McCain Takes 1st Class Train
Ben Armbruster, a Think Progress research associate, reports that the press is giving John McCain soft treatment because he invited some of them over for a barbecue recently. His evidence?
The Associated Press published an article this afternoon that focused solely on the fact that, even though he has access to a charter plane, McCain took a train from Washington D.C. to Philadelphia. More than that, the article praised him for it, calling him a “man of the people.” Yet two sentences later, the AP included a detail of the trip that completely undermines that claim:
John McCain traveled like a man of the people Friday morning, riding an Amtrak train to Philadelphia after a late night of voting in Washington.
“Nice to see you, nice to see you,” McCain said to workers and passengers who greeted him on the 8 a.m. high-speed Acela Express train.
McCain, accompanied by a campaign aide, was left alone by the public as he sat in the first-class car for much of the 1 1/2 hour trip. [Emphases all in original.]
Having taken the Acela Express from DC to New York once upon a time, I can report that the 1st Class accommodations aren’t much to write home about. Nor are they, as is typical for air travel, expensive (which explains why we splurged).
Out of curiosity, I went to the Amtrac site to check out ticket pricing from DC to Philly (WAS to PHL, if you want to try it yourself) on a random Friday morning. It turns out that coach seats are very hard to come by if you’re booking early morning trips without much advanced notice; that’s especially true on the Acela trains, which run less frequently. Indeed, there were no coach seats for the morning of March 21st or March 28th.
One-way business class for an 8 a.m. departure the 21st will set you back $122. At 9 a.m. the 28th, $137. In both cases, the 1st Class upgrade is $69. You hardly have to be Bill Gates to afford that.
While it’s silly to classify McCain as a “man of the people” for traveling by train — or perhaps period given his relative wealth — it strikes me that Libby Quaid was simply saying that he was out mingling with the people rather than cloistered away on a private plane as is customary for someone in his position. Indeed, “traveled like a man of the people Friday morning” seems to suggest that he doesn’t travel that way otherwise; it’s virtually a simile.
My Ruckus colleague Oliver Willis takes Armbruster a step further: “The biggest obstacle to a national conversation in the election this fall will be the way in which the mainstream media will run interference for John McCain.” Barack Obama is welcome to host barbecues and grant reporters the level of access McCain has. Indeed, I’d welcome it. There are serious risks to that much exposure. But, undoubtedly, there are rewards.