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Is the Old McCain Officially Dead? « The Washington Independent

Last week, Time‘s Michael Scherer and James Carney were given the privilege of going to a place where journalists rarely tread, at least lately: the front of the Straight Talk Air jet for an interview with Sen. John McCain. But when they got there, they found McCain to be less than warm — a far cry from the McCain of old who was in his element during one-on-one’s (or in this case, two-on-one’s) with reporters. Here’s an excerpt:

There’s a theme that recurs in your books and your speeches, both about putting country first but also about honor. I wonder if you could define for us?

Read it in my books.

I’ve read your books.

No, I’m not going to define it.

But honor in politics?

I defined it in five books. Read my books.

[Your] campaign today is more disciplined, more traditional, more aggressive. From your point of view, why the change?

I will do as much as we possibly can do to provide as much access to the press as possible.

But beyond the press, sir, just in terms of …

I think we’re running a fine campaign, and this is where we are.

Do you miss the old way of doing it?

I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Really? Come on, Senator.

I’ll provide as much access as possible …

In 2000, after the primaries, you went back to South Carolina to talk about what you felt was a mistake you had made on the Confederate flag. Is there anything so far about this campaign that you wish you could take back or you might revisit when it’s over?

[Does not answer.]

Do I know you? [Says with a laugh.]

[Long pause.] I’m very happy with the way our campaign has been conducted, and I am very pleased and humbled to have the nomination of the Republican Party.

You do acknowledge there was a change in the campaign, in the way you had run the campaign?

[Shakes his head.]

You don’t acknowledge that? O.K., when your aides came to you and you decided, having been attacked by Barack Obama, to run some of those ads, was there a debate?

The campaign responded as planned.

Ouch. That was rough. It doesn’t get any friendlier, either. Maybe McCain was just having a bad day. But if the campaign doesn’t want McCain to talk to the national press — or from the looks of this, if the candidate doesn’t either — it would probably be better off just denying interview requests than granting them and than putting out, at best, talking points or, at worst, uncomfortable exchanges like this. It’s going to be a long couple of months for reporters aboard the more-and-more ironically-named Straight Talk Air.

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