Freep Gives McCain Free Pass

The Detroit Free Press lets Sen. McCain talk (lots) for himself in its coverage of his speech on the economy at Bayloff Stamped Products in Michigan yesterday.

Reading like a transcript of the exchange between McCain and his audience, it underscores the need for local media to challenge the candidates’ sound bytes and perform more of its own analysis, instead of leaving it in the hands of The Wall Street Journal or The Washington Post.

The only bit of analysis present in the Detroit Free Press piece is a paragraph on the gas tax holiday, which is old news. Oh, and a rather ridiculous line: “It wasn’t a given that McCain would get all the votes in the room.”

The Detroit News stays on its feet, though, with a nuanced article that hits the significant portions of McCain’s visit, including the senator’s response to the news, on the front page of The New York Times today, that mortgage finance firms Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac may need government bailouts:

“ ‘We cannot allow them to fail,’ McCain told reporters Thursday. That commitment appeared to contrast with his previous statements ruling out a federal bailout of the domestic automakers if one of them fails.

Asked about the discrepancy, McCain said he would ‘help the auto industry in a whole broad variety of ways,’ including tax credits for research and development and a $300 million prize for developing battery technology. But he did not signal any willingness to consider federal aid to the ailing Big Three.”

The article successfully challenges what all too often seems like the national media’s monopoly on campaign analysis. (Though it does spend a little too much time sloshing through former senator and McCain advisor Phil Gramm’s remarks that America is in a “mental recession”—and McCain’s renunciation of said remarks, and Michigan senator Debbie Stabenow’s indignation over said remark.)

The Detroit Free Press does have an edge in one sense, though. Unable to get into the building where McCain spoke to an invite-only crowd, cartoonist Mike Thompson recorded the senator’s speech as it blared out of some speakers, and here’s what he got out of it.

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Jane Kim is a writer in New York.