idiom watch: "riding the tire swing"/"swinging on the tire" etc.

Geoffrey Nunberg nunberg at ISCHOOL.BERKELEY.EDU
Fri Oct 17 06:58:07 UTC 2008

Coined by a Talking Points Memo reader "to describe a reporter who has
gotten way too cozy with a politician and has had their supposed
objectivity affected."

The reference is to a youtube video posted by Meghan McCain in March
2008 (see

Yesterday we hosted the press corps at our cabin in Sedona and my dad
grilled his famous ribs and chicken for them. And it was a really fun
experience. I thought it was going to be a lot more difficult than it
ended up being because anytime there’s a big group of press around you
have to be ‘on’ in some context or another. But everyone really
relaxed and it was really fun to kind of see, you know, big
journalistic figures like Holly Bailey [of Newsweek] swinging on the
tire swing and Jon Martin [of], like, helping my dad
grill ribs and it was really funny to see just, like, the
juxtaposition of, like, the D.C. reporters at my cabin in Sedona and
having the press corps meet longtime friends.

The expression was picked up by Josh Marshall and quickly adopted by
bloggers to describe  journalists who uncritcally take their lead from
the McCain campaign. It's occasionally used of Obama as well ("Gwen
Ifill on Obama's Tire-Swing"). "'Tire swing' mccain" gets ca. 600
hits, a large number in this sense. Syntactically versatile: variants
include "the tire swing that dare not speak its name," "Those of Us
Who Are About to Tire Swing," "Where's the happy little tire swing,"
etc. Examples:

Judging by Mark Halperin, John McCain's tire swing is going to get
crowded again pretty fast. The focus on ads rather than actual
statements by the candidates ignores the whoppersMcCain and Palin
continue to offer on the campaign trail, but it allows pundits to draw
an equivalence and appear "balanced." Tapped (American Prospect blog)

I don't want to alarm anyone. But you should be aware there's a
significant chance we'll see some real tire-swinging from tonight's
moderator Tom Brokaw. Brokaw is a pro with a long and distinguished
career. But he does appear to have a real thing for the tire-swing.
Talking Points Memo

Richard Cohen jumps waaaaaaaaaay off the tire swing.I mean, this is
betrayed lover counter-tire-swingism. Left Word

CNN has always been on McCain's tire swing. When they stray they get
denied interviews. Anyone Rants

Geoff Nunberg

The American Dialect Society -

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