Ross Mackenzie

Well, that didn't take long.

The New York Times accomplished almost overnight a consolidation of his Republican base that John McCain was encountering considerable difficulty doing. Some social conservatives were distinctly chilly toward him, with but a few reluctantly warming. Along came The Times with its slime job, and just about all the conservatives hotted up.

That's what the ideologically chi-chi Times does - or can do. It roils conservative/moderate blood.

Hollywood writer David Kahane wonders in dismay what The Times was thinking, running that half-sourced farrago of a Barbra Streisand hit-job on John McCain that snarked and sneered and amounted to . . . what? That eight years ago a sitting senator spent some time with a lobbyist who bore an uncanny resemblance to his wife . . . and you just know, deep down, that there was some canoodling going on, don't you? Come on, admit it. Even though we can't really prove it.'

As it ditched Hillary Clinton for the nebulous, platitudinous- and scary - Barack Obama, The Times chose to move McCain from his status as the left's favorite conservative to its most detested (and feared) Republican. None of what it said about his behavior rang true, and apparently none of it was.

With North Vietnam's finest shacklers and ropesmen having failed to break McCain over five years, this pea-shooter effort by the Times' best bounced off him like sleet. He denied it all calmly yet firmly, sent out his fundraisers, raked in buckets, and welcomed wavering conservatives home.

The Times should have foreseen the outcome of its McCain hit-job. But of course, blinkered as it is by ideology, it could not; just as neither it nor the mainline press for which it sets the agenda has been able to see perhaps a fundamental reason for the collapsing confidence with which it desperately is trying to deal.

The mainline press has produced a lot of reasons to explain its tanking circulation over three decades, with circulation decline translating into slumping advertising lineage, diminishing revenues, layoffs, buyouts and plummeting stock prices.

Among the offered reasons: the Internet, flight to the suburbs, transience, meism, changes in the use of leisure time, soaring percentages of women in the workforce, a shift from blue-collar to white-collar jobs (with a corresponding shift from afternoon to morning newspapers), the decline of reading in an increasingly video world.

Yet rarely cited in such litanies by newspaper people is the devout liberalism long infusing the press. It's the liberalism that the (now) late William Buckley first saw so clearly and, with such devastating eloquence, warred against.

Ross Mackenzie

Ross Mackenzie lives with his wife and Labrador retriever in the woods west of Richmond, Virginia. They have two grown sons, both Naval officers.

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