WASHINGTON, D.C. -- I read four newspapers a day, occasionally more. I watch television news and listen to radio news. The media fascinate me. Many times, the media suffer a collective mood swing that is more important than the facts they report. Supposedly, news stories are based on facts, but often, more significant than the facts -- pocked as they are with error and biased selection -- is the mood. Now, the mood coloring the coverage of Sen. John McCain's presidential candidacy is bleak. For weeks, the news stories about him have been few and fraught with pessimism. The mood set in when his fundraising problems began.
This week, the old combat pilot made it into the news with slightly increased frequency, but still the stories had a charnel quality. First, there were the stories about his age. He turned 71 this week, and if elected, he would be the oldest elected American president. Then there were the ironic stories about how his impoverished campaign has sought authority to receive matching federal funds. That might give him the sustenance to keep battling for the Republican nomination, but it would put him at a disadvantage against the candidates who are flush with money and will not have to settle for federal funds, such as Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney.
Still, the old combat pilot battles on, and frankly, I am in his corner. I have known him since the late 1980s and have never seen in him anything but a gentleman, a cheerful gentleman at that. There have been rumors of his dreadful temper. I have not seen it. I have seen reports of Hillary Rodham Clinton's dreadful temper. In fact, I have reported in columns and in my current book on her husband's life in "retirement," "The Clinton Crack-Up," first-hand accounts from security personnel and innocent bystanders of her rages -- throwing objects at her husband and staff, cussing like a lowdown scamp and causing unnecessary rows. For years, she has demanded that Secret Service agents carry her bags despite regulations barring them from doing so. Yet never has Clinton's volatile temper become a public issue. Maybe it will as her nomination to head the Democratic ticket puts her closer to control of the military and the Justice Department.
I write all this because the media's mood of pessimism and dismissal is ignorant. The foul mood could deny voters what should be a stimulating presidential match-up, McCain against his Republican rivals and then maybe against the Democratic nominee. I have parted company with him on his campaign finance positions; I worry that when it comes to the salutary economic benefits of tax cuts, he needs constant reminders. But otherwise, he is a solid conservative. When he speaks from principle, he is as unflinching as Ronald Reagan. On Iraq, he has shown the wisdom of a seasoned military mind. He deserves our trust that he can get us through this war successfully with American national interests secured.