A good press corp exists, but it sometimes has puzzling standfirsts

Today’s Financial Times, which bids fair to be the world’s best English-language newspaper, leads with senator John McCain’s stand against president Bush’s insistence on the use of torture. That’s fine, but there’s this odd standfirst in my print edition: “Republican puts chance of presidency on the line”.

The article’s tack is that by defying the president, McCain will alienate Republican voters. I think the three bylined FT reporters on the story have been taken in by the administration’s spin.

McCain’s consistency on the Geneva Convention, understandable from someone who was horribly maltreated as a POW, will surely be a great asset to him in both Republican primaries and a potential national race. How can anyone think that other Republican candidates will gain an advantage against McCain by advocating torture? There are clearly loads of deluded Republican voters – Bush did win re-election after all – but all the public opinion evidence today is that the president is losing the argument and McCain, John Warner, Lindsay Graham and Colin Powell are winning it.

The FT’s spin, not incidentally, also helps McCain’s favored narrative that he is a maverick, willing to defy authority for what he thinks is right. I think there’s an enormous amount of bluff to that pose, but the FT and others seem happy to push it along.

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