Back during the Republican primary race, John McCain's Straight Talk Express was a mobile campaign vehicle sporting a horeshoe shaped couch in the rear that let reporters hobnob with McCain in a friendly, informal environment. Now that McCain has ditched the bus for a plane of his own, he's subjected to silly FAA laws that prohibit that sort of seating arrangement, less the aircraft suffer turbulence and send a Washington Post reporter flying. One might think that McCain's camp, then, would do anything they can to make the press feel as comfortable as possible aboard Straight Talk Air. Perhaps that was the plan — there is a custom-made couch in the press section of the cabin. But it goes unused, as does most of the flying time where reporters could be peppering the candidate with questions.
In fact, the idea that McCain is enjoying an open relationship with reporters like he once did couldn't be further from the truth.
I???ve spent three days on the road with McCain this week, and except for a couple of public town-hall meetings, where flashes of his old wit and friskiness shone through, I???ve barely clapped eyes on him. The forward compartments of his charter 737???his personal seating area in the front, and the ???Straight Talk??? suite in the middle???are blocked off from the press section in the rear by dark brown curtains. And as soon after takeoff as F.A.A. rules allow, McCain aides pull the drapes tight, so tight that his press secretary, Brooke Buchanan, spent several frustrated minutes this week fiddling in vain with one that drooped ever so slightly off its last hook, leaving a risky sliver of daylight between McCain???s compartment and the cage of the media beast he once not only fed, but tamed.
This is no way to treat his "base," of course.
To be fair, it's not like Obama has been relaxing in pajamas when dealing with the press. But McCain's media advantage was that reporters felt comfortable with his open access policy; they became friendly.
Now, while Obama is back on U.S. soil following his mega-covered overseas tour, McCain is once again relegated to the press' back seat. Shouldn't McCain be flying the plane of the political news cycle, not figuratively sitting in coach?
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