Blogger Conference Calls: McCain Invites Critics From Right & Left

With the traditional media admitting they find it hard to curb their enthusiasm for Barack Obama, John McCain demonstrated again today that he is reaching out to the new media, giving blogging critics from the right and left the opportunity to participate in the blogger conference calls he has been regularly conducting. The Washington Times noted the phenomenon in an article of May 16, McCain widens dialogue on blogs, reporting that three of the seven questions in the May 15 conference call were posed by liberal-leaning bloggers.

Of the half-dozen or so questions McCain took in today's blogger call [in which I participated], one was from a blogger from the left. James Kirchick, a New Republic assistant editor/blogger [and National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association 2007 Journalist of the Year], quizzed McCain on his position on the proposed amendment to the California constitution limiting marriage to one man and one woman [McCain expressed support for the amendment and for the ballot initiative giving citizens the right to vote on it].

The most barbed question actually came from the right. Quin Hillyer of the Washington Examiner began by expressing "all due respect," eliciting a wry "I always like that beginning" from the senator. Hillyer went on to describe what he characterized as "one of the most frequently aired complaints from conservatives," to wit, that "when you disagree with conservatives you seem to use the anger and the language of the left, and to question not just conservative positions but motive or integrity." Hillyer asked for assurances that McCain would "avoid that tendency" if he were elected President. McCain fundamentally disagreed with the premise, stating that he treated all people with respect.

Beyond the substance of today's particular questions, what's notable is McCain's willingness to open himself to blogging critics from all sides. In the Washington Times article linked above, Patrick Hynes, the campaign's head of blog outreach, explained the strategy:

The plan is to take the work we've already built on with conservative bloggers and to open up a dialogue with non-conservative bloggers and even nonpolitical bloggers
We hope to be the most accessible and transparent campaign in history, to take advantage of what we think is one of the campaign's strongest assets, which is Senator McCain himself, and frankly to empower voters who are also bloggers to get the answers they need to decide who to vote for.

Will Barack Obama similarly invite conservative bloggers, and critics to his left [if such exist], to participate in similar, free-wheeling conference calls? If so, I'm sure any number of my fellow NewsBusters would be delighted to join in.

Note: During his brief introductory remarks, McCain talked up his proposal for a series of lightly-structured town halls and debates with Barack Obama. This presumably represents another part of the strategy to reach around an Obama-leaning MSM and speak more directly to voters.

Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.