizing the president. My big criticism is just, you had your eight years, go away.

God bless her because McCain speaks the unvarnished truth; a truth the press is too afraid to acknowledge. And it's this: We have simply never seen, in modern American politics, the losing VP and a losing top WH adviser smear and belittle a new president, just weeks into his first term, the way Rove and Cheney now routinely do in the media. Why? Because such conduct among grown-up politicians was considered unconscionable, shameless, and pitiful. Period.

Because those were the ground rules the press established: if you, or your side, lost the November election (and especially if your side lost in a rout), you went away for a long time and remained silent. (Think Michael Dukakis or Bob Dole.)

The press used to consider it beneath contempt for the losing side to take partisan swipes at the White House winner during the early days of his presidency. Note that in 2001, Sen. Hillary Clinton waited until May before she made her first public criticism of president Bush. (She did it during a speech on the floor of the U.S. Senate, not on cable TV.)

And former VP Al Gore waited 21 months before he re-entered the public debate, giving a speech in San Francisco in 2002 where he raised all kinds of concerns about looming plans for war in Iraq. He waited so long, I suspect, because the press made it absolutely clear that Gore's opinions were not welcome at the table. Unless, that is, he wanted to suffer the wrath of the punditocracy which was just itching to label him a "sore loser."

That's how the game was played for decades. But Cheney goes public with claims that Obama, weeks into his first terms, is making America less safe and the Beltway press doesn't flinch. The press corps acts like it's normal; like that's what all former VP's do right after they vacate the WH. It's not. It's unprecedented.

At least Meghan McCain provides the context.

UPDATE: The NYT very gently addresses the issue today in a piece about Cheney's attack campaign.

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