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McCain Takes on the 'Cable Monster' and an 'Extreme' Obama

By Juliet Eilperin
NEW YORK -- As the general election gets into full swing, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is becoming increasingly adept at name calling, whether it's his opponent, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) or his erstwhile ally, the media.

McCain has particularly relished attacking television reporters this week with a new nickname he's conceived: "cable monsters." (Sometime he uses the singular to dub the entire industry "the cable monster.")

In an interview with NBC late-night host Conan O'Brien last night, McCain explained that he was hoping to conduct a series of town hall meeting with Obama to circumvent the scary media outlets that currently communicate the candidates' message to the American public: "Well, I had hoped so because Americans are tired of the sound bite, the back and forth, the cable monsters, the, you know, the continuous, and the blogosphere."

Several of the cable television reporters who have covered McCain for months were simultaneously amused and offended by their new moniker, and during a press conference Friday in Warren, Mich., they had planned to identify themselves by their specific network affiliation along with a "cable monster" addendum when McCain called on them for questions. But the presumptive GOP nominee called almost exclusively on local reporters yesterday, including picking two separate representatives from the Michigan Messenger -- a left-leaning website that describes itself as " a coalition of long-time progressive bloggers, freelance writers and professional journalists, our aim is to enhance and expand the political dialog in Michigan."

Of course, calling someone a cable monster -- with its subtle allusion to Sesame Street's Cookie Monster -- is less harsh than dubbing someone a socialist, which is what McCain implied Thursday after a town hall meeting in Kansas City, Mo. During the town hall McCain remarked that Obama "has the most extreme record of any member of the United States Senate," referring to a National Journal ranking from last year naming him the most liberal U.S. senator. (Obama ranked 16th and 10th on the most liberal continuum during his first two years in office, according to National Journal.)

After the meeting, McCain told the Kansas City Star that the presumptive Democratic nominee's voting record "is more to the left than the announced socialist in the United States Senate, Bernie Sanders of Vermont."

Asked by the reporter if he thinks Obama is a socialist, McCain replied, "I don't know. All I know is his voting record, and that's what people usually judge their elected officials by."

Those sort of comments, coupled with McCain's first attack ad this week in which he questions Obama's record on Iraq, might bring on a tongue lashing from 96-year-old Roberta McCain. In his television interview last night, McCain told O'Brien about how his mother chastised him for cursing while in a North Vietnamese prison.

"I'll try to make it quick, but I wrote a book once where I had talked about when I was being taken from interrogation -- in one part of the book -- to, from my cell to interrogation. I used to yell obscenities at the guards to help the morale of my friends. To make a long story short, some of those were in a magazine that excerpted the book," McCain said. "I got a call from my mom. She said, 'Johnny.' I said, 'Yes.' She said, 'I just read the excerpts in that magazine from your book.' And I said, 'Well what did you think?' And she said, 'I'm coming over there and I'm washing your mouth out with soap. I never taught you to use language like that under any circumstances.' I said, 'Those guys were bad guys.' She said, 'That's no excuse.'"

O'Brien replied, sympathetically, "Mom, that was in a North Vietnamese prison, there should be an exemption."

By Web Politics Editor  |  July 19, 2008; 10:44 AM ET
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