Arizona got a “two thumbs up” this week from Time magazine, which in its selection of the 10 best U.S. senators included both John McCain and Jon Kyl.
Such notice speaks well of the state’s voters, who have repeatedly sent both men to the Senate. But we cannot but notice that while one of our senators got an unqualified “attaboy” from Time, the other was essentially damned with faint praise.
John McCain has been a darling of the mainstream media ever since his challenge to George W. Bush for the Republican nomination in 2000. His standing among reporters and pundits has enabled him to survive gaffes of the sort that have kneecapped the careers of those less favored. (Contrast the transient outrage of his squalid crack in 1998 about Chelsea Clinton’s appearance and parentage with the uproar that forced Trent Lott to step down as Senate majority leader in 2002 after he praised Strom Thurmond’s 1948 “Dixiecrat” candidacy.)
Time was fulsome in his praise, touting McCain as “The Mainstreamer.” (Each senator received such a one-word characterization.) And its summation of his accomplishments omitted any criticism either of them or of him. For example, the McCain-Feingold act was described as “a reform that made the money coming in from rich interest groups and directed at political advertisements more transparent.” No mention of the fact that it also flagrantly restricts the freedom of speech by barring such advertisements within 60 days of a federal election if they mention a candidate by name. And his “moral authority” is touted, without a whisper about his notorious late-’80s support for the swindling financier Charles Keating.
Time’s title for Kyl is, by contrast, “The Operator.” Notice how different that sounds than “The Mainstreamer?” And Time continues in that vein. Kyl, it seems, is an “ultraconservative” who has succeeded in “shaping the Republican agenda in the Senate” because he is masterful at “a tactic that is crucial in a body in which any one member can bring the place to a halt as a ploy or out of pique: subterfuge.”
Kyl’s efforts are given short shrift. He was, for instance, “a leading opponent of the immigration reform compromise backed by the president that collapsed earlier this month.” But no mention is made of his own immigration bill, co-sponsored with Texas Sen. John Cornyn — which, whatever one’s opinion of its workability, is a complex and serious attempt to reconcile the U.S. economy’s need for foreign workers with the imperative that U.S. immigration laws must be taken seriously.
Thus Kyl is, according to Time, not only a partisan sneak but an ultraconservative partisan sneak. The arguably ultraliberal Ted Kennedy, by contrast, is described as a “liberal icon.”
It is nice that Arizona’s two senators have won recognition by a major American news magazine. It would have been nicer had that magazine displayed even a modicum of fairness in portraying them.