The McCain campaign's ongoing war against what it sees as the liberal, biased media has been ratcheted up yet another notch. Speaking on a conference call yesterday, McCain operations chief Steve Schmidt railed against the New York Times after it ran a story on campaign manager Rick Davis's ties to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, claiming the paper is "totally 150 percent in the tank for the Democratic candidate" and had "cast aside its journalistic integrity." Schmidt complained that the press was unfairly labeling McCain a "liar," and wasn't running as many negative stories about Obama. He suggested they investigate Hunter Biden's connections to the banking industry or Obama's relationship with William Ayers, for example. Unfortunately for Schmidt, the call itself was rife with distortions, and when Politico reporter Ben Smith pointed them out, he, too, was accused of being "in the tank." No doubt the McCain campaign really does hate the media with the burning passion of a thousand suns. But what cynical, political motives are really behind the latest outburst?
• Chuck Todd and friends think McCain's attempts to "change the subject" won't work this time, because the "economy and the current Wall Street crisis have become THE story, and nothing right now is going to stop that." [First Read/MSNBC]
• Joe Klein thinks Schmidt "jumped the shark," but he's doing it for a reason: first, to "work the refs" for more favorable coverage, and second, to distract from "the real issues in this campaign." [Swampland/Time]
• Andrew Sullivan says "lies" and the "demonization of anyone asking questions" are "all these people have left." [Atlantic]
• Steve Benen says "You are in the tank" is the "McCain campaign worldview summarized in just five words." If "you care about reality" or "you notice McCain's campaign straying from the truth," then you're biased, and the enemy. [Political Animal/Washington Monthly]
• Marc Ambinder goes out of his way to mention the good things the McCain campaign has done for the press, like helping reporters understand policy or "get in touch with a campaign official." In other words, they're generally competent. So he's "hoping that today's outburst was an aberration and not a sign that the campaign will be shutting down its press shop for good." [Atlantic]
• Michael Crowley finds the timing of the complaints "interesting," as the last time the McCain campaign lashed out at the press was in "early-mid summer" when "Obama had all the momentum in the race and McCain was looking for a way to change the dynamic." [Stump/New Republic]
• Andrew Romano sympathizes with the McCain campaign's complaints, but Schmidt's rant "may have crossed that line." The Times has reported negatively on Obama plenty of times. Schmidt "wants to distract the press from reporting on McCain's economic struggles by dangling a shiny object in front of their faces." If it weren't so effective, "I'd tell him to stop whining." [Stumper/Newsweek]
• Matt Lewis contends that the Times would rather "claim McCain has changed" than admit "that their coverage has changed because he now poses a threat to their favorite liberal candidate." [Town Hall]
• Chris Cillizza believes that few voters would be swayed by the strategy of attacking the media. Instead, Schmidt seeks to work the refs by "laying a layer of guilt on the media for what he believes is an unfair approach to the coverage of the two candidates to date." [Fix/WP]
• Sam Stein writes that while "[u]sually, going to war with the press produces fantastic results for Republican candidates ... this campaign has proven a bit different." The press has remained "confident" as it continues to call out McCain "for his distortions." [HuffPo]
• Michael Shear notes that it's been about 40 days since McCain has held a news conference and over 24 days since Sarah Palin has held one. [Trail/WP]
For a complete and regularly updated guide to presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain — from First Love to Most Embarrassing Gaffe — read the 2008 Electopedia.