February 22, 2008

How The Times Helped McCain

UPDATE: Today's AOL Hot Seat poll question comes from this post:

I have more links at the bottom from my posts yesterday on this topic. Original post follows ...

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The New York Times may have done the impossible for the John McCain campaign and for Republicans in general. As predicted yesterday when their strange and threadbare allegations hit print, the attack united conservatives behind McCain. It also may have been an act of seppuku for the Times, as its claim objectivity and credibility have been discredited. The Los Angeles Times surveys the damage:

Conservative commentators, including some who previously chastised McCain for not hewing closely to their principles, leaped to the candidate's defense.

Radio personality Laura Ingraham, like other critics, noted that the newspaper had been researching the story for several months and accused the Times of delaying publication to do maximum damage.

"You wait until it's pretty much beyond a doubt that he's going to be the Republican nominee," Ingraham said on her morning radio program, "and then you let it drop -- drop some acid in the pool, contaminate the whole pool. That's what the New York Times thinks."

The most popular host in talk radio, Rush Limbaugh, described the story as standard fare for the paper he accuses of coddling the left.

"You're surprised that Page Six-type gossip is on the front page of the New York Times?" said Limbaugh in reference to the gossip column of the tabloid New York Post. Limbaugh, who previously has ripped McCain as a fake conservative, said: "Where have you been? How in the world can anybody be surprised?"

Bear in mind that both radio hosts had pressed hard before Super Tuesday to keep McCain from winning the nomination. They have no particular love for the Arizona Senator, and had kept up a steady drumbeat of criticism over his record. If the New York Times had actually produced a substantiated scandal involving McCain, they may have been the first to proclaim I told you so! from the tops of their transmitting stations.

Instead, the Times ran a piece of gossipy nonsense that doesn't even have the courage to allege what it only implies. Two self-described "disillusioned" former staffers who won't go on the record alleged -- what? -- that McCain had an affair? No. That McCain did favors for a romantic paramour? No. The Times reported that these two staffers somehow got past Mark Salter and John Weaver to stage a confrontation with McCain over their concerns that McCain might have possibly started to get close to thinking about a romance with Vicki Iseman.

For this, the Times offers no corroboration. They report on a confrontation between John Weaver and Vicki Iseman, but neglect to report that Weaver explained to them that he had heard Iseman brag about her connections to McCain and the Commerce Committee, not about any alleged affair. That didn't make it into the Times' report. Neither did the fact that McCain often voted against the interests of Iseman's clients, and that votes in favor of them matched McCain's often stated policy positions held long before Iseman became a lobbyist.

Bill Keller's crew threw in a rehash of two old scandals to pad out the piece, one legitimate but over 20 years old, and the other discredited when the Times first brought it up in 2000. McCain has acknowledged his role in the Keating 5 scandal repeatedly in the time since, so it's not as if this broke any new ground. And in the second scandal, even Clinton administration figure Lanny Davis claims it baseless, as Hot Air noted yesterday.

So what do we have? We have salacious but completely unsubstantiated gossip, combined with a rehash of at least one old Times smear, placed on the front page of what used to be the premiere newspaper in America. And what exactly does that do for the Times' credibility for the rest of this electoral cycle? They can't run anything on McCain now without it being seen in the context of what the Times itself calls a "war" between the Times and McCain. Keller and company declared war on McCain yesterday, and it fired a bazooka of effluvium as its opening salvo. They've marginalized themselves for the next nine months.

Earlier posts on the subject:

  • Slimes at the Times

  • The Times Already Into Stonewall Mode? (Update: A Few Points Left Out)

  • McCain: No Romance, No Influence, No Meetings (Update: Gray Lady Ignored Edwards Rumors)

  • John Weaver Calls BS (Update: Lobbyists The Sources?)

  • First We Smear You, Then Any Response Is War
  • UPDATE II: Bump to top.

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    Ed Morrisey of Captain's Quarters believes that it has. Instead, the Times ran a piece of gossipy nonsense that doesn't even have the courage to allege what it only implies. Two self-described "disillusioned" former staffers who won't go on the record al [Read More]

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