I was as surprised as most everyone else this past Sunday afternoon at a Washington party to celebrate Arianna Huffington’s new book, Right is Wrong, when in her remarks to the assembled Huffington said John and Cindy McCain confessed to her after the 2000 election (back when Arianna was still on the dark side) that neither of them voted for George W. Bush. Huffington wrote about this episode yesterday, noting how incongruent it is that McCain has since embraced the wildly unpopular George W. Bush yet remains viable in the presidential race:

But a large portion of the electorate hasn't noticed the Shakespearean fall. How else to explain The 28/48 Disconnect -- wherein only a die-hard 28 percent of voters still approve of Bush, but 48 percent say they'd vote for McCain, who is running on the "more of the same" platform?

The thing is, these voters clearly still think of McCain as the maverick of 2000, a straight shooter who would never seek the embrace of a man he couldn't bring himself to vote for, nor accept the regular counsel of Karl Rove, the man behind the vile, race-baiting attacks on him during the 2000 campaign.

And the main reason for The 28/48 Disconnect is the mainstream media's ongoing membership in the John McCain Protection Society. They too continue to party -- and report on McCain -- like it's 1999.

I’m not going to say the election can be reduced to whether and to what degree the national media depicts McCain’s duplicitious, self-serving, inconsistent behaviors and policy positions in the appropriate light, but as recent books by Cliff Schecter, and another by our own Paul Waldman and co-author (and Sunday book party co-host) David Brock, make quite clear, there is the media-manufactured image of McCain and then there is the real McCain. To those on the Right or in the media who revel in reminding us all, in their supercilious way, that “September 11 changed everything,” I say, fair enough: It changed John McCain, too, and McCain v.2000 is decidedly not McCain v.2008.

--Tom Schaller

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