hard heads soft hearts
Friday, June 14, 2002
"He also responds to the press. Unlike the inaccessible George W. Bush, you can get to McCain easily, and have a frank, intelligent discussion with him about just about any topic. I've developed a minor obsession with how the various Republican education plans don't make sense even on their own terms. McCain's flawed plan, like Bush's even more flawed plan, wouldn't give vouchers a fair test, because it doesn't fund the voucher at anywhere near the cost of most private schools. And if a voucher won't pay for private school, it won't create any pressure on public schools to improve. I made this point to McCain on a flight from Grand Rapids, Mich., to the Reagan Library in California. His initial response was that while $2,000, the amount in his plan, wouldn't cover tuition at Sidwell Friends or Andover, it would pay for many Catholic parochial schools. "I'm unembarrassed to tell you that one of my happiest days of recent years was when my daughter was accepted in Catholic school," he said. "I know she'll get a quality education. She'll wear a uniform, and she'll be away from those little bastards that are trying to get their hands on her."
McCain then called across the aisle of the plane to his wife. "Cindy, honey, good morning. How much is our tuition for Meghan at Xavier?" Meghan, 14, is the McCains' oldest daughter.
"$6,100," Mrs. McCain answered. "Not including books or uniforms."
McCain seemed surprised at how high it was. And the next thing I knew, he was running with my criticism, trashing his own proposal. "It's one thing to say we'll give everybody a choice," he said. "Well, if they can't get in, then we'd better either provide incentives for schools to come into being where they can afford it, or figure out a way to give them enough of a voucher where they can." You could say that McCain is to be faulted for not working out a better education proposal in the first place. But in a way, being able to profit from valid criticism is more important than being a master of policy detail. The Clinton health-care plan is a case in point.
This points to a final press-friendly quality of McCain's: brilliant flattery. It's fairly unusual, in my experience, for a politician to accept a reporter's opinion that one of his major proposals is seriously flawed. It's also gratifying to the reporter. Bill Clinton is a master of buttering up journalists by quoting their books and articles back to them. But with Clinton, the effort at seduction is transparent. You know he really hates the press, and is forcing himself to try to win them over. When McCain flatters you, it doesn't feel automatic or calculated. He truly likes us journalists. It's his fellow senators he can't stand."
Ms. REED: Well, if she's running for veep, I think she's out of luck, so I hope not, for her sake. But I don't think this is as much about a glass ceiling as the fact that Elizabeth Dole's campaign organization makes Bob Dole look like the most organized guy on the planet. I mean, she just--you know, she started out with this great momentum. She had all the--just--and--and just the celeb aspect and all that kind of stuff, and they just did not have a clue. I mean, I could--I mean, you know, my little brother could tell them how to capitalize on that kind of stuff.
MATTHEWS: Well, more voters are women than are men. There's a lot of universe of opportunity out there. Why aren't women voting for this woman?
Ms. REED: Becau--you've got--I mean, because they can't just--you know, because they're not just gonna decide, 'Whoa, I think I'm just gonna like get myself organized and go to work for her.' I mean, a lot of people--a lot of state--a lot of state party chairmen told me that when she first announced, they were calling the headquarters...
Ms. REED: ...especially in the South, saying, 'Where can we go sign up?' She didn't have anybody down there. She just spoke a couple of weeks ago at a--a fund-raiser in Jackson, Mississippi, for the party, not for her, and nobody on her campaign staff bothered to call up and get the list of people who'd paid 1,000 bucks.
MATTHEWS: That says not ready for prime time.
Ms. REED: I mean, that's crazy.
august 13 1999. "hardball"
It says a lot about our screwed up media that McCain being utterly clueless about his education plan is a charming, even refreshing, quirk, while Elizabeth Dole not knowing who her $1000 dollar donors are is considered unforgivable.