Cheat-Seeking Missles

Thursday, February 21, 2008

All The Fits It's News To Print

Rewritten: Based on new information, this piece has been substantially rewritten.

Forgetting for the moment questions of plausibility, the only thing surprising about the NYT "expose" about John McCain and lobbyist Vicki Iseman is the timing. Why now?

The sources for the Iseman story have had the information the NYT probed on since 2000 and the other "scandal" noted by the paper, Charles Keating and his corner of the S&L meltdown, goes back 20 years and has been tread and retread several times over, with McCain repenting his sins long ago.

Given that these are "olds," not "news," why did the NYT pick February to run them, and not either before McCain locked up the nomination, or after the primaries, during the General? We now have the apparent answer, courtesy of the The Stump blog at The New Republic:

The McCain campaign is apparently blaming TNR for forcing the Times' hand on this story. We can't yet confirm that. But we can say this: TNR correspondent Gabe Sherman is working on a piece about the Times' foot-dragging on the McCain story, and the back-and-forth within the paper about whether to publish it. Gabe's story will be online tomorrow.

Update: McCain senior aide Mark Salter tells Time:

"They did this because the The New Republic was going to run a story that looked back at the infighting there," Salter said, "the Judy Miller-type power struggles -- they decided that they would rather smear McCain than suffer a story that made the New York Times newsroom look bad."

From what I now understand, the NYT has been sitting on the story since before the New Hampshire primary, when it could have done McCain some real harm.

That means the NYT knew this story when they endorsed McCain.

And that means the NYT itself doesn't think much of the story.

Where did the story come from? My bet's on the Obama camp. Despite Clinton's penchant for dirty tricks, she needs to be focused on Obama, not McCain, so the story more likely came from Obama, who now needs to start trying to take down the GOP frontrunner.

As for the substance of the story itself, it's a perfect scandal rag story because it's eight years old and will never get past the he said/she said stage. It's McCain's word ...

"I'm very disappointed in the article. It's not true," the likely Republican presidential nominee said as his wife, Cindy, stood beside him during a news conference called to address the matter.

"I've served this nation honorably for more than half a century," said McCain, a four-term Arizona senator and former Navy pilot. "At no time have I ever done anything that would betray the public trust."

"I intend to move on," he added.

... against anyone who wants to take him on. On that score, Ed Morrisey nails it:

The New York Times launches its long-awaited smear of John McCain today, and the most impressive aspect of the smear is just how baseless it is. They basically emulate Page Six at the Post, but add in a rehash of a well-known scandal from twenty years ago to pad it out and make it look more impressive. In the end, they present absolutely no evidence of wrongdoing -- only innuendo denied by all of the principals ...
As with all scandals covered by MSM, this one leaves me wondering more about why they're not covering the other side. Why aren't we reading more in the NYT about Obama's voting record, or lack thereof, or his relationships with the abortion industry or his financial dealings with Tony Rezko.

If you click on the link above, you'll see the NYT has run exactly two stories on Rezko -- one laying out the charges and one on Obama's denial. Let's use this as comparison. Will they run a full story on McCain's denial. Likely. Will they struggle valiantly keep the Iseman story alive with more than one paltry story? Very likely.

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