Saturday, August 05, 2006

Politician Puts Family Before Good Press-- Hold the Phone

The one-time driver of the "Straight Talk Express", Arizona senator John McCain, lost me as a sometimes-admirer when he started aggressively pandering to the right-wing Republican base earlier this year.

Still, there's a fascinating article in this week's Time Magazine, focusing on the revelation that McCain's son has joined the Marines. It's a laudatory story and an eye-opener into the McCain family history (I had no clue McCain's own father commanded U.S. forces in the Pacific during the Vietnam War).

But this sentence caught my eye: "In mid-June, [McCain] asked TIME not to run this story, and relented only when it appeared that other organizations might break the news."

Hit me with a frying pan-- could a politician be putting family before his own self-interests?

McCain certainly could have capitalized on this for his own gain with a well-placed phone call to a friendly media contact. That he was able to get Time to hold off one doing this story is an interesting turn. You see, my guess here is that McCain knew -- to the cynical politics observer -- that he could have easily looked like a political opportunist, had he gone right out of the gate with this. But, in taking this tack, he ultimately gained here and is able to stem any cries of opportunism.

Here's what I envisioned happened: McCain gets a call from an enterprising Time journalist, who has found out this information independently, asking for comment. McCain asked the magazine to hold it, saying he was not ready to comment at that time-- and promised that he would call the journalist if he got a call from another media outlet. When others started contacting McCain for comment here, he went back to the outlet that was first on the scene. What could easily have originally been a front-of-book feature turned into a glowing two-page spread. A great media play by McCain, if what I think happened is true and the smartest thing he has done in a long while.

Michael Steele could learn a thing or two from this fellow.

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