Harwood touted McCain's "brand" as a "maverick," but didn't note his own role in promoting it

››› ››› BRIAN LEVY

On Hardball, John Harwood stated: "John McCain's brand ... has been pretty well-established since 2000. He's likable. He's a maverick. He's a war hero. All of that redounds to his benefit." But while citing McCain's purported "brand" as a "maverick," Harwood did not acknowledge his own role in promoting that "brand." Nor did he point out any of McCain's actions that challenge that "brand," such as McCain's rightward shift on high-profile issues such as immigration and taxes, and his growing list of falsehoods.

Referring to an April 25-28 NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll during the April 30 edition of MSNBC's Hardball, host Chris Matthews remarked that "even in the toughest of times for [Sen.] John McCain -- with the president unpopular, with the war unpopular, with the recession afoot," voters view McCain "as a person who identifies, enshrines our values more than the two Democrats" running for president. CNBC chief Washington correspondent and New York Times political writer John Harwood replied: "You know, John McCain's brand, Chris, has been pretty well-established since 2000. He's likable. He's a maverick. He's a war hero. All of that redounds to his benefit." But while citing McCain's purported "brand" as a "maverick," Harwood did not acknowledge his own role in promoting that "brand." Nor did he point out any of McCain's actions that challenge that "brand," such as McCain's rightward shift on high-profile issues such as immigration and taxes, and his growing list of falsehoods.

As The New York Times' Elisabeth Bumiller wrote in a March 3 article:

Senator John McCain likes to present himself as the candidate of the "Straight Talk Express" who does not pander to voters or change his positions with the political breeze. But the fine print of his record in the Senate indicates that he has been a lot less consistent on some of his signature issues than he has presented himself to be so far in his presidential campaign.

Mr. McCain, who derided his onetime Republican competitor Mitt Romney for his political mutability, has himself meandered over the years from position to position on some topics, particularly as he has tried to court the conservatives who have long distrusted him.

Prior to Harwood's April 30 appearance on Hardball, both Harwood and Matthews had recently described McCain as a "maverick" despite also noting reasons that term might not be an appropriate description. On the April 16 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe, during a discussion of McCain's April 15 speech on the economy, host Joe Scarborough asked Harwood, "John, how is Senator McCain's act wearing on Americans?" Harwood responded: "John McCain's act is going to wear very well. Look, this is a guy who has established a brand for himself that has endured, Joe and Mika [Brzezinski, co-host], despite that phase in 2007 when he was getting a lot of flak for sort of flip-flopping and trying to court the right." Similarly, despite questioning a few days earlier how people could "still think" McCain is "a straight-talk maverick when he's been in league with the president," Matthews asserted during an April 15 interview with McCain: "Let me ask you about your Republican Party, because you've been a maverick and a lot of people like you because of that. And I want to ask you how much of a maverick you are."

Media Matters for America has also documented numerous others in the broadcast and print media using the term "maverick" when discussing McCain.

From the 7 p.m. ET, April 30 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews:

MATTHEWS: OK, let's get to this, gentlemen, 'cause this is not about economics; it's about values. Voters were asked in a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll if they identify with the background and values of the candidates. John McCain did the best with 54 percent saying they identify with him, 46 percent identify with Hillary, and 45 with Obama. I find it interesting, John Harwood, that even in the toughest of times for John McCain -- with the president unpopular, with the war unpopular, with the recession afoot -- and yet here, there he is seen as a person who identifies, enshrines our values more than the two Democrats.

HARWOOD: You know, John McCain's brand, Chris, has been pretty well-established since 2000. He's likable. He's a maverick. He's a war hero. All of that redounds to his benefit. He had a bio tour recently, which tried to underscore and deepen some of those impressions, so he does have the strongest score. I got to tell you, though, I'm a little bit surprised that Barack Obama did as well as he did on this measure, given this ring of fire that we've been talking about.

CHUCK TODD (NBC News political director): I'll tell you this: The one thing I think we're learning about this election -- and one of our pollsters put together an interesting thing on swing voters for us -- if this is an election on the issues, it's a landslide. The Democratic nominee is going to win. If McCain wins, it won't be because the issues turned to national security, and it won't be because he suddenly found his voice on the economy. It'll be because of that values question. It'll be because people decided, in the words of our pollster, that they wanted -- that they were voting for somebody to be their next-door neighbor. There's a third of the electorate that's sitting there that is thinking about these values issues -- and remember "values" is different to different people. Bill Clinton connected on values because he said he cared about people --

MATTHEWS: Right.

TODD: -- like you. And then George W. Bush won the values argument, sort of the beer-drinking crowd, whatever you want to call it. So there's two ways to go at it. Obama's not doing well on either one of those.

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