Journalists love giving advice to political candidates. You know the drill: “The Five Things McCain Should Do To Boost The Economy, Bring Peace and Tranquility to the Middle East, and Prevent Balding,” “The Three Things Obama Should Do To Lower Gas Prices, Make Friends With Iran, and Cure Cancer”–that sort of thing. Fortunately, candidates seem blissfully unaware of all of this earnest advice. They follow their consciences–or maybe it’s only the results of the latest focus-group poll as filtered through the intelligence of their strategists. In any event, the shrift candidates bestow upon the punditocracy is characteristically (and, let’s face it, appropriately) short.
This fact is one reason I generally try to refrain from dispensing advice to candidates. But the recent dust-up–first reported, I believe, by the Drudge Report–over The New York Times‘s refusal to print an op-ed by John McCain responding to an op-ed they published the week before by Barack Obama prompts me to depart, at least partially, from this tradition.
I say “at least partially” because my advice is negative: I do not have a 5-point program for ending taxes, avoiding death, or obtaining waterfront property in Maine free of charge. But I hate to see wasted energy just as much as Al Gore says he hates it, and I have a simple one-stop program for saving the McCain campaign–and the campaigns of other Republican candidates–quite a lot of energy. (By the way, you can read the McCain op-ed in The New York Post here.)
It’s as simple as it is efficient: Ignore The New York Times. More and more of your constituents are doing so, why shouldn’t you? Join the many happy folks who have Kicked the Times: Don’t read it, don’t refer to it, don’t regard it as an authority on anything. You’ll feel cleaner and your blood pressure will thank you. Above all, do not write, and do not allow your staff to write, op-eds for the Times. On the off chance that the paper actually publishes your piece, you will only help to bolster its sense of smug self-righteousness and perpetuate the illusion that the paper treats the candidates, or the issues, even-handedly. They don’t, and you shouldn’t collude in fostering the destructive myth that they do.