The first casualty--probably the main casualty--of this year's political season is . . . reality.
Senator John McCain appeared recently at the Sturgis [South Dakota] Rally 2008 to speak to an audience of possibly half a million bikers. It was obviously a good audience for McCain, although not a shoe-in. Bikers are notoriously individualistic, generally united by a visceral love of freedom than any shared formal ideology.
What interests me here, however, is not McCain himself, but how the event was portrayed by two different media outlets.
Politico.com saw it this way:
Every summer, nearly half a million motorcyclists descend on Sturgis, an otherwise sleepy town in South Dakota, for a nine-day celebration of all things Harley.
This year, the bikers, strippers and rockers were joined by a most unlikely guest: the presumptive Republican nominee for president, John McCain.
McCain's appearance before a veteran-heavy audience of several thousand bikers gathered at the Buffalo Chip Campground on Monday night was unlike any other campaign event to date — some sported signs like “Show UR [breasts] for McCain."
“Don’t let Nov. 4 find you on the open road,” McCain told the audience over the whir of engines and smell of diesel fumes. “I’m counting on you to show up.”
In theory, the Sturgis crowd should be an easy sell for McCain. Bikers, a fiercely patriotic and independent-minded group, could easily be expected to embrace McCain’s maverick image and military background.
Cliff Leach, a National Guard veteran, summarized the biker world view when he introduced McCain.
“We believe in a beautiful America. A land of beautiful roads, a land of beautiful bikes, ice-cold beers and a land of beautiful women,” he told the crowd. “And that’s the best hoo-ah a man can get.”
[There followed a detailed analysis of why McCain's message did not necessarily resonate with the bikers in attendance.]
On the other hand, this is how the Huffington Post covered the event:
The town of Sturgis, South Dakota will witness, on Monday, the rare fusion of drunken debauchery, public stripteasing, motorcycle rallying, a live performance by Kid Rock, and - last but not least - a veterans-themed speech by presidential candidate John McCain. Seriously.
On Sunday, the McCain campaign announced that the Senator will participate in the Sturgis Rally 2008 at Buffalo Chip in South Dakota, an annual tribute to American veterans. The event is up the Arizona Republican's wheelhouse, attracting thousands of active duty and former servicemen, many who have a natural affinity towards the Senator.
But it is hard not to notice the evocative, non-political sideshows that will literally surround McCain's speech. As the presumptive nominee takes the stage, the "Ringin' Wet & Wild" women's wrestling event will be taking place on the main amphitheater. Two hours before then, the "Miss Buffalo Chip Beauty Pageant - Bikinis on the Beach" will be staged at a different venue. That affair is described by ESPN's Jim Caple as "essentially a topless beauty pageant. And occasionally bottomless, too.""During a drenching rain Wednesday night, the contest broke up into smaller groups and one woman wound up dancing naked on a bar top. Her boyfriend/husband saw her and angrily dragged her away as she struggled to put her pants back on and muttered something about how, "It's only this one week a year.""
How sweet. Sadly, the pageant also sees its share of domestic abuse, which even the event's organizers admit to Caple is a major problem.
[This article included no analysis whatsoever.]
The problem for the Huffington Post is that cultural diversity is a wonderful thing, unless it involves unrepentant carousing, topless beauty pageants, or (perish the thought!) a lot of folks who probably also brought firearms to the party in their saddle bags.
Somehow the message from our elite commentators seems to be that John McCain must be in serious trouble if he's been driven to slumming among these low-brow, reactionary [did I mention a lot of them were veterans], sexist bikers who [unfortunately] have as much right to vote as anybody whose idea of a great Christmas is a stocking full of Starbucks gift cards.