John McCain held a town hall meeting in New York City this evening. It was part of a series of gatherings he has proposed for himself and Barack Obama.
This program, which Obama did not attend, was to be broadcast on Fox News under an unusual agreement that would have Fox provide the cameras, while the McCain campaign would produce the event. On the surface that is a peculiar arrangement because it puts Fox in the position of airing a candidate production. But beneath the surface it got even more peculiar.
At the outset it was announced that the audience would be a politically diverse group that McCain sought to portray as ordinary, undecided voters. But at the conclusion, Fox anchor, Shepard Smith, went on air to reveal that McCain had mislead the network in a rather significant way.
Smith: “I reported at the top of this hour that the campaign had told us at Fox News that the audience would be made up of Republicans, Democrats, and independents. We have now received a clarification from the campaign and I feel I should pass it along to you. The McCain campaign distributed tickets to supporters, Mayor Bloomberg, who of course is a registered Republican, and other independent groups.”
Stop for a moment and take in the magnitude of this deception. John McCain felt it was necessary to lie to Fox News, the propaganda arm of the Republican Party, in order to pull off this charade. Imagine the lengths to which he would go to deceive a network that he did not regard as friendly.
The dishonesty of McCain’s actions put Fox News in the awkward position of having misinformed their audience, something they do with relative frequency anyway, so maybe that’s not too big a deal. Then they had to swallow hard and set the record straight by disclosing the McCain deceit. But by this time considerable damage had been done to McCain’s credibility. He is still trying to persuade Obama to join these forums. Early on in the meeting, McCain made another plea for just that:
“I think this town hall meeting tonight would have been a little bit more interesting tonight if Senator Obama had accepted my request,”
Indeed it would have been more interesting, and not just because McCain by himself is a total snooze-fest. It would have been an ambush where Obama would have encountered an audience that was secretly stacked against him. Certainly Obama would have been able to hold his own in a room full of McCainiacs. But after an evening of questioners who were snuggling up to McCain while putting Obama on the defensive, it could have left the impression that this assembly of supposedly neutral citizens found Obama unappealing.
This revelation of McCain’s brazen untrustworthiness should be weighed by the Obama camp in any consideration of future candidate encounters. Under no circumstances should the McCain crowd be permitted to manage, unsupervised, any portion of the event. And the media should also apply a stricter level of scrutiny when negotiating press availabilities with McCain and his Double Talk Express.