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McCain and Palin are laughing at the press -- and it's the press' fault

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Chris Matthews was steamed.

As John McCain's manufactured "lipstick on a pig" story was taking flight last week, Matthews, host of MSNBC's Hardball, kicked off the hour by teeing up the story. In a note to viewers that telegraphed his disdain for the lipstick controversy, he announced that during the show, he'd share his own thoughts "about how, with a troubled economy, crumbling bridges, rail and roads, a failing educational system, a war that is now going on for five years, and an uncertain American economic future, we're sitting here talking about lipstick."

Later, he complained the story was "an insult to the intelligence of our democracy."

Did you hear the media are mad? According to Howard Kurtz at The Washington Post, the press is angry at McCain for his patently untrue lipstick attack ("It's false. It's ridiculous"), and they're seething over how Sarah Palin keeps telling her demonstrably false Bridge to Nowhere tale even after members of the media pointed out her stump-speech applause line was a lie. (A "whopper.")

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During the past week, virtually every major news outlet has produced welcomed, hard-edged fact-checking pieces about how the Republican ticket goes far beyond bending the truth and just plain snaps it out on the campaign trail.

In the past, that kind of truth-telling would have embarrassed campaigns and likely caused a dramatic change in the rhetoric. But what do McCain and Palin do in response? They pretty much ignore the press and its critiques.

Writing on The New Republic's website, Eve Fairbanks spelled out the conundrum, capturing the dumbfounded realization that spread through the press corps. It's like that scene in a movie when the superhero realizes his unique power (for the press, it's collective indignation) has suddenly been rendered useless:

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Reporters demolished the claim that the Palin opposed the Bridge to Nowhere, and yet the McCain campaign insolently still uses it. Writers dismantled the McCain campaign's untrue assertion that Barack Obama compared Sarah Palin to a pig yesterday, and yet the campaign put out an audacious ad featuring the ridiculous allegation, presumably on the assumption that Real Americans don't care what the elite press says anyway.

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