John McCain made a pair of not-bad ads mocking the schoolgirlish moments of pundits talking about Barack Obama. Sure, it was hypocritical since McCain's no stranger to favorable press — he famously joked that reporters constituted his "base." Also politically dangerous for the same reason. But if he gets away with tweaking the Fourth Estate it's because he offers the kind of access other pols don't. This is why Jonathan Chait and Jacob Weisberg may not vote for him but still kind of admire the guy. Obama, however, is the anointed presidential hopeful (if he doesn't say so himself), and he clearly has more to lose if the media's infatuation with him ends. Gabriel Sherman of the New Republic has a good piece explaining how the bloom's already gone off the rose. Obama's press liaison Robert Gibbs is a dick, and his other handlers are prickly and micromanagerial. Key evidence: The Times' Adam Nagourney and Megan Thee wrote a story about how the candidate had failed to bridge the race gap. This precipitated a gentle question to Nagourney from the Obama campaign, which he answered. He then awoke the next morning to find himself attacked in an eight-point press release issued by Obama's team and leaked to Talking Points Memo and Marc Ambinder. "I've never had an experience like this with this campaign or others," Nagourney tells Sherman. "I thought they crossed the line. If you have a problem with a story I write, call me first. I'm a big boy. I can handle it. But they never called. They attacked me like I'm a political opponent." So I guess Nagourney's less of a fan. True, McCain went out of his way to antagonize Elisabeth Bumiller of the Times for probing his red-meat conservative credentials (didn't Kerry offer him the VP slot?). But again, this wasn't schema-altering. Who didn't already know McCain could go from Mogwai to Gremlin when his status as a Maverick was either questioned or affirmed by the wrong inquiring mind? With his wafer-thin lead in the polls (don't email me, Gibbs!), Obama can scarcely afford to keep a reputation like this:
[A]s Obama ascended from underdog to front-runner to presumptive nominee, the flame seems to have dwindled. Reporters who cover Obama these days grouse that Obama's flacks shroud the campaign in secrecy and provide little to no access. "They're more disciplined than the Bush people," a reporter on the Obama trail gripes. "There was this idea of being transparent, but they're not. They're total tightwads with information."