Jamison Foser of Media Matters has a very interesting article up on the Media Matters website concerning how the treatment of John McCain differs from the treatment given to Democrats like Bill Clinton, Al Gore, or John Kerry. The article is titled "John McCain and the Clinton Rules." He analyzes how there were three such "rules" used by the media when discussing Democrats, but which aren't used by the media when discussing John McCain or other Republicans.
Those rules are:
If any part of an alleged scandal turns out to be true, the media behaves as though the entire story is true.
Media parse every statement by progressives in response to controversy, looking for something to ridicule -- whether the ridicule is fair or not.
Allegations that turn out to be unproven, or even false, are used by the media as evidence in support of future allegations.
Foser points out that if the same rules had been used in covering George W. Bush, he probably wouldn't have won the 2000 election, even with the help of his friends on the United States Supreme Court. Foser also wonders if the media is starting to apply the Clinton Rules to Barack Obama, noting the news story that appeared that seemed to criticise Obama for not using drugs as much as he suggested in his book, Dreams of My Father.
This is how a writer from the New Yorker saw the Times story:
The news here is—what, exactly? That Obama, who now appears grounded, motivated, and poised, formerly appeared grounded, motivated, and poised? That his inner uncertainties, such as they were, were more apparent to himself than to others? That he was marginally less of a pothead than he has made himself out to be?
If the national media applies the Clinton Rules to one side, but not the other, then that side is under a big handicap, indeed, you could argue that such one-sided application would be a fatal handicap, given the elections of 2000 and 2004.