I think the day I realized that he probably hasn't been an honorable man for a very long time was about 2 weeks ago. Before that I vacillated between wondering if he was just getting old with more and more senior moments or if he was not really on top of the issues or if he was deliberately running his campaign into the ground. Well, I think that's why he's so mad lately, he knows he's made mistakes but the big eye opener for me was to realize that he's been like this all along-it's just that this time he's been called out.
But then came September—and everything changed. The selection of Palin. The lipstick-pig imbroglio. The ad accusing Obama of supporting the teaching of sex education to kindergartners, along with a slew of other spots rife with distortions and fabrications. Perhaps it was the sheer number of such incidents, perhaps the depth of their mendacity. But the meme began to take hold in the press that the “old McCain” was dead. Or perhaps that he had never existed in the first place. “There was a mismatch between the way he was behaving and the narrative the press had bought into,” observes Just. “It made reporters wonder, ‘Have we been had?’ And when that question starts being asked, it’s a very bad place for a candidate to be.”
Fueling that questioning behind the scenes, it should be said, were countless professional Republicans—some who’d always regarded McCain as a fraud, others who believed in him all too much. Taken together, they gave the press a permission slip to question McCain’s authenticity and integrity. And as that skepticism began to take hold, it effectively doomed McCain’s maneuvers during the financial crisis (the suspension of his campaign, the threat to pull out of the debate) to be greeted with disdain and suspicion by the media. “By the time the financial crisis hit, we were past the tipping point,” says a national reporter who covers McCain. “Lipstick on a pig and sex ed were the last straw for some of McCain’s old hands and media allies. And because of this cynicism, he didn’t get the benefit of the doubt for his ‘suspension,’ and it was treated as the stunt it was.”
For McCain, seeing the press—“my base,” as he once famously put it—turn against him has apparently been more than painful. According to people close to the campaign, it accounts for much of the seething, simmering anger that he’s displayed of late on the hustings.