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Free Ride: John McCain and the Media Paperback – March 25, 2008

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 218 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; First Edition edition (March 25, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307279405
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307279408
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,223,046 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

McCain has received more favorable press than other politicians and has been portrayed as a moderate, a maverick, and a reformer. Brock and coauthor Waldman assert that that image is mythical, maintained by an elite national press that is carefully courted by McCain. In fact, McCain is quite politically conservative and has often said so. Moreover, the authors claim that after 25 years in politics, McCain is no maverick either. Even on the campaign reform act that partly bears his name, McCain’s position is less substantively meaningful and less risky than has been portrayed. The authors examine national press coverage versus the coverage of local media in Arizona, where he is better known. They also detail how McCain’s courting of the media has resulted in a bias in his favor. The national press has overlooked McCain’s record as well as his character flaws and shortcomings. The media has found virtue even in his poor performance in the 2000 presidential election, attributing it to the fact that he is not like other politicians. Failure to scrutinize McCain more closely, the authors conclude, is an object lesson in the media’s skewed political coverage. --Vanessa Bush


“The press loves McCain. We're his base.”
—Chris Matthews, MSNBC

“John McCain is clearly the Washington media's favorite Republican.” —Brit Hume, Fox News

“The media, of course, loves John McCain because it seems like he's back to the old John McCain.” —David Shuster, MSNBC

“I think every last one of them [reporters] would move to Massachusetts and marry John McCain if they could.”
—Joe Scarborough, MSNBC

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

123 of 130 people found the following review helpful By Edwin C. Pauzer VINE VOICE on June 9, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
John McCain is a marketing phenomenon who has been able to project an image that entirely belies his real self according to the authors Brock and Waldman. He sells it to the press who sell it to the rest of the nation.

He is styled as a self-effacing war hero who never likes to bring up his captivity in public, except he continually manages to do so. Phrases like: "I haven't been asked so many questions since I was interrogated in Hanoi," or "I missed Woodstock, I was someplace else," or "Well, the longest place I lived was in Hanoi for five and a half years." (He actually grew up in the suburbs outside of D.C.). Even though the Senate and the House of Representatives are filled with people who served honorably and bravely, their names are never associated with their experience. For John McCain, the press will mention this experience of yesteryear almost as if it is a subtitle every time his name is written or spoken. On the other hand, if John Kerry mentions his service to his country, it won't be long before the media will accuse him of trying to exploit his record for political gain--not so for the Arizona senator.

John McCain is a maverick and a moderate. If a maverick is defined as a person who goes against the grain and is willing to take risks, particularly political ones, he isn't it. John McCain has only bucked his party on issues that have already been popular with the public such as finance reform, immigration, and tobacco. His bill at finance reform was toothless to the point of being ineffectual except in helping republicans. Although against lobbying, McCain has a number of lobbyists who have, and are working on behalf of his campaign.
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54 of 67 people found the following review helpful By james warren on March 26, 2008
Format: Paperback
This book is one more example of a crucial piece of information that helps us to fill in a larger and more troubling picture:

The mainstream media relies on myths, narratives and storylines that so shape our perception of people and events that it becomes a near impossiblity for citizens to stay informed about important national issues.

Waldman and Brock of have finally issued a book they have been working on for years and it could not be appearing in print at a more useful time. "Free Ride: John McCain and the Media" peels away the press/political onion and gets to the heart of why McCain is truly getting a pass from the mainstream media.

"Hero," "Patriot," "Maverick," and "Straight Talker"--we've all heard the media's buzzwords in regard to John McCain and this book will tell you first--the truth behind them, and second--why you continue to hear them.

It probably won't surprise you to learn once again that the rock has to be lifted up so the sunshine can start to illuminate everything that grows and wriggles underneath. As Americans we have gone through this sometimes painful process more than once and those who are reluctant to follow truth wherever it may lead them might do well to stop at the period at the end of this sentence and go no further.

For others, this book contains education we all need to have if we are going to keep participating in American democracy. This is an important and readable book. It's not only about John McCain. It's also about our supposedly "liberal media" and how it treats our public figures.

And how we can so easily be misled and left behind if we're not more discerning and critical.
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17 of 22 people found the following review helpful By booker on April 15, 2008
Format: Paperback
It's a fact: The Media loves them some McCain. What seems apparent at first or second glance becomes nauseatingly obvious and borderline criminal when all the evidence is gathered in once place, as in this book. The phoenix-like rise of McCain's campaign from the ashes is not so bizarre and miraculous when one faces reality and recognizes that the media was pulling for McCain through those dark days, and now that he's the nominee, they can slip into their old habits without making it seem so obvious.

The book is depressing and heartening at the same time - while the media arrogantly goes about preening their favorites, facts be damned, it's long overdue that this Beltway circle jerk is illuminated.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Rodger W. Quagliano on October 12, 2008
Format: Paperback
A good insight into the straight talking John McCain and what he is like when not in the public eye. While appearing to sometimes conflict with the Republican base, many are on safe issues. The fact that he is a true American hero and survivor that he supposedly keeps from talking about, it's a subject that always seems to come up. He's tough and challenging and the author treats him like someone he has enjoyed knowing and watching, but not without his own flaws, some admitted and others left to discern by the reader.
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Free Ride provides a brief look into how the media has covered John McCain throughout his political career. It is not an attack on the man, but rather an indictment of how the media treats him. He is usually portrayed as something different from other politicians despite exhibiting the same kind of behavior and political maneuvering his colleagues engage in. The word "maverick" that has so often been used to describe him is tossed aside here; the authors point out that other Republicans switch sides more often than McCain, that McCain's "scores" from various political groups place him as a solid conservative and not a moderate, and the way he treats reporters essentially disarms them and makes them more likely to report on him as a friend than a stereotypical politician.

The contrast in how local Arizona media and national media portray him is striking. Curiously, rather than deny pro-McCain bias or simply stay silent on the matter, national media figures openly state they admire the man. The numerous quotes and passages taken from multiple sources make the authors' case well, even without their additional analysis and prose.

That the authors, who write for an avowedly liberal organization and published this in early 2008, manage to stay so even handed in their analysis and don't smear McCain's character is to be commended. Unsurprisingly, the same even handedness makes the book fairly dull reading. The evidence they provide is clear. The book has decent organization, though a few points and examples are repeated multiple times. But when you get down to it, one person and how the media treats him sounds much like a topic to an academic paper, and Free Ride is about as engaging to read as one.
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