On Hardball, Russert claimed McCain has "maverick brand" with public, without noting his colleagues' role in promoting it

››› ››› BRIAN LEVY

On Hardball, Tim Russert said of Sen. John McCain: "[T]he perception right now of McCain is someone who's experienced, someone who they see not of the Republican brand or the Bush brand, but of the maverick brand." Russert did not acknowledge the media's role in promoting that "brand," much less the role of Hardball host Chris Matthews -- who, the next day on Today, called McCain "a maverick. People think of him as a maverick."

On the April 10 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, NBC News Washington bureau chief Tim Russert said of Sen. John McCain: "[T]he perception right now of McCain is someone who's experienced, someone who they see not of the Republican brand or the Bush brand, but of the maverick brand. Now, I think a lot of that may change, Chris, come a general election, in a fall election, hotly competitive." While asserting that the "perception right now" is that McCain is "of the maverick brand," Russert did not in any way acknowledge the media's role in promoting that "brand," much less the role of his colleague, Hardball host Chris Matthews. Indeed, the next day on Today, Matthews said: "Well, you only get one reputation in life, and he's got a good one. He's a military man who served his country, sacrificed for his country, carries the scars of battle. And also, he's a maverick. People think of him as a maverick."

Media Matters for America has documented Matthews and others in the broadcast and print media using the label "maverick" when discussing McCain, despite the various instances in which McCain has fallen in line with the Bush administration or the Republican Party establishment, a lifetime rating of 83 by the American Conservative Union, and his recent rightward shift on high-profile issues such as immigration and taxes.

From the April 10 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:

MATTHEWS: Now let's take a look at some of the match-up polls potentially going down in November, Tim. Let's take a look at the Associated Press poll. It shows that McCain is tied 45-45 with Senator Obama, who had a 10-point lead as recently as February over McCain, and McCain basically within the margin of error with Senator Clinton at 48-45.

And now look at this fascinating one. These are showing how close these people are, between Democrat and Republican, no matter which Democrat it is. Take a look at this one. This is a new Marist poll that just came out this afternoon. You tipped me off to this yesterday, that it was coming. Let's take a -- this is absolutely fascinating. If you put Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, on the ticket with John McCain on the Republican side, it defeats either Clinton-Obama or Obama-Clinton by 49-to-46 or 49-to-44 in New York state, the home of Hillary Clinton, the home of American liberalism.

RUSSERT: That's incredible. I mean, if that were to be the case, it's a landslide for the Republicans. Here's the great irony --

MATTHEWS: Well, they would carry 45 states, if they carried New York.

RUSSERT: Minimum. Minimum. Here's the great irony of all this. If you ask Americans 10 issues, from Iraq, the economy, global warming, health care, they prefer the Democratic position. If you ask, this fall, do you want the Democrat or Republican, generic question, Democrat by 12 points. But when you compare McCain-Obama, McCain-Clinton, it equals out.

Why? Because the perception right now of McCain is someone who's experienced, someone who they see not of the Republican brand or the Bush brand, but of the maverick brand. Now, I think a lot of that may change, Chris, come a general election, in a fall election, hotly competitive. Because why?

You're right to identify Iraq as an issue that has reemerged dramatically this week in this campaign, and we're going to have big differences on a big issue with big candidates. If it's McCain-Obama, McCain-Clinton, it's going be, "We're going to stay in Iraq. We're going to finish the job. We're not getting out. We're going to see this thing through" -- versus -- "We're starting to take the troops home immediately. We're going to do it in a way that will hopefully not create more chaos in Iraq. But we can no longer afford to do this. We have to spend the money at home." The American people are going to decide whether or not to stop this war.

From the April 11 edition of NBC's Today:

MATT LAUER (co-host): And real quickly -- latest polls nationally, if we move to November, has a McCain-Obama matchup -- dead heat -- 45-45. A McCain-Clinton matchup -- 45-48 with Senator Clinton leading. I ask this question only because in this year of everybody calling this "the change election"--

MATTHEWS: Right.

LAUER: Boy, you have to look and John McCain is polling pretty strongly. Here's a guy who's been in Washington for decades. He supports the surge. And against a couple of "change" candidates, I guess you could argue that he's doing pretty well.

MATTHEWS: Well, you only get one reputation in life, and he's got a good one. He's a military man who served his country, sacrificed for his country, carries the scars of battle. And also, he's a maverick. People think of him as a maverick. Now, even though he supports the war, people sense that he has -- he has a lot of inner strength. And even though they're against the war, they trust the man's battle courage. He's been in it. He's been fighting for his country --

LAUER: Right.

MATTHEWS: -- all these years. It's going to be a great campaign, I think, between the personalities, the people and the policies. I think the American people are going to have to make up their mind. It's a tough one.

LAUER: Chris Matthews joining us this morning.

Network/Outlet
MSNBC, NBC
Person
Chris Matthews
Show/Publication
Hardball
Stories/Interests
John McCain, 2008 Elections
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