John McBush did a turn on Leno the other night. Toward the end of his appearance Leno said: I've just got to ask, how many houses do you have? McBush responded by refering to his time as a POW in Vietnam.
It was a bizarre non sequitur. Had he not heard the question? Or perhaps it was another "senior moment" from a guy who is having more and more of them as the campaign rolls on.
Or perhaps it was exactly the scripted response McBush's Rove operatives told him to give to that question. And to virtually any hard question asked of him by the press and the media.
The McBush campaign has certainly figured out that the press will not go after McBush in any serious way. Certainly not the way they have gone after Obama. The New York Times, our nation's "paper of record," called Obama's speech in Berlin "vague" in its headline, while treating McBush's repeated rants for "victory in Iraq" as a specific set of policy objectives. This past Sunday, the Times Magazine ran a cover story on "Obamanomics" which featured some critical analysis; McBush's economic proposals, such as they are, have not received the same grilling. Or how about this, by Jackie Chalmest under the heading "news analysis": For Obama, a Challenge to Clarify His Message "The drama of the convention makes it harder for Barack Obama to connect with the economic anxiety of voters." That isn't analysis, it's a McBush ad.
In other words, the press grades Obama straight, but they grade McBush on a generous curve.
And the Rovian choreographers who now make McBush dance know that the press goes weak in the knees on the subject of McBush's war record. Many in the press are members of the Vietnam generation, and most did not serve in that war for one reason or another. Call it guilt, call it macho-envy, call it a strange military version of starry-eyed celebrity worship - the press simply won't go after McBush because he was a POW.
So the campaign strategy becomes to bring up that experience as often as possible, in as many venues as possible, but always with the media. In the absence of any compelling ideas, of any vision for the future, and in the face of a Republican-created mess which he helped enable, McBush's years in a gruesome Vietnamese prison 40 years ago have become his biggest qualification to be president.
As long as the press continues to give McBush a pass, we can expect to hear about his time in Vietnam, no matter what other issues we ought to be discussing.
And how many houses does he have, anyway?
PS. I hate to keep ranting about the New York Times, but their treatment of Obama is reprehensible. This the day after Obama gave his acceptance speech in Denver:
"John McCain’s choice of running mate was a surprise, and — as designed by Mr. McCain’s advisers — eclipsed the acceptance speech delivered by Barack Obama."
Huh??!! It took two Times reporters - John Zeleny and Adam Nagourney - to come up with that bizarre conclusion. If someone can tell me why the Times has decided to work for the McBush campaign I'd appreciate it.