Yesterday afternoon, Senator McCain’s top campaign staff held a conference call with about half a dozen conservative bloggers. David All live-blogged it. Captain Ed and Mary Katherine Ham have shared their reactions.
I hadn’t intended to post on the conference, but now that my comments have been summarized by other bloggers, I think I should recount more fully what I said.
I expressed alarm about what I perceive to be strong dislike and distrust of the Senator not by bloggers but by blog readers. I cited the Pajamas Media poll, in which at least at one point, McCain was running neck-and-neck with Fred Thomspon and Ron Paul. I also mentioned the harshly negative feedback about the Senator we frequently receive at Power Line on our forum page and in emails.
I expressed this alarm “not as a McCain supporter, but as a McCain admirer.” As I put it, “a strong McCain campaign is in the national interest and the interest of the Republican party, just as a strong Giuliani campaign and a strong Romney campaign are.”
I identified three main themes that appear in the anti-McCain messages we get. The first, of course, is McCain-Feingold. I don’t think there’s much McCain can do about this. It’s unrealistic and unfair to expect a “McCain outreach program” to include changing positions on fundamental issues.
The second problem is the sense that McCain has “sucked up” to the mainstream media over the years largely by criticizing conservatives. That’s an almost unpardonable sin for many blog readers who, after all, started reading blogs because they so distrust and dislike the MSM. Whether other conservatives feel so strongly about this is unclear.
My comments on what to do about this problem must have been unclear because both David All and Mary Katherine misunderstood what I was trying to say. I mentioned the possibility of a “Sister Souljah” moment towards the MSM in what I intended to be a dismissive way — I don’t think it’s a very realistic or sensible option. What I should have said is that McCain can’t fully undo the perception that he’s a media darling, but the MSM may partially undo it for him, and McCain should allow that to happen rather than try to preserve his niche. Perhaps, this process can be his less dramatic version of Sister Souljah moments.
The third problem McCain has — and probably the most curable — is his stridency towards those with whom he disagrees. I noted that, as a high profile prosecutor and mayor, Rudy Giuliani was quite strident and “in-your-face.” Many conservatives in New York still have mixed views about him. Yet since leaving office, Rudy has mastered the art of “disagreeing without appearing disagreeable” and certainly without demonizing those on the other side. Thus, even when he’s taking liberal positions on key social issues like abortion, he manages not to generate any more animosity than that which necessarily flows from his stand on the merits. This decidedly is not the case with McCain. I expressed the view that McCain needs to master the art of showing genuine respect for conservatives who disagree with him on issues of major importance.
As for my reaction to the conference call, I appreciate that the campaign reached out to bloggers and invited Power Line to participate. Time will tell whether the call proves helpful to the campaign.
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